Chief Justice Gants, Bar Leaders Rally Jan. 30 for Civil Legal Aid Funding

At 21st annual Walk to the Hill, hundreds of attorneys to advocate for $29M for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON (January 23, 2020) – 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. 30 at 11 a.m. for the 21st 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.

“Legal aid providers funded by MLAC are on the front lines combatting the challenges of our turbulent times: eviction and homelessness arising from rising rents, deportation and family separation resulting from ICE’s immigration policies, elder abuse and domestic violence, families torn apart by opioid abuse, veterans struggling with physical, mental health, financial, and legal problems arising from their military service,” said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants. “Fighting the good fight requires more than dedication, courage, and perseverance, which legal aid providers have in abundance; it requires funding sufficient to give them the staff and the resources they need to achieve justice.”

In addition to Chief Justice Gants, speakers at the Walk to the Hill will include: Christine Netski, president of the Boston Bar Association; and John Morrissey, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

“Civil legal aid is essential to help people in crisis avoid homelessness and unemployment and gain access to essential benefits and services, including veterans’ benefits, healthcare, and quality education. Legal aid lawyers also support survivors of domestic violence, older adults living in poverty, and immigrants,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Civil legal aid is often life changing for people, creating stability and opportunity – and delivering hope and justice”

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 aid in Massachusetts, for a total appropriation of $29 million in the FY21 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.

SPEAKING PROGRAM
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
• Christine Netski, President, Boston Bar Association
• John Morrissey, President, Massachusetts Bar Association
• A client of South Coastal Counties Legal Services
• 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.
www.equaljusticecoalition.org
@equaljusticema
#IWalkforJustice
Media contact:
Michelle Deakin
617-391-5627
mdeakin@mlac.org
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MLAC response to Governor’s Budget recommendation

BOSTON, January 22, 2020 – Today, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released his FY2021 budget with a recommendation to fund civil legal aid at $24 million, the same amount of funding it received in FY20.

“We are pleased Gov. Baker recognizes the vital role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income residents of the Commonwealth,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Civil legal aid is essential to help people in crisis avoid homelessness and unemployment and gain access to essential benefits and services, including veterans’ benefits, healthcare, and quality education. Legal aid lawyers also support survivors of domestic violence, older adults living in poverty, and immigrants. Civil legal aid is often life changing for people, creating stability and opportunity – and delivering hope and justice.

“There remains a great unmet need for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, and MLAC will pursue additional funding. Next week, Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court, bar leaders, law students, and lawyers from around the Commonwealth will gather at the State House for the 21st Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. We will seek an additional $5 million in funding so more people can have equal access to justice. [For more information on the Walk to the Hill, visit equaljusticecoaltion.org.]

“Civil legal aid organizations are forced to turn away more people than they can serve, due to lack of funding. This is true even though civil legal aid yields a strong economic return for the Commonwealth and its residents. Last year, civil legal aid organizations provided an economic benefit of more than $69 million. Investing in civil legal aid is just and makes good economic sense.

“With the great unmet need and the strong return on the Commonwealth’s investment in civil legal aid, we strongly urge the legislature to increase civil legal aid funding to $29 million for FY21.”

About MLAC. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts, funding nonprofits that provide legal information, advice, and representation to low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems. www.mlac.org

Equal Justice Coalition recognizes four law firms and UMass Law for Support of Legal Aid

Awards recognize exceptional participation in Walk to the Hill

BOSTON, January 9, 2020 – The Equal Justice Coalition has recognized four law firms and UMass Law School for their outstanding participation in the 2019 Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid.

The award winners are:
– Morgan Lewis: Highest Participation Award
– Ropes & Gray: Exceptional Support Award
– Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow: Nancy King Award
– WilmerHale: Team Advocacy Award
– UMass Law: Highest Participation for a Law School Award.

Morgan Lewis receives award

From left: Lynne Parker, Executive Director, MLAC; Jason Frank, attorney and team captain of Morgan Lewis; Louis Tompros, Chair, EJC

The Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is the annual lobby day for supporters of a larger state appropriation for the legal assistance organizations funded by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. Last January, nearly 700 attorneys and law students convened at the Massachusetts State House to ask legislators to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid. The commonwealth ultimately included an increase of $3 million, appropriating $24 million for civil legal aid in FY20.

“Private lawyers and law students are essential partners in the effort to make the case for the importance of funding civil legal aid for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents in times of crisis,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “All people deserve equal access to justice and to the courts, regardless of their income. I’m so grateful to these lawyers, law students, and law firms for advocating for civil justice for all people.”

This year, the Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid will be on January 30. Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, bar association leaders, and law students will join hundreds of private attorneys at the State House to lobby for $29 million for civil legal aid in FY21.

