Legal Aid Speaks Out Against Racism

Since the death of George Floyd, legal aid organizations across the state have issued strong statements against systemic racism and called for collaboration and change. Their statements are below.

Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Community Legal Aid
Center for Law and Education
Center for Public Representation
De Novo Center for Justice and Healing
Disability Law Center
Greater Boston Legal Services
Health Law Advocates
Justice at Work
Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
MetroWest Legal Services
National Consumer Law Center
Northeast Legal Aid
PAIR Project
Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts
Rian Immigrant Center
Veterans Legal Services
Victim Rights Law Center

Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts

The board and staff of the Children’s Law Center of MA extend our sincere condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other innocent victims of racial injustice across the ages in America and beyond.

We stand with those of you whose voices are now being heard on the streets around the world in support of freedom and equality. In your honor, and on behalf of those for whom you march, the Children’s Law Center pledges to continue its fight for justice for our child clients whose path to equality will, we hope, have been paved by your voice, courage, and conscience.

A REMINDER: Only seven years ago, in August 2013, the Honorable John R. Lewis, member of Congress from Georgia, legendary civil rights leader, and a strong supporter of legal aid, made the following observation about the state of racism in our country, as pertinent and telling today as it was then, indeed as it has been over the centuries:

“The scars and stains of racism remain deeply embedded in American society, whether it is stop and frisk in New York or injustice in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, immigrants hiding in fear in the shadow of society, unemployment, homelessness, poverty, hunger, or the renewed struggle for voting rights.”

As we, sadly, add new chapters to Congressman Lewis’s poignant observation in the persons of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and others, we urge all to caution against simply “turning the page” on this most recent stain in our country’s history. Instead, consider one of the Congressman’s suggestions to guard against such complacency: “…find a way to get in trouble…good trouble…necessary trouble!”

Community Legal Aid

CLA joins in mourning the death of George Floyd and all who’ve lost their lives as a result of injustice. We grieve for those put at risk by systemic inequality, and pledge to continue working with our local communities to dismantle structural racism and to fight for justice for all.

Center for Law and Education


Dear Colleagues,

Like many, I mourn the murder of George Floyd. But I am also frustrated by the current pattern of repeating the conversations we have had for years about police abuse of their powers with impunity. It is time for action: we know the problems and we know the solutions, at least enough to get us started and have an immediate impact. The issue is whether we have the WILL to take the necessary actions to solve the problems.

I have found the work of the Police Use of Force Project to be especially helpful in moving from discussion to concrete, often immediate, action proposals for local elected officials and police chiefs. DeRay McKesson, one of the founders of the project, has a great piece in this issue of GQ. They argue that the evidence suggests we can achieve up to a 72% decrease in police violence leading to death by implementing these eight policies.

Eight Policies to Reduce Police Violence

1. Ban chokeholds and stranglehold
2. Require de-escalation
3. Require warning before shooting
4. Exhaust all other means before shooting
5. Duty to intervene and stop excessive force by other officers
6. Ban shooting at moving vehicles
7. Require use-of-force continuum
8. Require comprehensive reporting each time an officer uses forces or threatens to do so

Especially useful is their tool tracking the 100 top departments in the nation and the extent to which they have implemented these policies. The project makes a critically important point regarding the need to defund police departments and to reallocate resources currently going to police to provide funding for the people who should be handling all the situations (the vast majority of police work) that do not require someone with a gun.

In addition to the eight policies they focus on, I would add a few to the list for consideration including:

– External civilian review boards for review of all allegations of misconduct for use of force
– Independent review of police misconduct by skilled investigators external to the local police and prosecutors
– State restrictions on hiring cops fired from one jurisdiction for abusive conduct by another department
– Police complaint records are public (without complainants’ names divulged to officer or public during investigation) and sustained charges against officers should part of the public record
– Police departments should be required to publish annual/semi-annual reports on the number of civilian complaints and the result of reviews and action taken for sustained charges

Those currently working on police and criminal justice reform probably can add many more. But this is a good launch pad for moving from protest to action.

As we move to take immediate, initial actions to end unbridled and unaccountable police behavior, we must recognize that police brutality does not operate as an isolated phenomenon but is part of a societal structure and supporting systems of oppression that permeate most aspects of American life. Especially important to understanding and addressing the treatment of Black people by the justice system is how policing intrudes into the educational process and constitutes one fountainhead of the “school to prison pipeline.”

As we consider the broader context in which Black people experience disparate economic and other life outcomes in America, we must sharpen our focus on quality education for all as one powerful anecdote to poverty and economic inequities, making it even more critical that we focus on education.

In the words of James Baldwin, “we are our history” and, therefore, we must work to actively adopt and implement an anti-racist agenda in our schools, from curriculum, instruction, and learning opportunities to school-based safety and climate. No longer can we accept the legacy of color and permit it to mute our voices in opposition to racism in schools; silence is complicity.

Just as there are immediate actions we must take to end police violence while we educate and deliberate on the structural changes needed to cure the disease of racism that infects that system, justice in schools is no exception.

First, we urge school districts to be informed by research showing that more security leads to more disciplinary infractions particularly for low-level offenses and for Black and Hispanic students.

Second, school districts should immediately decriminalize the school environment so that it is conducive to learning by:

1. Stopping criminalization of student behavior that should be handled as a school matter.
2. Ending the practice of suspending students for non-violent conduct and especially for highly subjective offenses like defiance of authority and disruptive conduct that disproportionately impacts students of color.
3. Redirecting funds from contracts with local police departments to hire bilingual, culturally competent mental health counselors, teachers and administrators who look like their students and other supportive staff to create safe, positive and supportive environments.
4. Investing in culturally responsive approaches to restorative and transformative justice, social-emotional learning, trauma-informed approaches, support for healing of students, especially those who have been victimized by aggressive policing that is known to lower educational performance.

I hope you will join me in pursuing these actions now.

Junious Williams, Board President

Center for Public Representation

The Center for Public Representation denounces the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis – the latest in a series of Black deaths, including Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. We condemn the structural racism that has allowed this to take place.

We stand with protesters in the Twin Cities, Atlanta, Louisville, Columbus, New York City, Washington, Philadelphia, D.C., Los Angeles, Portland, and every community across this nation.

We harken to the words uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967:

I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?

