Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Announces Appointment of Lynne Parker as Executive Director

BOSTON, August 8, 2018—The Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Lynne M. Parker as the organization’s new executive director, effective September 17. Parker has more than three decades of experience advocating on behalf of low-income residents, most recently as executive director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance. She will succeed Lonnie Powers, who will retire at the end of August after 35 years as MLAC’s executive director.

“We are delighted to welcome Lynne Parker as the next leader of MLAC,” said Marijane Benner Browne, Chair of MLAC’s Board of Directors and Director of Lateral Partner Recruiting at Ropes & Gray. “Her wealth of experience, deep commitment to social justice, and impressive track record of forging alliances in support of civil legal aid will enable MLAC to build on the dedicated efforts of MLAC’s board and staff, particularly outgoing Executive Director Lonnie Powers, to ensure access to justice for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents.”

During her tenure at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, Parker served as a staff attorney and later deputy director before becoming executive director in 2014. She began her legal aid career representing migrant farmworkers as an attorney at Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Bangor, Maine, and later worked at Southeastern Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (now South Coastal Counties Legal Services) an MLAC-funded organization.

“I am extremely honored to have been selected as MLAC’s next executive director,” said Parker. “I look forward to partnering with MLAC’s Board of Directors, staff, and stakeholders, collaborating closely with legal aid organizations throughout Massachusetts, and continuing MLAC’s longstanding commitment to building broad support for civil legal aid.”

A Massachusetts native, Parker holds a BA in political science from Mount Holyoke College, and a JD from the University of New Hampshire School of Law. As a law student, she interned at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, another MLAC-funded organization. Early in her career, she served with the Peace Corps in Guatemala, assisting women and girls in local communities develop the skills necessary to start their own businesses. She also worked as an AmeriCorps Site Director and as a housing advocate—an area of work which has been a focus of her time as a legal aid attorney. Throughout her career, Parker has promoted staff diversity and linguistic competence, advocated for the rights of people with limited English proficiency, and conducted outreach to underserved communities—particularly Spanish-speaking residents.

ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. With funding from the Commonwealth and the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), as well as from government grants and private foundations, MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, supporting 14 local and statewide civil legal aid programs. MLAC also provides leadership and support for the continued improvement of legal aid to low-income people statewide through initiatives focused on advocacy for increased state funding of legal aid; diversity, equity, and inclusion; systemic technology enhancements; and special projects to deliver legal services to victims of crime and to immigrants facing deportation.

MLAC Thanks Governor Baker for Approving Civil Legal Aid Funding Increase

BOSTON, July 26, 2018— Today, Governor Charlie Baker signed the FY19 Budget of the Commonwealth, which includes $21.04 million for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation—a $3.04 million increase over FY18. The following is a statement from Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation:

“We thank Governor Baker for approving this important funding increase for civil legal aid. We are deeply grateful for his leadership, and for his recognition of the urgent need to address the overwhelming demand for assistance among our state’s low-income residents. With this funding increase, civil legal aid organizations across the state will be able to help thousands more people who otherwise would not receive assistance in resolving serious civil legal issues that threaten their health, safety, and financial stability. The FY19 Budget of the Commonwealth helps Massachusetts deliver on the promise of equal justice for all.

“In addition to the Governor, his cabinet, and his staff, we thank the Massachusetts legislature for voting to increase funding for civil legal aid. The broad support we received from the House and Senate and from members of both parties truly demonstrates the impact legal aid makes in every corner of the state. We are also grateful to the many supporters of civil legal aid who advocated for this increase, including our legislative champions, 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. Their collective advocacy exemplifies the Commonwealth’s commitment to the principles of justice, fairness, and compassion, and we are fortunate to count them as allies. Our shared success is an important step towards the goal of ensuring that all people—regardless of income—have access to legal advice and representation.”

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About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. For more information, please visit: www.mlac.org.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Board Welcomes New Member

BOSTON, June 14, 2018 — The board of directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth, is pleased to welcome a new member, Alma Woodberry, who was recently appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Alma Woodberry has served as a member of Greater Boston Legal Services’ Client Caucus since 2011, providing an important voice for low-income residents within one of the largest civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. She volunteers her time in many ways, including with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and also as an advocate for elderly members of her community who face crises and unexpected challenges.

MLAC is governed by an 11-member Board of Directors. Ten members are appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court, and the 11th is the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court or that Justice’s designee.

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ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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, visit http://www.mlac.org.

