MLAC Statement on Massachusetts House Leadership Appointments

Statement by Lonnie A. Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation on Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo’s Leadership Appointments

BOSTON, March 3, 2015 — “We applaud Speaker DeLeo’s well-chosen leadership appointments, and congratulate the House committee leaders on their new positions. Our partnership with the legislature is vital to the success of civil legal aid programs in the Commonwealth, which provide critical support to low-income individuals and families facing issues related to housing, employment, education, health care, and domestic violence, among others. We would like to congratulate Representative John Fernandes, especially, on his appointment as Chair of the Judiciary Committee. Representative Fernandes served on the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, which issued a groundbreaking report last fall on the state of civil legal aid in Massachusetts. We look forward to continued collaboration with Representative Fernandes as we work to increase funding for civil legal aid and fight for access to justice for all in the Commonwealth.”

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation applauds new report calling for additional state funding for civil legal aid services

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

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Applauds New Report Calling for Additional State Funding for Civil Legal Aid Services

The need in Massachusetts is great; even with increased funding, demand goes unmet

BOSTON, October 15, 2014―The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) today praised a new report by the Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts finding that most low-income Massachusetts residents who need assistance with civil legal aid matters are unable to obtain it. The report calls for an additional state investment of $30 million in civil legal aid in Massachusetts, beginning with a $10 million dollar increase in FY 16.

The Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts was created by the Boston Bar Association in April 2013 to assess the work of civil legal aid in Massachusetts and determine how to best meet unmet civil legal aid needs.

“We who work in civil legal aid have long known that demand for services dramatically outstrips supply. This gap in justice affects our entire state, and is fueling a burgeoning crisis in our courts,” said Lonnie Powers, MLAC’s executive director, who also served on Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts. “Civil legal aid services are life-saving for people who have nowhere else to turn when faced with critical civil legal matters, including domestic violence, eviction, illegal dismissal from employment, and child custody issues. A well-functioning judiciary and a strong civil legal aid system are vital for ensuring that the most vulnerable among us have access to justice. The increased investment called for in this report is a much-needed first step to ensuring that access to justice in Massachusetts is not based on how much money you make.”

Despite a state funding increase last fiscal year from the Massachusetts Legislature, overall funding for civil legal aid in Massachusetts has declined in recent years. The Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts program (IOLTA), historically the largest source of revenue for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, provided MLAC less than $4 million in FY14, down from a peak of $17 million in FY08. This decline has forced civil legal aid organizations, which dedicate the vast majority of their budgets to providing direct client service, to lay off attorneys and paralegals, institute furloughs and leave positions unfilled. Perhaps most damaging, this growing funding gap forces these organizations to turn away increasing numbers of eligible clients in dire need of civil legal aid services, estimated by the Task Force to be as high as 64 percent of eligible low-income people in 2013.

The report by the Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts found that investment in civil legal aid could lead to substantial savings for the Commonwealth. Civil legal aid programs help clients access improperly denied benefits, and can attract additional federal dollars to the state. They can also save the state in avoided costs. For instance, families who are able to retain their housing with civil legal assistance are able to stay out of homeless shelters and avoid costs related to those services.

“This report has assessed the impact of civil legal aid and the need for it in Massachusetts in new ways. The case for increased investment in civil legal aid is compelling, and we hope this report spurs a much-needed public conversation around increasing access to justice for all our residents and swift action by the Massachusetts Legislature to invest critically needed state funding which is a proven economic benefit to our Commonwealth and the residents we serve,” Powers added.

The full report of the Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts is available here.

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 Board Welcomes Appointment of Two New Members, Re-Appointment of Former Chair

Gonzalez and Wilson Appointed by Supreme Judicial Court, Hall Reappointed to Second Term

BOSTON, October 10, 2014 – The board of directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth, welcomes two new members, Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez and Geoffrey A. Wilson, who were recently appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court. Read more

Massachusetts Legislature Provides $15 Million for Civil Legal Aid

Increased Funding Will Boost Struggling Legal Aid Providers

BOSTON, June 30, 2014 – The Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives voted today to approve a budget recommendation for fiscal year 2015, which includes an appropriation of $15 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the Commonwealth’s largest single funding source for civil legal aid to low income families and individuals. Read more

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Applauds New Report Calling for Additional State Funding for Civil Legal Aid Services

The need in Massachusetts is great; even with increased funding, demand goes unmet

BOSTON, October 15, 2014―The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) today praised a new report by the Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts finding that most low-income Massachusetts residents who need assistance with civil legal aid matters are unable to obtain it. Read more

MLAC Congratulates Recipients of 2013 Top Women of Law Awards

 

BOSTON (October 31, 2013) – The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is pleased to congratulate five civil legal aid attorneys who received the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly “Top Women of Law” award at a reception held today.

Three attorneys from MLAC-funded civil legal aid organizations were recognized by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as “Top Women of the Law:” Monica Halas of Greater Boston Legal Services, Linda Landry of Disability Law Center and Barbara Mitchell of Community Legal Services and Counseling Center. Nnena E. J. Odim of Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center and Veronica Serrato of the Volunteer Lawyers Project were also honored. The lawyers were selected for their inspiring contributions to social justice and advocacy.

The honorees and their civil legal aid colleagues across Massachusetts help low-income clients who come to them with critical problems like eviction, child custody conflicts and domestic violence. There has been increased demand for legal services from the poor in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. More than 970,000 Massachusetts residents now earn less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level and are eligible for free civil legal aid, an increase of almost 170,000 since 2008.

“MLAC applauds Monica, Linda, Barbara, Nnena and Veronica for receiving this well-deserved honor,” said Lonnie Powers, MLAC’s executive director. “Being recognized as top women in law is a testament to their hard work and dedication to ensuring that everyone has equal access to justice at a time when the need has never been greater.”

For a complete list of the 2013 Top Women of Law, visit www.masslawyersweekly.com/top-women-of-law.

ABOUT MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation was established by the legislature 30 years ago to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation. It is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.