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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media are welcome to attend the speaking program.

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

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin

MLAC Urges Governor Baker to Approve Civil Legal Aid Funding Increase

BOSTON, July 19, 2018 – Yesterday, the Massachusetts Legislature approved the Conference Committee’s FY19 Budget Recommendations, including $21,040,000 for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), a $3 million increase over FY18. MLAC expresses its deep gratitude to the Conference Committee and the Legislature and urges Governor Baker to approve this funding when he signs the FY19 Budget.

The 14 civil legal aid programs funded by MLAC assist low-income individuals and families across Massachusetts in resolving civil legal problems related to housing, employment, immigration, health care, domestic violence, access to educational accommodations, and other issues. Residents with incomes at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level—$31,375 a year for a family of four—are eligible. Lack of funding currently forces legal aid programs to turn away 45,000 eligible residents each year — roughly two out of every three people who seek help.

By increasing funding for civil legal aid, Governor Baker will assist low-income individuals and families and save the state money. The work of MLAC-funded civil legal aid programs provided an economic benefit of more than $59 million to the state and its residents in FY17, including $17.6 million in new federal revenue entering the state, $24.3 million in benefits won for residents, and $17.2 million in cost savings. Investments in civil legal aid enable Massachusetts to use its resources more efficiently.

“We are extremely grateful to the Conference Committee for recommending this funding increase. It will allow legal aid programs to help more people in need, and help the Commonwealth deliver on its promise of equal justice for all,” said Lonnie Powers, MLAC Executive Director. “We respectfully ask the Governor to reaffirm his support by including $21,040,000 for civil legal aid in the final FY19 budget.”


About MLAC
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation was established by the Commonwealth 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

Advocacy that matters – MLAC board member honored

This article originally appeared in the June 11, 2018 issues of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program recently honored Mala Rafik, managing partner of Rosenfeld & Rafik in Boston, for her legal counsel and advocacy for the health and disability rights of the organization’s patients. Rafik received the Dr. Jim O’Connell Award at BHCHP’s May 21 Medicine That Matters gala at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. Each year, BHCHP cares for more than 11,000 patients on the streets, at 45 clinics, and in medical respite facilities.

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.


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 |

MLAC Begins Search for its Next Executive Director

View the complete position description [PDF].

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), a statewide, quasi-public organization that provides leadership and support for civil legal services to low-income individuals and families, in partnership with the broader civil legal services community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, seeks nominations and applications for its next Executive Director.

Since its creation by statute¹ in 1983, MLAC has been working to address the causes, and to ameliorate the effects of poverty by pursuing equal justice for low-income people. To achieve this goal, MLAC works to strengthen the network of Massachusetts regional and statewide legal aid programs, supporting them as they deliver high-quality, strategically focused legal assistance that helps clients transform their lives and communities.

This is an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of one of the strongest legal aid systems in the country and to help shape the direction of civil legal services provided to vulnerable and marginalized communities throughout Massachusetts. As the largest funder of civil legal services in the Commonwealth, MLAC, in conjunction with its grantees, has long been a leading proponent of civil legal aid. MLAC’s influence has increased over time, as more governmental agencies and foundations have partnered with MLAC and its grantees to meet burgeoning civil legal aid needs.

Reporting to an 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Executive Director will lead the organization in its mission to provide funding and strategic support of civil legal services through its grantees and other partners across the Commonwealth. The Executive Director represents MLAC publicly and will continue to elevate the organization’s image as a critical, impacting agency within the community. As MLAC moves into the next phase of its evolution, there is an enormous opportunity to become the leading voice for civil legal services in the Commonwealth. In close collaboration with grantees and other partners, MLAC can increase public understanding of the critical role civil legal aid plays in ensuring just, fair and equitable communities.

The Executive Director will be an inclusive, adaptive leader with a breadth and depth of public interest legal experience across a range of issues. The Executive Director will uphold a culture of collaboration and transparency to ensure operations consistently support exceptional quality services, which in turn meet the civil legal needs of low-income people, empower them to transform their lives and assure equal access to opportunities and justice with an appreciation for the barriers low-income people face.