About the Award Winners:
Morgan Lewis won the Highest Participation Award, with 36 lawyers from the firm attending the 2019 Walk to the Hill.
Ropes & Gray received the Exceptional Support Award in recognition of having the second largest group of lawyers attend, with a total of 32 participants.
Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow received the Nancy King for bringing the largest percentage of law firm employees to the Walk. The award is named for Nancy King, a longtime legal aid attorney in Boston who passed away in 2007.
WilmerHale earned the Team Advocacy Award, which is given to the law firm that visits the most legislative offices during the Walk to the Hill.
UMass Law received the Highest Participation for a Law School Award. Eighty students at the Dartmouth-based school traveled to Boston for the 2019 Walk to the Hill.

UMass Law receives award

From left: Louis Tompros, Chair, EJC; Kseniya Ruzanova, 3L UMass Law; Alexandria Murphy, 2L UMass Law; Kara Kocurek, 1L UMass Law; Nicholas LaFlamme, 2L UMassLaw; Lynne Parker, Executive Director, MLAC


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.
www.equaljusticecoalition.org
@equaljusticema
#IWalkforJustice

MLAC Announces the Massachusetts Immigration Legal Assistance Fund

Deadline for grant applications to expand legal aid to immigrants is January 13, 2020

BOSTON, December 13, 2019—The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is pleased to announce the availability of grant funds through the newly created Massachusetts Immigration Legal Assistance Fund.

Across the Commonwealth, immigrant communities are facing a severe unmet need for legal services. MILAF will fund nonprofit, legal aid organizations so they can provide more representation to vulnerable immigrants throughout Massachusetts. MLAC is accepting proposals for funding for the next two years to address a vast array of immigrant legal assistance needs as a result of shifting U.S. immigration policy.

“The legal aid organizations that MLAC funds face an overwhelming number of requests for help with immigration cases. We are glad to be able to provide this funding to increase immigration defense capacity in every corner of the state to help more people in need,” said Lynne Parker, MLAC’s executive director. “Changing immigration policies continue to be a major concern in the low-income communities that legal aid serves. Legal advice and representation are vital to helping people understand and protect their rights.”

The fund aims to protect and defend the rights of immigrants to stay in the United States safely and with the promise of a stable future. The grant funds are intended to increase legal aid services for immigrants through direct representation, capacity building, community education, and technical assistance.

“Given its statewide scope and its experience administering specialized legal aid grants, MLAC is ideally positioned to launch this initiative,” said Marijane Benner Browne, chair of the MLAC Board of Directors. “We are proud to be able to further support the work of legal aid organizations in Massachusetts in representing immigrants in need of critical legal services.”

View the RFP. Additional information on eligibility and how to apply for MILAF grants is available here. The application deadline is January 13, 2020.

Contact Information:

For assistance with this RFP, please direct questions to Shamika Naidu, MLAC Grants Manager, at snaidu@mlac.org or 617-391-5658.

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About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, funding nonprofit legal aid organizations that help low-income people facing serious legal issues related to housing, domestic violence and family law, employment, disability, health care, public benefits, consumer protection, immigration, education, and elder law.

mlac.org

Equal Justice Coalition to honor 13 champions of Legal Aid with Beacon of Justice Awards

The Equal Justice Coalition will honor 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.

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)

“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.”

The Equal Justice Coalition will also recognize 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).

At the award ceremony, the EJC will also commend 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.

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

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: www.mlac.org.

MLAC welcomes Jeffrey Catalano and April English to Board of Directors

BOSTON — The board of directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is welcoming two new members: Jeffrey Catalano, partner at the Boston law firm Todd & Weld LLP, and April English, Chief of Organization Development & Diversity at the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (“AGO”). Catalano and English were appointed to the MLAC board by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Jeff Catalano

Jeffrey Catalano

Catalano brings to the board a longstanding commitment to public interest law and the value of civil legal aid. He has served in numerous leadership positions at the Massachusetts Bar Association and as a pro bono attorney for Massachusetts Advocates for Children (an MLAC-funded organization), and currently he serves as a commissioner of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission.

In addition to her record of public service at the AGO, English brings expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion to help advance MLAC’s leadership in promoting DEI in civil legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth.

April English

April English

“Jeffrey and April bring valuable experience and wisdom to the MLAC board – qualities that will benefit people in need of civil legal aid to address crises in housing, family, public benefits, and other urgent issues,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “I’m glad they are willing to be so generous with their time and expertise to help some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable people.”

Marijane Benner Browne, chair of the MLAC Board, said she was looking forward to working with Catalano and English. “Jeffrey and April will enable us to continue the important work of the Board, as they join us upon the retirement of two talented board members whose service to MLAC has come to a close. Guillermo Gonzalez and Rahsaan Hall have provided valuable guidance and knowledge to MLAC. I will miss them both and am profoundly grateful for their service to MLAC and to civil legal aid,” she said.

Gonzalez, a psychiatrist in private practice, who joined the board in 2014, served as medical director of the Center for Health and Human Services, Inc., in New Bedford. Hall is the director of the Racial Justice Program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. He has served on the MLAC board since 2009 and preceded Benner Browne as chair of the MLAC board.

About MLAC
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, funding nonprofit legal aid organizations that help low-income people facing serious legal issues related to housing, domestic violence and family law, employment, disability, health care, public benefits, consumer protection, immigration, education, and elder law.