 

MLAC Applauds Senate for Funding Increase for Civil Legal Aid in FY19 Budget

BOSTON, May 25, 2018 – The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) expresses its thanks to the State Senate, which today approved $21 million in funding for civil legal aid in its FY19 Budget. This additional funding was made possible by bi-partisan support for amendment 992, co-sponsored by 27 senators, which added $2 million to the initial Senate Ways & Means budget proposal. The Senate appropriation, an increase of $3 million over FY18, is an important step forward in the Commonwealth’s effort to increase access to legal representation for low-income individuals and families facing potentially life-altering civil legal issues related to housing, health care, employment, and domestic violence, among other concerns.

“We express our deep gratitude to the Senate for its recognition of the need for additional funding to support civil legal aid programs and the vital services they provide in communities across the state. This funding increase will help more low-income residents access civil legal aid and find safety and stability as they face serious civil legal issues,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC. “We extend special thanks to Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem, Senate Judiciary Chair Will Brownsberger, and the 25 senators who co-sponsored amendment 992, for their leadership on this issue. We also thank Senate President Harriette Chandler and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Karen Spilka for their longstanding efforts to improve access to justice for our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

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ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation to Celebrate 35th Anniversary, Honor Founding Executive Director at June Gala

BOSTON, May 17, 2018—The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest funder of civil legal aid programs in the Commonwealth, will hold its 35th Anniversary Gala on June 18 at Morgan Lewis in Boston.

The event will honor MLAC’s founding executive director, Lonnie Powers—who will retire in August—and the 32 staff members who have worked for 35 years or more at the civil legal aid programs funded by MLAC. Featured speakers will include the four living Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justices: current Chief Justice Ralph Gants and retired Chief Justices Herbert Wilkins, Margaret Marshall, and Roderick Ireland.

“For 35 years, MLAC has proudly funded civil legal aid organizations in the Commonwealth. These organizations provide advice and representation to low-income people who face serious civil legal issues related to domestic violence, housing, immigration, employment, health care, access to benefits, and other challenges,” said Marijane Benner Browne, Chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “Lonnie and all longtime civil legal aid employees have put in decades of tireless advocacy, and we are excited to celebrate them and the state’s commitment to investing in justice.”

In response to the threatened elimination of federal funding for civil legal aid during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, the Massachusetts legislature created the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation in 1983 to provide a state funding source for legal aid. MLAC currently funds 14 local and statewide civil legal aid programs, which collectively closed nearly 23,000 cases last fiscal year—benefitting more than 83,000 individuals and family members in every corner of the state. In addition to funding, MLAC provides leadership and support to these programs, serves as fiscal sponsor for special projects like the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund, and partners with the private bar to protect the state appropriation for civil legal aid.

“Since its inception, all of MLAC’s work has been conducted under Lonnie’s leadership. We are deeply grateful for his service, and congratulate him on his well-earned retirement,” Benner Browne said. “We are pleased to announce that the proceeds from the gala will be used to create the Lonnie Powers Innovation Fund, which will carry the spirit of Lonnie’s work into MLAC’s next chapter.”

The Lonnie Powers Innovation Fund will allow MLAC to support projects that increase access to legal information and help, and that utilize new technologies and creative models of service delivery to meet the evolving needs of low-income people across the Commonwealth.

“Civil legal aid is even more important to Massachusetts now than it was 35 years ago,” Powers said. “I hope this event will be a shared celebration of the work that MLAC and its partners—legal aid organizations, bar associations, law firms, individual lawyers, the judiciary, and the legislature—have done to advance and promote equal justice for all in the Commonwealth. It will also be an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the courage and strength of the clients of civil legal aid with and for whom we do this work.”

For tickets and more information about this event, visit the MLAC website.

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About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

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

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. Statement on Senate Ways & Means Committee Budget

BOSTON, May 10, 2018―In its FY19 budget, released today, the Senate Ways & Means Committee recommended funding civil legal aid in the Commonwealth at $19 million. This represents a $1 million increase over last year’s budget. Given the depth of unmet need for civil legal aid services among people living in poverty, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) will continue to advocate for an additional $4 million in funding from the Senate.

“Civil legal aid funding plays a vital role in promoting equal access to justice for low-income residents of the Commonwealth and we’re pleased that the Senate Ways & Means Committee recognizes this contribution,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “Given the need for services among those seeking civil legal aid, and the significant return on investment yielded by civil legal aid funding, we will continue to advocate for increased investment by the state during the Senate floor debate.”

Currently, civil legal aid programs around the state turn away approximately 65 percent of eligible residents who seek services—nearly 45,000 people each year. To be eligible for civil legal aid, applicants must have incomes at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level, which is $31,375 a year for a family of four.