As disability lawyers fighting for change, we have a responsibility to change a system that has repeatedly failed to deliver justice for all. Even though our work challenges the status quo, we are still part of the system – the system that failed to deliver justice when Freddie Gray was killed in Baltimore, when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, when Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida.

This racism is entrenched in American society.

And it is that same institutional racism that has led to Black and other communities of color being disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, health care inequities and the long-term impact of poverty.

Racism underlies it all. And all of us must do more to combat it.

We are committed to standing with people from Black and communities of color and to condemn the racism and the killings that have horrified us. We commit to working to understand and address our own implicit bias, to address racism in our work – to listen, to hear, and to act.

De Novo Center for Justice and Healing

Dear Friends,

Our hearts are filled with sadness and grief as yet again we witness the grave injustice experienced by the Black community. We, at De Novo, stand with those demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and all people of color who have been and continue to be subjected to racism, prejudice, violence and discrimination.

De Novo strives to increase access to justice and healing, and that must include dismantling systemic racism that targets Black people or any other group and excludes them from the protection of our justice system. We recognize and speak out against the racial disparities we see in our society and stand in solidarity with those demanding change. Thank you for partnering with us as we advocate for human rights and social justice for all.

On behalf of all of us at De Novo,

Mojdeh Rohani
Executive Director

Disability Law Center


Our nation has been rocked by tragedy and pain during the past few months. We were shaken by the disparate impact that COVID-19 has had on the disability community and communities of color and the widespread economic devastation that followed. As if this wasn’t enough, during the past three months we have also witnessed the senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and now – George Floyd. These murders are the most recent in a long line of injustices and indignities suffered by Black men and women and black transgender people throughout the Nation. As an organization committed to promoting the civil and human rights of all persons with disabilities – and in respect of the undeniable intersections that exist between disability, race, and socioeconomic status in this country – we stand in solidarity with the Black community during these difficult times. Our communities are in pain and we share the fear, anger, and sadness felt by so many. Please know that:

We See You.

We Hear You.

We Stand With You in the fight to eliminate racism and advance racial justice.

Yours in the struggle,
Marlene Sallo
Executive Director

Greater Boston Legal Services

GBLS stands in solidarity with those who are calling for justice and protesting the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and others who have died as a result of injustice. We speak out against racial disparities in the justice system, the health care system, the immigration system and other systems that impact access to basic human needs. We believe that all people have an inalienable right to justice and fairness.

GBLS’ work includes advocating for systemic change to create equal access to justice, the removal of barriers keeping people in poverty, and disruption of racial inequities that impact many in our community on a daily basis. Today, that includes standing with those raising voices for change. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Health Law Advocates

Health Law Advocates has and always will represent and fight for people made vulnerable by inequities in our health care system and society generally. Racism is at the root of many of these inequities. We are compelled to speak out today to affirm that we join the mourning and share the outrage of people here in Massachusetts and across our country for the deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others who are targeted because they are Black. We are also inspired by and stand in solidarity with the protestors and allies crying out for immediate, permanent change.

The fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionally devastating people of color is also rooted in racism. Systemic racism and discrimination existed long before the pandemic, and they will continue long after it. As our community responds to and begins recovering from the pandemic, we must ensure the steps we take serve to eliminate the stark disparities playing out once again before our eyes. We will continue to address structural racism in our health care system and the deep-seated barriers limiting people of color the access to quality care they deserve, while confronting our own biases deliberately and daily.

Justice at Work

Justice at Work stands in solidarity with the Black community and all those who experience police brutality and the daily effects of systemic anti-Black racism in the U.S. At this key moment, when unprecedented numbers of people are turning out across Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the United States and the globe to protest violence against Black people, police brutality, racism, and White supremacy, we look to the leadership of community-led organizations and their campaigns. We hope you will support them.

Please read our longer reflections and paying of respects below.

A Moment to Pay Respects

Five days after George Floyd’s murder, members of our team were on a call with a group of workers from Central America who described their workplace in a way that we at Justice at Work hear all too often: racially segregated, with workers forced to toil in illegal, undignified conditions. We heard from them that at their pallet recycling job, the “Americans” work inside with air conditioning; fix the pallets already in good condition; have a place to sit and eat their lunch; are paid hourly and receive overtime, vacation, and sick time. The Central American workers, on the other hand, work outside, fixing the pallets that are in the worst condition. They eat lunch outside, sitting on the pallets. They are paid based on production and forced to punch out at noon so the company can avoid any record of their working overtime. They receive no regular vacation, or sick time, and must purchase their own personal protective equipment. And when they’ve complained, their boss has shouted insults deriding their country of origin and legal status.

These conditions echo those of Black workers like Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who were crushed to death in 1968 by their sanitation truck’s hydraulic ram because they weren’t allowed to seek shelter from the rain in a White neighborhood in Memphis and a segregationist mayor had refused to pay for fixing their vehicle. In the aftermath of Cole and Walker’s deaths, sanitation workers launched their historic “I Am A Man” strike for dignity and respect — and Memphis police shot and killed sixteen year old Larry Payne, a Black strike supporter and student, even as his hands were raised. A racialized order based on anti-Blackness has always been, and continues to be, at the core of the U.S. economic system. State-sanctioned violence protects that order, thwarting efforts to challenge the status quo.

As we support immigrant workers’ demands for dignity within a system still segregated by race and maintained by state violence, we continue to fight for a workers’ rights movement that embraces all workers. This means avoiding and redressing the racism of policies like the National Labor Relations Act, which excluded agricultural and domestic workers in order to leave out Black workers. Many laws still perpetuate the legacy of slavery and the marginalization of people of color. It also means deepening our understanding of how anti-Blackness and White supremacy shape every aspect of life and work in the U.S. And it means continuing to support our partners like the Black-led Brazilian Worker Center, and the Brockton Workers’ Alliance, with Haitian and Cape Verdean members, and bringing workers together to recognize their common interests and wield their common power. But today, most importantly, we pay our respects to the Black civil rights leaders, workers, and protestors of yesterday and today, and to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks, whose killings have catalyzed a movement.

Massachusetts Advocates for Children

“To look around the United States today is enough to make prophets and angels weep. This is not the land of the free and it is only sporadically the home of the brave.”

