MLAC Statement on Confirmation of Kimberly Budd as SJC Chief Justice

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation applauds the confirmation of Kimberly S. Budd as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Justice Budd brings extraordinary credentials, judicial experience, and legal intellect to the position. In her four years on the SJC and seven years on the Superior Court before that, she has shown herself to be a talented, thoughtful, and creative legal thinker with a deep commitment to fairness and justice for all. A former member of the board of directors of Greater Boston Legal Services, she also brings a keen understanding of the essential need for civil legal aid.

Upon accepting Gov. Baker’s nomination to be chief of the state’s highest court, Justice Budd called the occasion “bittersweet,” as she and the legal community mourned the passing of Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, whom she called a “mentor and a friend.”

Justice Budd filled the Superior Court seat of Justice Gants when he was elevated to the SJC, and she will now fill his role as chief. The legal aid community keenly felt the loss of Justice Gants, who was a longtime champion of civil legal aid and access to justice. We are confident that she will recognize legal aid’s vital role in safeguarding the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable people.

We celebrate this historic nomination and that Massachusetts will have its first Black woman chief justice.

We applaud Gov. Baker for this exceptional nomination and the Governor’s Council for its unanimous confirmation. We look forward to working with Chief Justice Budd to advance justice for all.

Lynne Parker, Executive Director

MLAC to oversee statewide COVID Eviction Legal Help Project

Legal services network to aid eligible low-income tenants and landlords

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation will manage a new COVID Eviction Legal Help Project to provide urgently needed legal assistance in pandemic-related eviction cases.

The CELH Project will expand the capacity of existing legal aid organizations to provide essential help to income-eligible tenants facing eviction due to COVID-19 and to landlords who are income-eligible owner-occupants of two- and three-family homes.

MLAC will oversee the delivery of services through contracts with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, the Volunteer Lawyers Project, and six regional legal aid organizations across the state: Community Legal Aid, De Novo, Greater Boston Legal Services, Northeast Legal Aid, and South Coastal Counties Legal Services.

The program is part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Eviction Diversion Initiative, to support tenants and landlords facing financial challenges caused by the pandemic. The goal of this initiative is to keep tenants safely in their homes and to support the ongoing expenses of landlords after the Commonwealth’s pause of evictions and foreclosures expired on October 17.

“The adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on low-income Massachusetts residents cannot be overstated,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “It’s my great hope that the assistance made available through this project will really make a difference in the lives of the thousands of tenants facing eviction and keep families in safe housing.”

The CELH project will provide referrals, legal information, assistance, and legal representation in all sittings of the Massachusetts Housing Court, including the lawyer for the day program, to preserve or achieve housing stability. When possible, it will also provide legal assistance in District Courts with high-volume summary process caseloads and to prevent the termination of subsidies prior to court to avert eviction.

MLAC will partner with Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and the Volunteer Lawyers Project to develop two initiatives:
– Rapid recruitment and training of lawyers and paralegals for temporary, fulltime paid positions with regional legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth to provide support and legal representation at all stages of the eviction process, including assistance prior to a court filing, and
– Rapid expansion of the pool of pro bono attorneys who are available to provide support and legal representation to income eligible landlords and tenants, at all stages of the eviction process, with support, training, and supervision from attorneys experienced in landlord-tenant law.

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About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth established MLAC in 1983 to ensure that low-income people facing critical non-criminal legal issues would have access to legal information, advice, and representation.

For more info, please visit mlac.org

On Twitter @CivilLegalAid

MLAC applauds $29M for Civil Legal Aid in House Ways and Means Budget

In COVID’s wake, grateful for funding needed more than ever, says Lynne Parker

BOSTON, November 5, 2020 — Today the House Ways and Means Committee presented its Fiscal Year 2021 budget, including $29 million to fund civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 0321-1600 – a $5 million increase over FY 20.

Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC applauded the funding increase, calling it an important recognition of the devastating impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on low-income people. “We thank House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for their leadership in providing additional funding for civil legal aid, an essential service that is needed now more than ever,” she said. “They recognize the need for this additional funding to aid vulnerable people at risk of losing their income, benefits, housing, and other necessary protections to keep them safe and healthy during the pandemic.”

Parker also thanks many members of the House for their support of this increased funding, noting how many legislators appreciate the work done for their communities through local civil legal aid offices. She also praises the Equal Justice Coalition that has championed the essential work of civil legal aid during the pandemic, including the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association, managing partners of many of the state’s largest law firms, and advocates with social services organizations in every corner of the Commonwealth.

“This budget recognizes the surge of need for civil legal aid and will help MLAC fund front-line lawyers and advocates to assist thousands more people who otherwise would not receive assistance in resolving serious legal issues that threaten their health, safety, and financial stability,” Parker said.

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About MLAC The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth established MLAC in 1983 to ensure that low-income people facing critical non-criminal legal issues would have access to legal information, advice, and representation. For more info, please visit mlac.org

On Twitter @CivilLegalAid

MLAC statement on the passing of Chief Justice Gants

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants. He was a true champion of civil rights and equal access to justice for all people, and his untimely death is a devastating loss for the Massachusetts legal community.

Chief Justice Gants spoke annually at the Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. He believed funding legal aid was a “moral obligation.” He told lawyers that advocating for legal aid funding was a chance to speak “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. Feel their hand on your shoulder. Speak their truth.”

His passing is a terrible loss for all those who seek justice. We at MLAC will miss him as an inspiring leader and as a deeply caring man who radiated good humor, humility, courtesy and kindness. His gentle, yet urgent, advocacy inspired us all to do better. He has been, and will continue to be, a reminder of what is good in the world.

We send our deepest condolences to his family. And we are confident his legacy will inspire a passion for justice in many generations to come.

Marijane Benner Browne, Board Chair, and Lynne Parker, Executive Director
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation

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

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.