The search committee is being assisted by Tamar Datan and Nureen Das of NPAG. Candidates are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Applications including a cover letter describing your interest and qualifications, your resume (in Word format) and where you learned of the position should be submitted to:


¹Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 221A. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Act.

Lonnie Powers’ remarks at Massachusetts Bar Foundation Annual Meeting

Lonnie Powers, the founding Executive Director of MLAC, is the 2018 recipient of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s Great Friend of Justice Award

March 7, 2018

“Thank you for recognizing me as a Great Friend of Justice.  It is a wonderful honor that causes me to remember all the Great Friends of Justice that I have been privileged to know since coming to Massachusetts – Friends who have led me, taught me and shown me what it means to live a life dedicated to Justice.

For a moment let us pause to remember our own list of such Friends – so many who walked that path toward a more just Commonwealth but who are not here to continue the journey with us.  So many who have pointed the way for us to follow.

Thank you. Remembering them and their examples has caused me to reflect on what Justice means to me and why it is and has been so important.

Much research and our own lived experiences have shown that children have an innate sense of fairness.  That desire for fairness, for everyone to be treated well, is probably the foundation of justice.

But in a world of more than seven billion people on this planet, we can hardly rely on an inchoate sense of what is fair for one or a small number of people to guide a complex society.

The law can also be used unjustly – to foster oppression and injustice as well as to foster fairness and justice. That is a lesson we have to learn and relearn so that we are eternally vigilant to push against the misuse of the law.

Growing up in the South in the 50s and 60s, I saw, or could have seen more clearly had I been willing to look, how the law could be and was used to subjugate one group of people because of the color of their skin. How the law could be and was used to steal from renters and share croppers like my grandfather the money they earned by endless hours of backbreaking toil and to deny them any redress.

Massachusetts has long recognized the moral basis of justice. Our Supreme Judicial Court was, in just one example, the first court in this country to declare slavery forbidden by the Constitution of the Commonwealth. But lest we get too complacent, remember that that same Court approved the segregation of the Boston Public Schools.

Having a moral basis for justice does not ensure that injustice will not continue; all around us, there are ample examples of injustice, of the failure to live up to the fairness justice requires.

To be reminded one has only to pause when walking toward the public entrance to the State House to gaze on the seated figure of Mary Dyer, who was hung on Boston Common because she refused to be silent about her religious faith, or look at the painting of Chief Justice William Stoughton in the House Chamber as he publicly repented of his role in convicting innocent girls and women of witchcraft.

Those public examples from the past are echoed in the economic disparity that is ever more visible all around us, in the bodies of the dead black men and women who have been the victims of those sworn to enforce the law and in the divisive public policies espoused by many people in high public office – policies and pronouncements that exacerbate economic disparity and social tensions.

What then to do in the face of such bleakness? As lawyers, as those who love justice, we can strive every day to use the levers the law gives us to right the balance of power in favor of fairness, while realizing that this is a struggle from which we cannot rest; for the forces of opposition are strong and ever striving to tip the balance in their favor.

There is something more we can do – something more personal – something that all the great religious faiths teach: to love one another and to live out that love.

One of the core commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)

“You will not enter paradise until you have faith, and you will not complete your faith until you love one another.” (Prophet Muhammad)

“Love the whole world as a mother loves her only child.” (Buddha)

We all have our favorite or most meaningful expressions of that central truth. For me it is the parable attributed to Jesus of the Good Samaritan who found a man by the side of the road, robbed, beaten and bleeding. It is important that he took the man to an inn and paid for his food and care instead of passing him by. Most important is that he got down, down off his horse, down on the ground by the dirty, bleeding man whom he had never seen before and picked him up. That act of love, of compassion, says more about how we must live as champions of justice than any amount of money The Samaritan may have paid to have the man cared for.

I am humbled and so very grateful to be called a Great Friend of Justice in this company, in the memory of so many who have done so much for Justice before us.

Thank you – let us be about our business of seeking Justice.”