– James Baldwin

In recent weeks, the devastating deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd (SAY THEIR NAMES!) have lent tragic relevance to the words of James Baldwin, written over a half-century ago. These devastating acts are three more links in a torturously long chain of racial violence in our country. This chain is wrapped around and around the heart and the lungs of our nation to the point that it threatens our collective asphyxiation if we cannot break it.

The structural racism baked into our nation at its birth made the murders of Breonna, Ahmaud, and George deaths foretold. It was not, however, an institution or a law that pressed down on the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. It was the knee of a racist police officer, aided and abetted by the indifference of the three colleagues who lifted not a finger to protect George’s most fundamental right, the right to live and breathe. In each of these cases, structural racism provided the context in which savage racist acts by individuals robbed Black people of life.

Massachusetts Advocates for Children condemns these acts of racist violence and adds our voice to those of the thousands who have taken to the streets to express outrage over these murders. But is our condemnation and our outrage enough?

As we condemn the violence that took the lives of Breonna, Ahmaud, and George, we recognize an intimate familiarity with this violence through our work to remove the barriers to educational and life opportunities for Massachusetts children and youth. Make no mistake: that violence may take different forms in the everyday life of schools in our Commonwealth, but it is not a different racist violence that denies Black and Brown children their right to an education that could open a whole world to them. Our indignation at these recent senseless killings leaves us with an obligation to name that same violence where we live and work and do everything in our power to transform it.

Fashioned of flesh and blood, the prophets weep, often profusely. But what distinguishes the prophets among us is that, not content to condemn, they find, even in the most difficult of circumstances, the inspiration and the courage to act. In so doing, their tears join rivers of transformation. The times demand that even we mere mortals follow their example.

One of our prophets, MAC’s founder Hubie Jones, reflected recently on this moment, in the context of the riots he lived through in Boston in the 1960s:

“This…dynamic quickly comes in an indecipherable bundle that destabilizes everyone caught in its grip. It is almost impossible for leaders on all sides to think clearly and act effectively. The window of quasi-attention given by white elites, with the power to forge constructive economic and social changes, suddenly closes, even though verbal pseudo commitments and some investments make some people believe that the window is still open.”

Our challenge is to find the strength and the support to think clearly and act effectively. This can only be done together with friends and allies who share our commitment to change, you among them. It is in that spirit that we ask our friends, allies, and supporters to first allow ourselves to feel deeply the pain of this moment and support others as they do the same. But even as we feel this pain, we ask that you demand of us that we take the risks implied by disrupting business as usual. Only through such disruption can we hope to take advantage of the “window of quasi-attention” that Hubie reminds us will not be open forever. Leaping through that window will mean something different for each of us and it may well mean danger, but there is danger in letting the window slam shut, as well.

Our hearts bleed and our tears flow with the families of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Let us honor their memories by doing what we can to attack the deep roots of racism in this country.

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

The Deadly Plague Destroying Our Nation

A deadly disease has infiltrated our nation and will slowly destroy us unless and until it is addressed and eradicated. This disease has, for well over 200 years, destroyed countless lives, killed countless people, diminished our moral fiber, and degraded the founding principles of our nation. It is a disease that cannot be cured by a vaccine, but rather by conscience and action.

The disease is called racism.

Here is a very hard and painfully difficult truth: The United States has lost any moral authority to condemn human rights violations in other countries because our own nation is, and has been, violating human rights for a very long time.

There are many examples of how we have failed:
– the killing and targeting of unarmed Black and Brown men and women
– the ravages and glaring consequences of decades of institutionalized racism and economic disenfranchisement in communities of color (that have become glaringly apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic)
– the incarceration of Black and Brown men and women based on an unfair, racist criminal justice system
– the demonization of immigrants
– the detention of immigrant children in cages and in deplorable conditions
– the general contempt, lack of compassion or understanding for people living in poverty
And there are, sadly, many more examples.

As a nation, and individually, we must take a hard look in the mirror and ask: Are we proud of ongoing, unabated injustice? And are we living up to our foundational values as a nation based on fairness and equal justice for all? The answer is no.

This is not a partisan issue. No one has clean hands. Racism did not suddenly materialize in 2017 when the current administration took office. Neither did xenophobia or disregard for the lives of poor people or any of the long list of societal plagues that have haunted us for decades. As many have said: the intolerance of the Trump Administration is not the cause, but rather a glaring symptom of longstanding, underlying societal biases that have now come to the surface.

The tragic murder of George Floyd, the most recent in a long line of tragedies, injustices and indignities suffered by Black men and women, has mobilized our nation. That is because people of conscience, regardless of race, can no longer simply proclaim “outrage, dismay, disgust, horror, sadness, shock” when ongoing acts of racial injustice occur – because words without actions are meaningless. Words alone never cured a disease. Silence in the face of injustice is complicity.

Implicit systemic racist policies have infiltrated a range of public policies – from housing to criminal justice to health care access – and so many more. Our words of outrage ring hollow and are meaningless unless they are backed by initiatives and actions that dismantle policies that result in inequity and injustice.

For many years, legal aid programs, social justice advocates, civil rights organizations, and community activists have done the important work of highlighting how incidences of injustice are much more than just isolated events but are instead indicative of systems that defend abuse and oppression (and also protect the abusers and oppressors).

Part of that oppression is poverty. Decades of explicit discriminatory laws and policies and implicit racial biases embedded in laws, policies and practices have resulted in the denial of rights and opportunities that have kept communities of color in conditions of poverty. As a poverty law program, MLRI recognizes that poverty and systemic racial injustice go hand in hand, and we cannot meaningfully address one without the other. The legal aid community has a long tradition of fighting for and together with vulnerable and marginalized communities – and we have a critical role and a special obligation to identify, address and end the implicit bias and institutionalized racism that has poisoned and influenced our social and public policy.

We call upon all people who claim to stand for, fight for, believe in justice – whether labeled as “progressives” or “conservatives” or anything else – to live up to our nation’s promise of justice. The path forward is to acknowledge and face our societal failings, to listen to communities that have been devastated by racism and understand their pain, frustration and anger – and to work together productively to advance a policy agenda of equity and fairness.

Words alone never eradicated a disease. The disease of racism has plagued our nation for many decades. It is time to collectively and finally say that we will not tolerate racial injustice any longer – and to back those words with concrete actions to bring about systemic reforms that dismantle racist policies.