Earlier this year, MLAC released its annual Economic Benefits Report, which showed that civil legal assistance provided by MLAC-funded programs in fiscal year 2017 yielded at least $59.2 million in savings or new revenue for the state and its residents. Successful representation in appeals to Social Security Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare coverage, and federal tax decisions resulted in $17.6 million in new federal revenue for the Commonwealth. An additional $24.3 million was gained through child support orders, debt relief for homeowners in foreclosure cases, and additional non-federal Unemployment Insurance claims and representation for tenants. The state saved $17.2 million in services that it would have otherwise provided if not for civil legal aid, including emergency shelter, foster care, and medical costs related to domestic violence.

Senators Cynthia Creem and William Brownsberger will file an amendment to increase the Senate Ways & Means recommendation by $4 million, for a total appropriation of $23 million, as the Senate budget is debated. This funding increase would be another important step in addressing the significant unmet need among those who are eligible for and seek civil legal aid.

“Our 14 community-based programs across Massachusetts improve the health, safety, and well-being of the state by making it possible for low-income residents to access civil legal resolutions to life-changing issues related to housing, employment, and health care,” said Marijane Benner Browne, chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “In doing this, we ultimately save millions of dollars of the state’s money and bring in millions more in federal funding. This cost-effective and efficient use of our tax dollars strengthens families and all of our communities.”

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ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. Praises House Ways & Means Committee Budget

BOSTON, April 11, 2018―On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Committee recommended $20 million for civil legal aid funding in its Fiscal Year 2019 budget, which represents a $2 million increase over the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

“We’re pleased that the House Ways & Means Committee recognizes the role that civil legal aid funding plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income residents of the Commonwealth, and we are extremely grateful for this support,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “However, given the great depth of unmet need among those seeking civil legal aid, and the significant return on investment yielded by civil legal aid funding, we need to continue to advocate for increased investment by the state during the House floor debate.”

Currently, civil legal aid programs around the state turn away approximately 65 percent of eligible residents who seek services—nearly 45,000 people each year. To be eligible for civil legal aid, applicants must have incomes at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level, which is $31,375 a year for a family of four.

Earlier this year, MLAC released its annual Economic Benefits Report, which showed that civil legal assistance provided by MLAC-funded programs in fiscal year 2017 yielded at least $59.2 million in savings or new revenue for the state and its residents. Successful representation in appeals to Social Security Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare coverage, and federal tax decisions resulted in $17.6 million in new federal revenue for the Commonwealth. An additional $24.3 million was gained through child support orders, debt relief for homeowners in foreclosure cases, and additional non-federal Unemployment Insurance claims and representation for tenants. The state saved $17.2 million in services that it would have otherwise provided if not for civil legal aid. These services include emergency shelter, foster care, and medical costs related to domestic violence.

Representative Ruth Balser and Representative Claire Cronin will file an amendment to increase the House Ways & Means recommendation by $2 million, for a total appropriation of $22 million, as the House budget is debated. This funding increase would be another important step in addressing the significant unmet need among those who are eligible for and seek civil legal aid.

“Public spending should be aligned with effective, successful programs that improve the health, safety, and well-being of our residents. Our 14 community-based programs across Massachusetts meet that bar,” said Marijane Benner Browne, chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “Civil legal aid programs assist people who are struggling to make ends meet resolve civil legal issues related to basic necessities such as housing, employment, classroom accommodations for children with disabilities, and conflicts related to child support and custody, divorce, and domestic violence.”

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ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

 

MLAC Statement on Local Impact of Proposed Cuts to Federal Legal Aid Funding

BOSTON, February 13, 2018—On Monday, President Donald Trump released his budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which calls for elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and several other federal programs that provide vital safety net services to low-income people here in Massachusetts and across the United States.

LSC provides funding to civil legal aid programs in every state in the country, including Massachusetts, which received approximately $5 million this year.

“The elimination of funding for LSC, coupled with cuts to other programs that help poor and elderly residents secure food, heat, housing, employment, economic opportunity, and safe workplaces, would have devastating and long-lasting consequences on the stability of individuals, families, and communities across our state and our country,” said Lonnie Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Continued threats to federal funding highlight the need for robust state and local support.”

In testimony before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means today, Powers will request a $5 million increase in state funding for civil legal aid for a total appropriation of $23 million. He will also highlight the heightened need for civil legal aid due to expected reductions in safety net programs, rising uncertainty related to changes in federal immigration policies, and an influx of families fleeing hurricane damage in Puerto Rico.

