Equal Justice Coalition to honor 13 champions of Legal Aid with Beacon of Justice Awards

The Equal Justice Coalition will honor nine legislators and four attorneys at the Massachusetts State House with Beacon of Justice Awards on Nov. 12.

The honorees were selected for their significant support of state funding for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in the Commonwealth, aiding nonprofits that provide critical legal assistance to low-income residents facing serious legal problems, such as foreclosure, eviction, and domestic violence.

The Beacon of Justice award winners are:

– Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge)
– Sen. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth)
– Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett)
– Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton)
– Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield)
– Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program at the Massachusetts ACLU and former chair of the MLAC Board of Directors
– Marty Healy, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Officer, Massachusetts Bar Association
– Rep. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy)
– Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston)
– Lon Povich, Counsel at Anderson & Kreiger and former Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Charlie Baker
– Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport)
– J.D. Smeallie, Partner at Holland & Knight and former Boston Bar Association President
– Rep. Todd Smola (R-Palmer)

“Through their efforts to increase funding for civil legal aid, these legislators and lawyers have shown tremendous leadership in their support for access to justice for all residents of the Commonwealth,” said Lynne Parker, MLAC executive director. “Legal aid can have profoundly positive effects on people facing eviction, domestic violence, lack of access to benefits, and other serious civil legal issues. We’re grateful to these award winners for their commitment to legal aid, which boosts not just individuals, but also their families and communities.”

The Equal Justice Coalition will also recognize past Beacon of Justice Award recipients who are longstanding champions of civil legal aid by naming them to the Beacon of Justice Hall of Fame. They are: Senate President Karen Spilka; Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem; Senate President Pro Tempore Will Brownsberger; Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler; Sen. Mark Montigny; Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr; House Speaker Robert DeLeo; Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad; House Assistant Majority Leader Paul Donato; Rep. Ruth Balser; Rep. Claire Cronin; Assistant House Minority Leader Brad Hill; Rep. John Rogers; Congresswoman Katherine Clark; Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; and Justice Robert Cordy (retired).

At the award ceremony, the EJC will also commend more than 100 legislators who were named Supporters of Justice. Each of those senators and representatives co-sponsored amendments to increase MLAC’s appropriation in the Massachusetts state budget for Fiscal Year 2020.

The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Massachusetts Bar Association, and Boston Bar Association. It advocates for increased funding for civil legal aid, through the line item for MLAC. The largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, MLAC funds legal aid organizations across the state that provide legal advice and representation to low-income Massachusetts residents facing serious civil legal problems.

Gov. Baker Approves $24M for Civil Legal Aid Funding

$3M increase boosts aid for people with housing, employment, family and immigration disputes

BOSTON, July 31, 2019— Governor Charlie Baker has signed the FY20 Budget of the Commonwealth, which includes $24 million for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation—a $3 million increase over FY19.

Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC, praised the governor and the legislature for the funding increase. “Although the economy is booming for many, the need for civil legal aid is large and continues to grow. This increased funding will expand the capacity of civil legal aid organizations across Massachusetts to help more low-income people address challenges related to housing, domestic violence, immigration, health care, employment, and other issues that threaten their safety and well-being.

“I applaud the governor for recognizing this urgent need. And I extend my thanks to the House and the Senate for recognizing the thousands of Massachusetts residents who would not receive legal assistance without this additional funding. It brings us closer to our goal of providing equal access to justice for all.”

Parker also recognized the advocacy of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, numerous county and specialty bar associations, managing partners at many of the state’s largest law firms, business leaders, and our social service partners.

“The active support of legal aid in so many corners of the Commonwealth is inspiring,” Parker said. “This advocacy exemplifies the Commonwealth’s commitment to the principles of justice and fairness for all.”

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About MLAC
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. It was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation. For more information, please visit: www.mlac.org.

MLAC Backs Senate Amendment to Increase Civil Legal Aid Funding

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin
617-391-5627
mdeakin@mlac.org

 

UPDATE: On May 22, the Senate adopted the amendment by a vote of 39-0. That increases the MLAC appropriation in the Senate budget to $24 million.

Sens. Creem and Eldridge file amendment to Senate budget for $2M funding increase

BOSTON, May 9, 2019—Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem and Senate Judiciary Chair Jamie Eldridge have filed an amendment to increase civil legal aid funding by $2 million, for total funding of $24 million in the Senate budget.