MLRI stands in solidarity with, and will continue to fight alongside with, our legal aid, community-based, civil rights, human rights and other organizational partners – and with all people who believe in our nation’s foundational value of “justice for all” and seek to eradicate the plague of racism in our Commonwealth and in our nation.

We have a lot of work to do. Let’s get to it.
In solidarity,

Georgia Katsoulomitis
Executive Director

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation

The core tenet of civil legal aid is the pursuit of equal access to justice for all. The senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black lives, the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color, and continued systemic racism across the country are the most recent reminders that equal access to justice remains only a promise – not a reality – for Black people. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation recognizes the pain caused by these events and stands in solidarity with all who demand racial justice. We must do more than express our frustration. We must collaborate to end racism. It debases every community in America and inflicts particular repeat trauma and suffering on Black communities.

MLAC has a more than 35-year commitment to advancing justice. It is now more important than ever for us to demonstrate that commitment by holding ourselves accountable, modeling the change we wish to see in the world, engaging in difficult conversations, challenging our biases, and keeping racial justice at the forefront of our mission in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

We must ensure that Black and Brown communities and other communities that have been historically underserved have access to civil legal aid and other legal representation. We are committed to expanding the reach of legal services and working to direct it to the people and communities most in need.

As individuals, we must work to become anti-racist, and to take the time to listen to people who have experienced the pain of racial injustice, to speak out against individual and institutional racism, to take care of ourselves, and to work and stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown staff and community members.

Toward those goals, we are committed to helping MLAC staff and partner organizations to rededicate ourselves to racial justice, and to rethink policies and practices as we fight both explicit and implicit bias and systemic racism. We must do this to fulfill our mission of providing equal justice to all people.

We invite you to join us in this journey to recommit to our core tenet—equal access to justice—to make that a reality for all.

Lynne M. Parker
Executive Director

MetroWest Legal Services

The Silence of Our Friends: Statement of Support for Peaceful Protests of Racial Injustice

It has been our mission for over 45 years to help the most vulnerable and disenfranchised people overcome institutional barriers and obtain justice. We stand in support of those protesting across the nation in response to the brutal and unjust death of George Floyd and the history of racial injustice.

We believe strongly in breaking the silence and challenging the racial and economic inequities that continue to inflict hardship and suffering on our clients and our society. Access to justice is heavily impacted by systemic racism, lack of economic justice and implicit bias, and this is visible in all areas of our daily work, including immigration, housing, and family law.

Our advocates strive to make the promise of “justice for all” a reality. It is our hope that we can come together as a nation and address the painful inequalities and deep-rooted systemic racism leading to the protests. As Dr. Martln Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” As allies of those seeking an end to racial injustice, we voice our support of peaceful protests and will continue working for access to justice for all.

National Consumer Law Center

The tragic death of George Floyd is just the latest in a long and repugnant history of unarmed African American deaths at the hands of police officers. We mourn the loss of his life and the lives of so many others like him in the history of this country. The repetition of such horrific events reflects the widespread, institutional, and deeply ingrained racism that exists in all aspects of American society.

The destructive impact of racism is everywhere to see. Witness the COVID-19 crisis where communities of color, which are suffering the highest rates of infection and death, are also now dealing with the highest rates of unemployment and financial instability. On every measure of individual or community well-being and security – economic, educational, and health – communities of color are overwhelmingly worse off and face tremendous barriers. The data is shocking in its consistency and reveals staggering levels of economic inequality.

If we are to ever move forward as a country and end the cycle of racism, violence, and oppression, we must all do our part in the fight. It is a fight that is vital to the very lives, dignity, and futures of millions of our fellow citizens.

The National Consumer Law Center’s pursuit of economic justice is a vital part of the struggle for justice and equality. We have established a Racial Justice and Equal Economic Opportunity Initiative to ensure that issues of racial equity are front and center in our work. The Initiative addresses the profound injustices present in every type of consumer transaction: mortgages and foreclosures, auto finance, debt collection, toxic land installment contracts, student loans and for-profit schools, criminal justice debt, credit reporting and scoring, access to broadband internet, and more. To make matters worse, people, families, and communities of color are suffering the most widespread consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.

We stand in solidarity with those risking their lives and their health to protest racial injustice, and urge our supporters to do the same.

As an organization and as individuals, we must all work to fight bias and racism wherever we find it. We cannot rest until we have made our society one where all people are treated with equal dignity and respect and have equal opportunities to provide for themselves and their families.

We also call on our community of consumer lawyers and advocates to join the fight for racial justice. Attorneys have a special responsibility to use their privileged position to achieve justice for the most vulnerable and victimized. No matter the focus of your practice, you can help attack systemic racial discrimination that denies individuals access to credit, affordable housing, and financial services on fair and equitable terms.

The list of outrages is long. There is no shortage of work to do. We urge you to jump into this fight and join us in building a more just and inclusive economy and society. To succeed, we must all join the struggle, together.

In solidarity,

Richard Dubois
Executive Director

Northeast Legal Aid

In these difficult times, marked by the tragic death of George Floyd, Northeast Legal Aid and its affiliate Northeast Justice Center express their heartfelt concern for all those throughout our community and elsewhere in the United States who endure racial injustice and discrimination or are deprived of equal opportunity or other fundamental rights.

We pledge to turn the current anguish suffered by so many into a recommitment to our principal goals–equal justice for all under law and a fair opportunity for all to enjoy the blessings of liberty.

We welcome all our clients, community partners and supporters to join with us to steadfastly pursue these goals. Thank you.

PAIR Project

To Our PAIR Family:

PAIR’s mission is to provide justice, hope, and safety to immigrants seeking freedom and refuge in the United States.

Through our work, we are consistently confronted with the reality of racial bias, xenophobic bias, and class bias deeply embedded in our society and immigration policy. Our role as legal advocates is to empower our clients, provide access to representation to immigrants when they would otherwise have none, and fight for them to have an opportunity to live in safety.

Racism, at all levels, has denied justice, hope, and safety to black people in America. The recent killings of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police, Tony McDade by the Tallahassee Police, and Ahmaud Arbery by armed vigilantes who were not even charged until over 2 months after his murder are horrific examples among too many others.

PAIR stands in solidarity with our staff members, clients, and our communities who are speaking out about the systemic racism that communities of color face on a daily basis.

We care deeply about racial justice.

We stand against the police brutality inflicted upon our Black community.