Gov. Baker Approves $24M for Civil Legal Aid Funding

$3M increase boosts aid for people with housing, employment, family and immigration disputes

BOSTON, July 31, 2019— Governor Charlie Baker has signed the FY20 Budget of the Commonwealth, which includes $24 million for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation—a $3 million increase over FY19.

Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC, praised the governor and the legislature for the funding increase. “Although the economy is booming for many, the need for civil legal aid is large and continues to grow. This increased funding will expand the capacity of civil legal aid organizations across Massachusetts to help more low-income people address challenges related to housing, domestic violence, immigration, health care, employment, and other issues that threaten their safety and well-being.

“I applaud the governor for recognizing this urgent need. And I extend my thanks to the House and the Senate for recognizing the thousands of Massachusetts residents who would not receive legal assistance without this additional funding. It brings us closer to our goal of providing equal access to justice for all.”

Parker also recognized the advocacy of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, numerous county and specialty bar associations, managing partners at many of the state’s largest law firms, business leaders, and our social service partners.

“The active support of legal aid in so many corners of the Commonwealth is inspiring,” Parker said. “This advocacy exemplifies the Commonwealth’s commitment to the principles of justice and fairness for all.”

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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: www.mlac.org.

MLAC Backs Senate Amendment to Increase Civil Legal Aid Funding

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin
617-391-5627
mdeakin@mlac.org

 

UPDATE: On May 22, the Senate adopted the amendment by a vote of 39-0. That increases the MLAC appropriation in the Senate budget to $24 million.

Sens. Creem and Eldridge file amendment to Senate budget for $2M funding increase

BOSTON, May 9, 2019—Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem and Senate Judiciary Chair Jamie Eldridge have filed an amendment to increase civil legal aid funding by $2 million, for total funding of $24 million in the Senate budget.

The Senate Ways and Means budget recommendation includes $22 million in funding for civil legal aid. That’s an increase of $1 million over FY19, but falls short of the $26 million in civil legal aid funding requested by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation for FY20.

“Civil legal aid is a lifeline for the most vulnerable people in Massachusetts when they are facing complex, high-stakes legal issues, such as eviction, domestic violence, access to healthcare or education, or immigration matters,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “I’m grateful that the Senate Ways and Means Committee recognized the vital role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income people by providing a $1 million increase in funding. However, given the substantial unmet need for civil legal services, we support the amendment sponsored by Senators Creem and Eldridge to seek additional funding to serve more people in need.”

Due to lack of funding, legal aid organizations in Massachusetts are forced to turn away the majority of eligible residents who seek help each year. Eligible residents are those with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level, or $32,188 per year for a family of four.

Civil legal aid organizations funded by MLAC closed more than 22,000 cases in FY18, benefitting more than 95,000 clients and their family members. These cases also produced more than $60 million in economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its residents. These benefits were the direct result of civil legal services that helped to: reduce evictions and prevent homelessness; recover and secure public benefits; and gain employment authorization for immigrants, in addition to other benefits. (Read more about the report here.)

“When a person’s most basic needs are at risk, access to legal advice and representation is essential,” Parker said. “We applaud this amendment and urge other senators to show their support for it to help assure equal access to justice for all people.”

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item is 0321-1600. In April, the House of Representatives allocated $23.5 million for civil legal aid in its FY20 budget.

About MLAC: The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth of 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.

House approves additional $1 million for Civil Legal Aid

With amendment, total appropriation for MLAC rises to $23.5M

BOSTON, April 25, 2019—The Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday approved an amendment to its fiscal 2020 budget to add an additional $1 million to fund civil legal aid. That increases the funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation in the House budget to $23.5 million.

“On behalf of MLAC and legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth that assist low-income people facing serious civil legal issues, I am delighted with the additional funding for civil legal aid,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “With this increased funding, the House has recognized the crucial role civil legal aid plays in promoting access to justice for low-income people.”

The House Ways and Means Committee had recommended a $22.5 million appropriation for MLAC. Rep. Ruth Balser filed an amendment to increase that by an additional $1.5 million. Rep. Balser’s amendment garnered 92 co-sponsors in the House.

Judiciary Chair Claire Cronin spoke in favor of adding $1 million for civil legal aid from the House floor. According to a report from the State House News Service, she said, “We recognize the importance of providing access to justice. This is a smart investment. In FY18, 14 civil legal aid programs provided $60.5 million in economic benefits to the commonwealth. Last year, MLAC programs helped 95,000 individuals with housing, domestic violence and health care issues.”

More information about the economic benefits resulting from civil legal aid are outlined in an MLAC report. The report divides economic benefits into two categories: 1) benefits and savings for low-income Massachusetts residents, which was estimated at $40.25 million; and 2) benefits and savings won for the Commonwealth, estimated to be $20.25 million. In addition, $6.37 million of the money in both categories is derived from federal revenue coming into the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Senate is expected to release its budget in early May.

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item is 0321-1600.

About MLAC: The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth of 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.