The Senate Ways and Means budget recommendation includes $22 million in funding for civil legal aid. That’s an increase of $1 million over FY19, but falls short of the $26 million in civil legal aid funding requested by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation for FY20.

“Civil legal aid is a lifeline for the most vulnerable people in Massachusetts when they are facing complex, high-stakes legal issues, such as eviction, domestic violence, access to healthcare or education, or immigration matters,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “I’m grateful that the Senate Ways and Means Committee recognized the vital role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income people by providing a $1 million increase in funding. However, given the substantial unmet need for civil legal services, we support the amendment sponsored by Senators Creem and Eldridge to seek additional funding to serve more people in need.”

Due to lack of funding, legal aid organizations in Massachusetts are forced to turn away the majority of eligible residents who seek help each year. Eligible residents are those with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level, or $32,188 per year for a family of four.

Civil legal aid organizations funded by MLAC closed more than 22,000 cases in FY18, benefitting more than 95,000 clients and their family members. These cases also produced more than $60 million in economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its residents. These benefits were the direct result of civil legal services that helped to: reduce evictions and prevent homelessness; recover and secure public benefits; and gain employment authorization for immigrants, in addition to other benefits. (Read more about the report here.)

“When a person’s most basic needs are at risk, access to legal advice and representation is essential,” Parker said. “We applaud this amendment and urge other senators to show their support for it to help assure equal access to justice for all people.”

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item is 0321-1600. In April, the House of Representatives allocated $23.5 million for civil legal aid in its FY20 budget.

About MLAC: The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice, and representation.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. Backs Amendment to Increase Funding for Civil Legal Aid

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin
617-391-5627
mdeakin@mlac.org

Rep. Ruth Balser files amendment to House Ways & Means budget for $1.5M funding increase

BOSTON, April 12, 2019—Massachusetts Rep. Ruth Balser has filed an amendment to increase civil legal aid funding by $1.5 million, for total funding of $24 million in the House budget.

The House Ways and Means budget recommendation includes $22.5 million in funding for civil legal aid. That’s an increase of $1.5 million over FY19, but falls short of the $26 million in civil legal aid funding requested by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) for FY20.

“Civil legal aid lawyers represent the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable people in times of extraordinary crises, such as when they are seeking to retain their housing, protection from domestic violence, or access to medical treatment,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “I’m grateful that the House Ways and Means Committee recognized the crucial role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income people by providing a $1.5 million increase in funding. However, given the sizable unmet need for civil legal services, we support Rep. Balser’s amendment to seek additional funding to serve more people in need.”

Due to lack of funding, legal aid organizations in Massachusetts are forced to turn away the majority of eligible residents who seek help each year. Eligible residents are those with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level, or $32,188 per year for a family of four.

Civil legal aid organizations funded by MLAC closed more than 22,000 cases in FY18, benefitting more than 95,000 clients and their family members. These cases also produced more than $60 million in economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its residents. These benefits were the direct result of civil legal services that helped to: reduce evictions and prevent homelessness; recover and secure public benefits; and gain employment authorization for immigrants, in addition to other benefits. (Read more about the report here.)

“When a person’s most basic needs are at risk, access to legal advice and representation is essential,” Parker said. “We applaud Rep. Balser’s amendment and urge other representatives to join her to help assure equal access to justice for all people.”
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item is 0321-1600.

About MLAC: The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice, and representation.

Massachusetts State House

Chief Justice Gants, Bar Leaders Rally Jan. 24 for Civil Legal Aid Funding Increase

At 20th annual Walk to the Hill, hundreds of attorneys to advocate for $26M for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON (January 17, 2019) – Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, bar association leaders, and law students will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 36 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 11 a.m. for the 20th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees at this annual lobby day will request a $5 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.

“Families torn apart by opiate abuse, immigrant residents threatened with deportation and family separation, elderly tenants facing eviction, survivors of domestic violence searching for a safe space and a fresh start: these are among the hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents seeking civil legal aid from providers funded by MLAC. And they need our help, never more than now,” said Chief Justice Gants.

In addition to Chief Justice Gants, speakers at the Walk to the Hill will include: Jonathan Albano, president of the Boston Bar Association; Christopher Kenney, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association; and Fred Connelly, a legal aid client.