We stand against a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets Black Americans.

We stand against the mass incarceration of communities of color.

We stand against the widespread disempowerment of Black and Brown communities.

We continue to reflect on the ways in which we can support Black and Brown communities at this time, amplify and uplift black voices, and work to dismantle white supremacy and systems of oppression.

Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts

No one can be a defender of human rights or proponent of freedom while standing on the sidelines watching others fight for racial justice. It has always been time to be an anti-racist, but the recent murders of multiple Black people at the hands of police and armed vigilantes serve as a strong reminder that now is an especially critical time for all of us to lend our voices, our resources, our leverage, our influence, our hurt, and our belief in something much better to this current struggle – to Black Lives Matter. We must propel it forward and make this definitive turning point in history.

Rian Immigrant Center

Dear Friend,

We are profoundly saddened by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the many Black lives taken by the brutality of police forces throughout the United States. It is imperative that we work together to dismantle the unjust systems, and the racism and oppression that are deeply embedded within our society in all forms.

The Rian Immigrant Center welcomes families from more than 120 different countries across the globe, and we are concerned for the well being of our immigrant constituents of color. Our center will continue to actively fight racism and promote equity in our community. We are committed to fighting for racial justice, and we stand with the Black community, and people of color in protesting the injustice and violence they face.

Our Center will continue to provide vital resources to our underserved neighbors as we work towards a society where all are welcomed and valued, and have equal opportunities and protections.

Stand with us:

Educate yourself, suggested readings:
· Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
· How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
· The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Support from home and take action:
· Ask your Mayor and City Council to hear your concerns
· Attend your (virtual) town halls
· Use your social media to have discussions about justice

· Black Lives Matter (National Chapter)
· Color of Change
· NAACP Legal Defense Fund

In solidarity,

Ronnie and all at Rian

Veterans Legal Services

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The VLS team is pausing today in recognition of Juneteenth, the commemoration of the Union Army’s proclamation of the end of slavery on June 19, 1865. 155 years later, we reflect on this historic moment of emancipation, which holds unique significance for the Black members of our community.

The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, demonstrate yet again that we must all do more to affirm the value of Black lives, reject racism, and work for change. VLS commits to doing so by continuing its work to reach marginalized veteran communities, condemning racism in all forms, lifting up the experiences of Black veterans, and working towards a more diverse board and staff.

Black Americans have served in the military with distinction throughout our nation’s history. A small handful of examples include Crispus Attucks in the American Revolution, the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment in the Civil War, Charity Adams of the Six Triple Eight—a unit comprised entirely of Black women in WWII, the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII, Colin Powell in Vietnam and as the first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. the newly confirmed Air Force Chief of Staff and first Black American in history to lead a branch of the Armed Services, who spoke so powerfully about racism in “What I’m Thinking About,” a video released this month.

Civil Rights leaders like Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Medgar Evers of the Mississippi NAACP, are just two of many veterans who served bravely only to return home to be targeted with racially motivated violence. Evers survived the Battle of Normandy but was murdered after publicly demanding justice for Emmett Till. There are countless others.

Black servicemembers remain underrepresented in the military’s officer ranks and are more likely to be serving on the frontlines and sustain severe injuries that leave them facing lifelong disabilities and negative long-term health impacts. The fact that many military bases are named after Confederate leaders hurts the military’s recruitment and retention of diverse talent.

Since our country’s inception, Black and Brown people have risked their lives over and over again in defense of its democratic ideals, while having to simultaneously dispel negative stereotypes and break down innumerable barriers, both in service and at home. Today, the fastest growing demographics of our nation’s military are women and People of Color. VLS is proud to honor their service by working toward the goal of ensuring our veterans have equal access to justice. We hope that you will join us.

Sarah E. Roxburgh, Esq.
Co-Executive Director & Chief of Operations

Anna S. Richardson, Esq.
Co-Executive Director & Chief Counsel

Victim Rights Law Center

“I can’t breathe.”

Our hearts are shattered as another black man pleads, “I can’t breathe” in the final moments of his life as he is killed by police. We are sickened by this tragedy. We are enraged at the racism and white supremacy that make this – and far too many other murders – possible.

Black Lives Matter.

We grieve and mourn George Floyd’s death, but that is not enough. We remember and honor George Floyd and the countless other black people killed, not just by police brutality but by the entrenched and pervasive racism that is the bedrock of this violence. We see the injustice in the justice system.

At the Victim Rights Law Center, we stand in solidarity with our black communities. This is not simply a statement; it is an acknowledgement of our commitment to the long-term, hard work of racial justice. We know the shared roots of racism and gendered violence run deep. We see it with the disproportionate impact of sexual violence on black, indigenous, and other people of color; economic inequities; mass incarceration; harsher prison sentencing; and impoverished access to justice.

What can we do as a nonprofit law center? We commit to using a racial equity lens in providing legal services for sexual assault survivors. We commit to centering and listening to black voices. We commit to examining privilege and power; to naming how our work combatting rape, sexual assault, and gender-based violence is inextricably linked to the battle for racial justice. We commit to working towards dismantling white supremacy. We commit to using our privilege, power, and influence to speak out, and stand up as allies. We commit to work to end the scourge of racism that infects our systems and perpetuates police violence.

We demand police accountability and justice. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Matthew Ajibade. Paterson Brown. Eric Harris. William Chapman. Walter Scott. Christopher Whitfield. Atatiana Jefferson. Botham Jean. Countless more. Say their names with us. Honor their lives. Pursue equity relentlessly. Demand justice. Take action. We cannot let their deaths be in vain.

Black Lives Matter.

MLAC Statement: We Must Collaborate To End Racism

The core tenet of civil legal aid is the pursuit of equal access to justice for all. The senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black lives, the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color, and continued systemic racism across the country are the most recent reminders that equal access to justice remains only a promise – not a reality – for Black people. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation recognizes the pain caused by these events and stands in solidarity with all who demand racial justice. We must do more than express our frustration. We must collaborate to end racism. It debases every community in America and inflicts particular repeat trauma and suffering on Black communities.

MLAC has a more than 35-year commitment to advancing justice. It is now more important than ever for us to demonstrate that commitment by holding ourselves accountable, modeling the change we wish to see in the world, engaging in difficult conversations, challenging our biases, and keeping racial justice at the forefront of our mission in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

We must ensure that Black and Brown communities and other communities that have been historically underserved have access to civil legal aid and other legal representation. We are committed to expanding the reach of legal services and working to direct it to the people and communities most in need.

