January 26 lobby day seeks $49M for civil legal aid in FY24
BOSTON, January 24 – Governor Maura Healey, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, bar association leaders, and legal aid clients will join a virtual gathering of hundreds of private attorneys and law students on Thursday, January 26, at 11 a.m. for Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. They will urge state legislators to support $49 million in the FY24 state budget for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation to fund organizations that provide legal advice and representation at no cost to Massachusetts residents with low incomes. People and families with incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty level ($37,500 per year for a family of four) qualify for civil legal aid.
The Walk to the Hill lobby day event, which engages members of the private bar and is now in its 24th year, has been held in a virtual format since the COVID-19 pandemic.
After hearing from the program’s speakers, attendees will have the opportunity to join Zoom breakout rooms with their legislators. These meetings offer a unique opportunity for private attorneys and law students to speak directly to policymakers and share why they believe civil legal aid is important.
Louis Tompros, Partner at WilmerHale in Boston, serves as Chair of the Equal Justice Coalition, which coordinates the event each year. Tompros says the impact of increased state appropriated funding is evidenced by improvements in the “turnaway rate,” or the percentage of people who are financially eligible to be represented by a legal aid attorney but are turned away due to a lack of resources.
While organizations are accepting more cases than they were a few years ago, “nearly half of the people who are eligible still do not receive representation simply because staff resources are insufficient,” says Tompros.
Lynne Parker, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, says the effects of COVID-19 are still being felt by people living in poverty.
“Case numbers have risen since the pandemic in a number of areas. We’ve seen dramatic increases in housing cases and unemployment cases, for example,” Parker says, adding that, “Responding to these and other urgent needs requires a robust workforce of legal aid staff. More funding will help recruit and retain skilled advocates needed to make justice for all a reality in Massachusetts.”
LIST OF SPEAKERS
–Maura Healey, Governor of Massachusetts
–Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
–Grace V.B. Garcia, President of the Massachusetts Bar Association
–Chinh H. Pham, President of the Boston Bar Association
–Lynne Parker, Executive Director, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
–Jacquelynne J. Bowman, Executive Director, Greater Boston Legal Services
–Legal aid clients who received help over the past year
–Host: Louis Tompros, Chair, Equal Justice Coalition
Media are welcome to attend the speaking program and the virtual event is open to the public. Please register at ejctalktothehill.org.
About the EJC
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Boston Bar Association, and Massachusetts Bar Association working to increase state funding for civil legal aid.