“As the overall economy has improved, many people served by legal aid are facing greater need,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Increased housing costs can push low-income tenants out of their homes and further away from their jobs. Legal aid helps many people stay in affordable housing and avoid homelessness by providing free legal advice and representation to vulnerable individuals who cannot afford to hire a private attorney.”

Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to provide a $5 million increase in funding for MLAC, the largest funder of civil legal in Massachusetts, for a total appropriation of $26 million in the FY 20 state budget.

Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event is co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM
11:30 to 12:10 pm
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is:
• Louis Tompros, Chair, Equal Justice Coalition
• Lynne Parker, Executive Director, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
• Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Supreme Judicial Court
• Jonathan Albano, President, Boston Bar Association
• Christopher Kenney, President, Massachusetts Bar Association
• Fred Connelly, Legal aid client
• Jacquelynne Bowman, Executive Director, Greater Boston Legal Services

Media are welcome to attend the speaking program.

About the EJC
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation working to increase state funding for civil legal aid.
www.equaljusticecoalition.org
@equaljusticema
#IWalkforJustice

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin
617-391-5627
mdeakin@mlac.org

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Amid deportations, SJC’s chief justice pleads for $5m hike in funding for civil legal aid

Travis Andersen, GLOBE STAFF  JANUARY 25, 2018

The chief justice of the state’s highest court made an impassioned plea Thursday for a $5 million increase in public funding for civil legal aid for poor Massachusetts residents, including undocumented immigrants facing possible deportation and the severing of their families.

Speaking at the State House, Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court said raising the yearly budget allocation for indigent civil legal aid, to $23 million from $18 million, is vital amid the threat of deportation faced by thousands of state residents from Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras who recently lost protection under the federal Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, program.

“Why $5 million more than last year? Last year, Elsa, a 45-year-old TPS holder from El Salvador who cleans Boston offices from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and who takes care of her two sons, both US citizens, during the rest of her waking hours, was not faced with being forced to return to El Salvador and to leave her children,” Gants said.

Continue reading on Boston Globe website…

 

Massachusetts State House

Chief Justice Gants and Bar Association Leaders to Speak at 19th Annual Walk to the Hill

BOSTON (January 16, 2018)―Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court and bar association leaders will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 11:00 a.m. for the 19th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the largest held on Beacon Hill each year, will request a $5 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents. Approximately 880,000 people in Massachusetts have incomes at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level ($30,750 a year for a family of four), making them eligible for civil legal aid.

“Tens of thousands of people who live in Massachusetts cannot afford the legal help or representation they need when facing life-changing circumstances such as escaping domestic violence, unlawful eviction or home foreclosure, or the denial of veteran’s benefits,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “They’re left to navigate these complex legal matters alone, putting their families, homes, health, and livelihoods at risk. Civil legal aid gives low-income people in Massachusetts the tools they need to achieve or maintain their financial stability and independence.”

Speakers at Walk to the Hill will include Chief Justice Gants, Boston Bar Association President Mark D. Smith, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Christopher P. Sullivan. The program will also include remarks by a client who has been helped by civil legal aid.

“At a time when immigrant communities face uncertainty and hostility, and fear that the rule of law is threatened, the need for legal advocacy and advice from our civil legal aid organizations has never been more urgent,” said Justice Gants.

MBA President Christopher P. Sullivan said: “With no guarantee of a lawyer in a civil case, far too many Massachusetts residents go unrepresented in court because they simply cannot afford a lawyer, and the legal aid resources are far too limited to help everyone who is qualified to receive such aid. That’s unacceptable. Having access to a lawyer is critical, especially when folks are fighting for their homes or services for their kids or facing other life-altering challenges. More funding for legal aid is the answer, and the Massachusetts Bar Association urges our elected officials to increase funding for legal aid to ensure equal justice for all in the Commonwealth.”

“Every year, we work alongside our partners in the Equal Justice Coalition to secure funding for civil legal aid in the state budget because we understand the devastating consequences for Massachusetts families who cannot afford legal representation,” said Boston Bar Association President Mark Smith. “In addition to enabling low-income residents to access legal services, investing resources in civil legal aid saves money.”

“Civil legal aid is a solid return on investment for Massachusetts taxpayers and our communities,” said MLAC Board Chair Marijane Benner Browne. “In fiscal year 2016, the work of the 14 civil legal aid programs funded by MLAC provided an economic benefit of $49.2 million to the state’s economy. This included federal benefits and other financial support for low-income residents, as well as shelter and health care cost savings for the state.”

Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to increase funding for MLAC, the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, by $5 million in the FY19 state budget, for a total appropriation of $23 million.

Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event is also co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is as follows:

  • Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court
  • Boston Bar Association President Mark D. Smith
  • Massachusetts Bar Association President Christopher P. Sullivan
  • Legal aid client

NOTE: Members of the media are welcome to attend all or part of the speaking program. Please follow the Equal Justice Coalition on Twitter (www.twitter.com/equaljusticema) as well as the hashtags #IWalkForJustice and #WalktotheHill for the latest on Walk to the Hill 2018.

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About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, works to increase state funding for civil legal aid. For more information, visit www.equaljusticecoalition.org.

Chief Justice Gants and Bar Association Leaders to Speak at 18th Annual Walk to the Hill

Hundreds of Attorneys to Gather at State House on Thursday, January 26 to Request $5 Million Increase in Funding for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON (January 11, 2017)―Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court and bar association leaders will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 11:30am for the 18th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the largest held at the State House each year, will request a $5 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.

“Civil legal aid is a key part of efforts by the state and the social service sector to fight poverty in Massachusetts. Free legal advice or representation in non-criminal legal matters like child support and custody disputes; home foreclosure or eviction; wrongful termination from a job, and accessing veterans’ services provides the stability that can assist low-income people to build a better future for themselves,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “State investment in civil legal aid is critical to the success of these efforts.”

Speakers at Walk to the Hill will include Chief Justice Gants, Boston Bar Association President Carol A. Starkey, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Jeffrey N. Catalano. The program will also include remarks by a client who has benefited from civil legal aid assistance.

“Civil legal aid is one of the smartest investments the Commonwealth makes each year,” said MLAC Board Chair Marijane Benner Browne. “Each year, community-based civil legal aid programs around the state generate more money in new revenue and cost savings than the Commonwealth appropriates to support these programs. A 2014 report by the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts found that every dollar Massachusetts spent on civil legal aid in eviction and foreclosure cases saved $2.69 in state services, and every dollar spent on assisting qualified people to receive federal benefits returns $5 to the state and its residents. We simply can’t afford not to make this investment.”

Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to increase funding for MLAC, the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, by $5 million in the FY18 state budget, for a total appropriation of $23 million.

Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event is also co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is as follows:

  • Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court
  • Massachusetts Bar Association President Jeffrey N. Catalano
  • Boston Bar Association President Carol A. Starkey
  • Legal aid client

NOTE: Members of the media are welcome to attend all or part of the speaking program. Please follow the Equal Justice Coalition on Twitter (www.twitter.com/equaljusticema) as well as the hashtags #IWalkForJustice and #WalktotheHill for the latest on Walk to the Hill 2017.

# # #

About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, works to increase state funding for civil legal aid.

State Reps. Christine Barber and Paul Brodeur to Visit Housing Court

Media Contact:
Catherine Rizos
617-391-5627
crizos@mlac.org

State Reps. Christine Barber and Paul Brodeur to Visit Housing Court

BOSTON, May 5, 2016—State Representative Christine Barber of Somerville and State Representative Paul Brodeur of Melrose will visit Housing Court at the Brooke Courthouse in Boston at 9am on Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Barbara Zimbel, a civil legal aid attorney from Greater Boston Legal Services, will give the lawmakers a tour of Housing Court, which has jurisdiction over civil and criminal actions relating to the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants or owners of residential housing. They will be joined by Massachusetts Bar Association President Robert W. Harnais and Equal Justice Coalition Chair John Carroll.

“Approximately 90 percent of people in Housing Court attempting to defend themselves in foreclosure or eviction proceedings do not have legal representation because they cannot afford an attorney,” said Carroll. “We know that two-thirds of those who are facing eviction and have an attorney are able to keep their housing while only one-third of those without legal representation are able to do so.”

Harnais added: “Statistics clearly show the incredible difference legal aid makes when it comes to improving access to justice. But I’m a proponent of seeing is believing, and the unfortunate reality is you can see the effects of inadequate funding for legal aid every day in our courthouses. With so many of our citizens fighting for their homes without a lawyer, it is clear we need to do better. No one should face losing a home on their own.”

Earlier this year, the Equal Justice Coalition released a video about the need for civil legal aid in Housing Court. It can be viewed here.

About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), works to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid through MLAC (line item 0321-1600).