As individuals, we must work to become anti-racist, and to take the time to listen to people who have experienced the pain of racial injustice, to speak out against individual and institutional racism, to take care of ourselves, and to work and stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown staff and community members.

Toward those goals, we are committed to helping MLAC staff and partner organizations to rededicate ourselves to racial justice, and to rethink policies and practices as we fight both explicit and implicit bias and systemic racism. We must do this to fulfill our mission of providing equal justice to all people.

We invite you to join us in this journey to recommit to our core tenet—equal access to justice—to make that a reality for all.

Lynne M. Parker
Executive Director

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants Calls for Increased Civil Legal Aid at Walk to the Hill

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants joined hundreds of attorneys, law students and others last week in calling for increased state funding for civil legal aid to vulnerable low income Massachusetts residents in need at the annual Walk to the Hill at the Massachusetts State House.

“The good news is that the legislature in the past few years has been great to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation; between fiscal years 2018 and 2020 the legislature has substantially increased the amount appropriated to MLAC,” Chief Justice Gants said. “We are blessed with a legislature that knows the importance of civil legal aid to this Commonwealth and has acted on that knowledge. Our legislators ‘get it’…But that good news is also the bad news, because it means that legal services still turn away more than half of the eligible persons who come to them seeking legal assistance.”

Organized by the Equal Justice Coalition, the event called for increased funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in the state, by $5 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget, for a total appropriation of $29 million… Read more in The Chelsea Record.

Chief Justice Gants, hundreds of attorneys call for increased civil legal aid funding at Walk to the Hill

Advocates request $29 million to expand access to representation in FY21

Kenda Cluff, a client of South Coastal Counties Legal Services, speaks at Walk to the Hill. Photo Credit: Elbert John

Tenants are fighting evictions in the midst of a housing crisis. Veterans are battling war-time injuries and legal issues. And a growing senior population is facing poverty and serious legal problems. Those are just some of the reasons the Commonwealth should provide more funding for civil legal aid, said Chief Justice Ralph Gants at the 21st annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid at the Massachusetts State House on January 30.

Chief Justice Ralph Gants

Chief Justice Ralph Gants speaks at Walk to the Hill. Photo credit: Jeffrey Thiebauth

Chief Justice Gants spoke in support of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s request of $29 million for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth’s FY21 budget—an increase of $5 million compared to current funding levels. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funder of civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts.

Approximately 700 people—attorneys from nearly 40 firms and companies, law students (including 95 from the University of Massachusetts School of Law), legal aid staff, and advocates—gathered for the annual lobby day.

Kenda Cluff, a mother of four young children and a client of South Coastal Counties Legal Services, described how legal aid lawyers helped her end an abusive marriage, gain sole custody of her children, and prevail in a lawsuit filed by her former in-laws seeking her share of the divorce settlement.

Kenda Cluff

Kenda Cluff shares how civil legal aid helped her and her children. Photo credit: Elbert John

“I know there are many people out there who are desperate to get out of awful situations like mine,” Cluff said. “The work these legal aid lawyers do is so important. It has a generational effect. My children’s lives are completely changed because of the help we received from legal aid. Without legal aid, my three daughters would think abuse is acceptable. My son would think it is okay to be abandoned or to abandon. I’ve given them new opportunity to move into a different direction in life. These types of changes have a ripple effect in this world.”

Unfortunately, insufficient funding for legal aid organizations forces them to turn away the majority of eligible people who seek help, Chief Justice Gants said. He urged the attorneys and law students gathered in the Hall of Flags to advocate on their behalf: “You speak not for yourselves, but for all those who have neither money nor power, but who might have the law on their side, if only they knew how to use it.”

Gants also emphasized the economic benefits that civil legal aid brings to Massachusetts and its residents: “Remember that a dollar devoted to legal aid is not merely an investment in justice; it has also been proven to be a sound economic investment that returns roughly between two and five dollars to the Commonwealth for each dollar spent.”

Civil legal aid organizations have received funding increases from the legislature in recent years, and speakers noted the continued need for that support. “More money for legal aid means more qualified people who get a lawyer,” said Louis Tompros, chair of the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of MLAC, the Boston Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Bar Association.

UMass Law students

More than 90 students of the University of Massachusetts School of Law advocated for legal aid at the state house. Photo credit: Elbert John

Legal aid makes a “long-term difference in the lives of low-income residents in the Commonwealth,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “One of the greatest strengths of legal aid advocates is their expertise, their capacity to confront and overcome the challenges that face our clients – life-threatening housing conditions, homelessness, domestic violence, deportation, loss of employment, elder abuse and neglect.”

Parker added, “Legal aid is vital to the health of our communities, the health of the judicial system, and the state’s commitment to access to justice.”

Christine Netski, president of the Boston Bar Association, said a growing number of immigrants are overwhelmed by the prospect of facing the court system alone. She recounted the story of Daniela, a young woman from Brazil who had become pregnant with twins as the result of a sexual assault. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began removal proceedings, but with the help of MetroWest Legal Services, she was able to avoid deportation and obtain a U visa. She now has steady employment and is working on her high school diploma.

“Immigration issues like those faced by Daniela are especially prevalent today,” said Netski, noting that the MLAC-funded Greater Boston Immigration Defense Fund is “one of the great legal services programs working to increase access to the justice system for members of our immigrant communities.”

Massachusetts Bar Association President John J. Morrissey lauded the pro bono efforts of lawyers across the state to provide free representation to unrepresented civil litigants. “But efforts of our volunteers alone cannot reach the goal of providing vital legal services to people in need,” he said. “We need more funding for civil legal aid programs so that legal aid attorneys don’t have to turn away more than half of the people that come to them.”

In closing, Cluff, the client of South Coastal Counties Legal Services, said, “I have no idea how much the help from the lawyers at South Coastal Counties would have cost. But it is priceless to me. It is my hope that sharing my story in front of so many unfamiliar faces will help a mother out there who is not willing to take another turn in an awful cycle of abuse.”