“Fear and misinformation are widespread in immigrant communities and the harm experienced as a result is significant. Children are afraid to go to school, fearing that their parents will be taken away, medical appointments are postponed or avoided altogether, and victims of crime are afraid to call the police,” Powers said. “Legal aid programs are a crucial source of information and education about immigrants’ rights.”

Additionally, since the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, approximately 2,400 students who evacuated the island have moved to Massachusetts and enrolled in public schools. “Many of these families arrived here with nothing and need assistance in obtaining employment, housing, and other basic needs, and our programs are already working with some of these families,” Powers said.

In Fiscal Year 2017, the state’s $18 million investment in civil legal aid yielded $59.2 million in economic benefits and savings to the Commonwealth, including $17.7 million in new federal revenue secured for clients through work to obtain disability benefits, nutrition assistance benefits (SNAP), and Medicare coverage; $17.2 million in state savings on foster care, shelter, and health care for people who are homeless and victims of domestic violence; and $24.3 million in additional benefits secured for clients, including child support, recovered wages, and debt relief. Civil legal aid boosts the economy, making increased state funding for MLAC a fiscally responsible decision.

“Civil legal aid programs provide assistance to people with extremely low incomes of just a little more than $31,000 for a family of four, and who face complex legal problems related to housing, individual rights, employment, and education,” Powers said. “We can easily measure the economic impact of this work. But civil legal assistance also provides profound and long-lasting benefits that change lives and improves the strength and health of families and our communities. It is a wise investment with both short- and long-term benefits.”

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ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Statement on Gov. Baker’s Budget Recommendation

BOSTON, January 24, 2018―Today, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released his FY2019 budget with a recommendation to fund civil legal aid at $18.18 million, an increase of $180,000 over FY2018. Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Executive Director Lonnie Powers released the following statement:

“We are pleased with Gov. Baker’s recognition of the role civil legal aid funding plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income residents of the Commonwealth. Through civil legal assistance, some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents avoid homelessness and unemployment, gain access to health care and veterans’ services, receive a quality education, and escape domestic violence. Currently, civil legal aid programs around the state turn away approximately 65 percent of eligible residents who seek services—nearly 45,000 people each year. To be eligible for civil legal aid, applicants must have incomes at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level, which is $31,375 a year for a family of four.

“The return on the state’s investment in civil legal assistance is high. In fiscal year 2016, new revenue for legal aid clients and cost savings to the Commonwealth from legal aid work totaled an estimated $49.2 million, of which $15.9 million was in the form of new federal revenue.

“Given the depth of this unmet need among those seeking civil legal aid, and the significant return on investment yielded by civil legal aid funding, we will continue to advocate with the Legislature for a $5 million increase, for a total appropriation of $23 million.

“Tomorrow, Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court, Boston Bar Association President Mark D. Smith, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Christopher P. Sullivan will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 50 law firms at the State House for the 19th 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 meet with lawmakers and their staff to request increased public investment in civil legal aid.”

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ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.mlac.org.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Announces Retirement of Executive Director Lonnie Powers

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

BOSTON (October 27, 2017) – The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) announces that its executive director, Lonnie A. Powers, who has led the organization since its founding, will retire in August 2018.

MLAC, created by the state legislature in 1983, is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts. Under Powers’ leadership, access to civil legal representation and advice has expanded greatly for low-income individuals and families. Over that time, MLAC has also formed close partnerships with the private bar, the judiciary, the legislature, the attorney general’s office, regional civil legal aid programs and other stakeholders to maximize available resources for low-income individuals and families facing potentially life-changing civil legal issues related to housing, employment, education, domestic violence, and access to public benefits.

“Lonnie has been instrumental in MLAC’s development as a leading voice for civil legal aid in Massachusetts. We offer him our sincere appreciation for what will be his 35 years of service and advocacy on behalf of those who might otherwise not have had access to justice,” said Marijane Benner Browne, Chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “We are committed to finding a new leader for MLAC who can continue that proud tradition and strengthen the civil legal aid system in Massachusetts, and we are grateful to Lonnie for the time he has given us to plan for this transition.”

“I am honored to have served as MLAC’s founding executive director,” said Powers. “I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the board and staff of MLAC and our many partners and supporters in the private bar, the judiciary, the legislature, and our programs to increase access to civil legal aid in the Commonwealth. Together, we have established a vibrant network of legal aid providers that works ceaselessly to serve our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

Before joining MLAC, Powers worked in the Office of the Attorney General in his native Arkansas, and served as executive director of Legal Services of Arkansas.

The MLAC Board of Directors has appointed a transition committee that will conduct a national search for Powers’ successor.

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About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 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.