The Telephone Is A Lifeline For Prison Families. And Calls Are Outrageously Expensive

By Bonita Tenneriello and Elizabeth Matos, Prisoners’ Legal Services

Nehemie Sans-Souci, a mother of two, works at an assisted living facility 80 hours a week and also, somehow, manages to study for her nursing degree. Her husband William is incarcerated. While Nehemie visits him as often as she can, much of the time the telephone is their only connection — and the high cost of those calls means she loses that connection for a week or more at a time.

“Sometimes I get stressed because of school, work and kids, and I just want to talk to him, and I can’t,” she says. “It just gets me frustrated and I’m sad.” While the free world barely notices cheap, flat-rate phone calls, prison families pay sky-high rates. Nehemie and others who have incarcerated loved ones regularly have to ration their love, because they can’t afford not to.

In many Massachusetts counties, a 15-minute call can cost $5, $6 or more, plus outrageous administrative fees. How many of these calls a day does it take to help a child with homework, to reassure a spouse or a mother that their loved one is okay? Normal communication can cost thousands of dollars a year. This forces an agonizing choice when a loved one calls from prison — whether to accept the call or buy groceries… Read more from WBUR.

Leticia Medina-Richman: Local organization provides free legal services to immigrants, refugees

Leticia Medina-Richman, Central West Justice Center

I was pleased to read Razvan Sibbii’s Jan. 6 column (“The resistance, as organized by immigration lawyers”) calling attention to issues that immigrants are facing at the border, and highlighting what attorneys like Megan Kludt are doing to address this crisis.

I commend Kludt for her volunteer work and for her advocacy for immigrants and refugees. While the crisis at the border is understandably the focus of much press, I want to remind our community that the Central West Justice Center (CWJC), an affiliate of Community Legal Aid, Hampshire County’s legal aid organization, also provides critical free legal services to immigrants and refugees who are unable to afford a lawyer and would struggle to navigate the complex American legal system on their own… Read more in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Our View: When you need a lawyer

Nobody wants to think about lawyers amid their New Year’s revelry and resolutions, but odds are good you’ll need legal help at some point during 2020.

If you get arrested and hauled into court, you have the right to a lawyer even if you cannot pay for one. Clarence Earl Gideon’s handwritten appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the unanimous ruling that came in his case in 1963, assured us of that.

Not so much if you have to go to court to handle a civil matter, say, to ask for help collecting unpaid child support from your ex or to fend off creditors who want to dip into your paycheck. Those who can least afford a lawyer are the ones most disadvantaged. If not for the help of legal assistance programs, justice would only come to those who can most afford it.

All of which is something to bear in mind later this month when a group of legal professionals walk to the Statehouse to call attention to funding needs for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. The organization supports legal aid throughout the state, as well as specific programs aimed at helping people living with low incomes or who may have trouble finding a lawyer.

Last year, about 700 lawyers participated in the 20th annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. This year’s walk is scheduled for Jan. 30… Read more in The Eagle Tribune, and learn more about Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid from the Equal Justice Coalition.

EJC presents Beacon of Justice Awards to 13 champions of legal aid

The Equal Justice Coalition honored 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. View photos from the event.

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)

Gants, Parker, and Benner Browne

From left: Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Lynne Parker, Marijane Benner Browne

“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.”

Rep. Michlewitz and Monica Halas

House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz with Monica Halas of Greater Boston Legal Services

The Equal Justice Coalition also celebrated 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. Civil legal aid organizations and the people they serve rely on these legislators’ dedicated, bipartisan support.

Rep. Decker and Marty Healy

Awardees Rep. Marjorie Decker and Marty Healy

For the first time, the Equal Justice Coalition acknowledged 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). View photos from the event.

Rep. Smola and Lynne Parker

Lynne Parker presents a Beacon of Justice Award to Rep. Todd Smola (photo credit: Mary Ann Walsh)

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 advice and representation to low-income Massachusetts residents facing serious civil legal problems.

Photos: Elbert John

Summer Interns reflect on learning about legal aid

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation hosted four interns this past summer to provide area students with work experience supporting civil legal aid.

MLAC staff was sorry to say goodbye to this smart and dedicated group of interns as they prepared to return to school. Each left us with a reflection about their experiences interning at MLAC this summer.

Leah Grannum, Suffolk University student studying Government
This summer, I had the pleasure of interning with the Communications department and the Equal Justice Coalition. I wrote articles for the website, assisted with fact sheets/website layouts, and helped during the budget process for FY20 by delivering letters to state legislators, updating excel sheet information, and gathering information about legal aid partners. One article I wrote explored past and present Bart Gordon fellows. My role was to research fellows who have done and continue to do tremendous work within civil legal aid. This project particularly interested me because I was able to reach out to different Bart Gordon fellows who continue their work today. There was never been a moment where I did not enjoy a project or task given to me. I used the time I was given as a learning experience. I learned skills in word choice when writing different articles, how to navigate excel sheets, and how state legislators play a role in the budget process.

Leah Grannum

Leah Grannum

I had the opportunity to attend MLAC’s first statewide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professional development conference: Disrupting Cycles of Inequity: Expanding Racial Equity in the Legal Profession. At this conference I was able to dive deeper into microaggressions, poverty law, race equity, among many other great sessions. This conference was a great way to meet others who are involved in legal aid and play an integral role in legal assistance.

There are no words to express how grateful I am to my supervisors, along with the other interns at MLAC. I am very happy to say that my supervisors and others within the office served as mentors to my experience. I always gained helpful feedback from all of them on the projects I was working on. I appreciate how MLAC made me feel safe in my working environment as well as included.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office was a great aspect of my experience. Knowing that the organization promotes diversity inclusion within a work space environment and within legal aid is amazing. Identifying as a Black woman in the Law & Public Policy field means that as I continue in my education to a job, I will be serving the needs of people who I racially identify with. This is important to me, because I want to be able to serve the needs of marginalized communities who face racial discrimination. I know that I have a connection to policy work that directly affects low-income people of color, therefore, I want to continue to advocate for people who are systematically profiled and targeted.

Julia Ganley, Yale University student studying Sociology
While taking time off from earning a B.A. in Sociology, I had the privilege of interning in MLAC’s Data department. My primary project was a demographic study of low-income Massachusetts residents. Over the course of the summer, I developed a tool for estimating the distribution of seven demographic characteristics, including race, sex, and disability status. This tool expands MLAC’s ability to understand Massachusetts communities and serve them equitably. In its role supporting local legal aid organizations, MLAC can use demographic statistics to answer questions such as: How large is the Latinx population in our region? Is it fairly represented in our clientele? What percentage of our clients have disabilities? Do folks with disabilities face barriers to receiving our services?

Every day, my research impressed on me the magnitude and multidimensionality of inequality in our state. Data analysis is a powerful tool for documenting this inequality, identifying underserved communities, and measuring the impact of policies and programs. My internship gave me a concrete understanding of how to apply my skills to the issues that matter to me. I gained confidence using Excel to clean, analyze, and display data from a variety of sources. I also learned to navigate the U.S. Census Bureau’s database. Census data is available to the public; nonprofit, for-profit, and government organizations make use of it. My experience at MLAC equipped me to utilize this resource, and I look forward to doing so in my career.

Julia Ganley and Kimberly Alexander

MLAC interns Kimberly Alexander (left) and Julia Ganley

My supervisors introduced me to best practices for analyzing data and writing reports in a nonprofit environment. I noticed how Michael Raabe’s experience as a legal aid lawyer informed the practices of MLAC’s data department. He guided me in writing reports that are readable and reproducible for MLAC employees, and directly useful to providers of legal services. In every step of my research, I was challenged to consider: Who will read this report? What will they use it for? What do they want to know?

The MLAC Data Summit put my research in context. Representatives of more than 10 LAOs met to discuss a new data collection initiative. This initiative, in conjunction with the tool I developed, will enable MLAC to perform important demographic comparisons. It will also present challenges for the client-facing organizations collecting the data. I listened as they brainstormed ways to streamline data collection and discussed the nuances of asking for personal information in the client-advocate relationship. Sometimes folks struggle to fit their identities into the categories offered in demographic surveys. Advocates and intake workers will need training in how to ask these questions effectively. Attending the Data Summit was a highlight of my summer. It gave me insight into the relationship between MLAC and the LAOs it funds, and it complicated my thinking about how human identities are represented by data points.

As the second intern to work on this project, it was clear to me that MLAC values the diverse perspectives of its interns. My supervisors, Michael Raabe and Martha Rogers, supported me in exploring multiple approaches and asking critical questions. Folks at MLAC expressed genuine interest in my input, as well as commitment to stewarding the next generation of public servants. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this project and the movement to make real justice accessible to all Massachusetts residents.

Bria Gambrel, Simmons University student pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy and Gender and Cultural Studies

Bria Gambrell

Interning at the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation has been incredibly rewarding. During my tenure as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Intern, I was able to co-create a conference highlighting racial inequities in the legal profession titled Disrupting Cycles of Inequity: Expanding Racial Equity in the Legal Profession, organize and plan professional development opportunities for both MLAC and grantee programs, and curate content and resources for MLAC and our grantee programs to continue using for years to come.

I came into this role having cursory knowledge about legal aid—like most interns I would assume!—but during my time I’ve learned about the process of receiving legal aid, as well as what it takes to keep the engine of the entire system running smoothly. My experience has shaped my understanding of legal services and has opened my eyes to the possibilities of access to justice for underrepresented people through legal aid.

With this knowledge, I intend to build on my experience and continue doing diversity, equity, and inclusion work in the legal profession, and possibly attend law school to receive my JD.

Kimberly Alexander, Boston high school student participating in the Boston Bar Association Summer Jobs Program
My experience at MLAC has been quite enjoyable. I have been working on various administrative projects around the office. I have also been able to speak with different departments that I’m interested in to get insight and gain more knowledge about what their department entails.

My internship has taught me about being in a workplace with adults, instead of being in a classroom with other students. It has given me a change of environment. I enjoyed being out of my comfort zone, learning new things about the work environment, and gaining more work experience.

A highlight of my experience was that I had the opportunity to visit four legal aid organizations that MLAC funds to gain more insight and knowledge about legal aid and advocacy work. I visited organizations such as Political Asylum/ Immigration Representation, Volunteer Lawyers Project, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, and Victim Rights Law Center.

This internship has affected my thinking about legal aid and my career plans. Since middle school, I have been passionate about history and civil rights. Legal Aid means more to me now and I truly have a better understanding of it. Regarding my career plans, I am interested in possibly having a career that focuses on advocating for those in need.

MLAC Announces $24M in state appropriation funding for FY20

BOSTON – After receiving $24 million in the Massachusetts budget for Fiscal Year 2020, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation has announced that it will award the funding in grants to 16 legal services organizations in FY20 – its largest-ever round of state appropriation funding for legal services organizations in Massachusetts.

“We are thrilled to provide greater financial support to the organizations providing civil legal aid to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents in times of crisis,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “Legal assistance can have profoundly positive effects on people facing eviction, domestic violence, lack of access to benefits, and other serious legal issues. Increased funding means more people can receive help, which boosts individuals, families, and communities.”

The $24 million provided to MLAC in FY20 is an increase of $3 million over the previous year. MLAC is the largest funding source of civil legal in the Commonwealth.

The legal aid organizations that receive funding from MLAC provide critical civil legal aid to struggling people who otherwise would not have legal representation in serious civil legal matters. In most instances, people qualify for civil legal aid if their annual income is at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, or $32,188 for a family of four.

The legal aid organizations receiving MLAC funding in FY20 include regional legal aid organizations — which provide advice and representation to low-income people facing civil legal issues related to housing, health care, public benefits, immigration, domestic violence, and other serious legal issues — and statewide legal aid organizations that specialize in certain areas of law and serve clients statewide. The organizations receiving funding are:

Regional legal aid organizations:
Community Legal Aid, with offices in Fitchburg, Northampton, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester
De Novo Center for Justice and Healing, based in Cambridge
Greater Boston Legal Services, with offices in Boston and Cambridge
MetroWest Legal Services, based in Framingham
Northeast Legal Aid, with offices in Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn
South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with offices in Brockton, Fall River, Hyannis, and New Bedford

Statewide legal aid organizations:
Center for Law and Education, based in Boston
Center for Public Representation, based in Newton
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, based in Lynn
Disability Law Center, based in Boston
Massachusetts Advocates for Children, based in Boston
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, based in Boston
National Consumer Law Center, based in Boston
Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR), based in Boston
Prisoners’ Legal Services, based in Boston
Veterans Legal Services, based in Boston

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: