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.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. Backs Amendment to Increase Funding for Civil Legal Aid

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

Rep. Ruth Balser files amendment to House Ways & Means budget for $1.5M funding increase

BOSTON, April 12, 2019—Massachusetts Rep. Ruth Balser has filed an amendment to increase civil legal aid funding by $1.5 million, for total funding of $24 million in the House budget.

The House Ways and Means budget recommendation includes $22.5 million in funding for civil legal aid. That’s an increase of $1.5 million over FY19, but falls short of the $26 million in civil legal aid funding requested by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) for FY20.

“Civil legal aid lawyers represent the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable people in times of extraordinary crises, such as when they are seeking to retain their housing, protection from domestic violence, or access to medical treatment,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “I’m grateful that the House Ways and Means Committee recognized the crucial role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income people by providing a $1.5 million increase in funding. However, given the sizable unmet need for civil legal services, we support Rep. Balser’s amendment 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 Rep. Balser’s amendment and urge other representatives to join her to help assure equal access to justice for all people.”

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.

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.

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
• 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.
www.equaljusticecoalition.org
@equaljusticema
#IWalkforJustice

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

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Announces Appointment of Lynne Parker as Executive Director

BOSTON, August 8, 2018—The Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Lynne M. Parker as the organization’s new executive director, effective September 17. Parker has more than three decades of experience advocating on behalf of low-income residents, most recently as executive director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance. She will succeed Lonnie Powers, who will retire at the end of August after 35 years as MLAC’s executive director.

“We are delighted to welcome Lynne Parker as the next leader of MLAC,” said Marijane Benner Browne, Chair of MLAC’s Board of Directors and Director of Lateral Partner Recruiting at Ropes & Gray. “Her wealth of experience, deep commitment to social justice, and impressive track record of forging alliances in support of civil legal aid will enable MLAC to build on the dedicated efforts of MLAC’s board and staff, particularly outgoing Executive Director Lonnie Powers, to ensure access to justice for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents.”

During her tenure at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, Parker served as a staff attorney and later deputy director before becoming executive director in 2014. She began her legal aid career representing migrant farmworkers as an attorney at Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Bangor, Maine, and later worked at Southeastern Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (now South Coastal Counties Legal Services) an MLAC-funded organization.

“I am extremely honored to have been selected as MLAC’s next executive director,” said Parker. “I look forward to partnering with MLAC’s Board of Directors, staff, and stakeholders, collaborating closely with legal aid organizations throughout Massachusetts, and continuing MLAC’s longstanding commitment to building broad support for civil legal aid.”

A Massachusetts native, Parker holds a BA in political science from Mount Holyoke College, and a JD from the University of New Hampshire School of Law. As a law student, she interned at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, another MLAC-funded organization. Early in her career, she served with the Peace Corps in Guatemala, assisting women and girls in local communities develop the skills necessary to start their own businesses. She also worked as an AmeriCorps Site Director and as a housing advocate—an area of work which has been a focus of her time as a legal aid attorney. Throughout her career, Parker has promoted staff diversity and linguistic competence, advocated for the rights of people with limited English proficiency, and conducted outreach to underserved communities—particularly Spanish-speaking residents.

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. With funding from the Commonwealth and the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), as well as from government grants and private foundations, MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, supporting 14 local and statewide civil legal aid programs. MLAC also provides leadership and support for the continued improvement of legal aid to low-income people statewide through initiatives focused on advocacy for increased state funding of legal aid; diversity, equity, and inclusion; systemic technology enhancements; and special projects to deliver legal services to victims of crime and to immigrants facing deportation.

MLAC Thanks Governor Baker for Approving Civil Legal Aid Funding Increase

BOSTON, July 26, 2018— Today, Governor Charlie Baker signed the FY19 Budget of the Commonwealth, which includes $21.04 million for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation—a $3.04 million increase over FY18. The following is a statement from Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation:

“We thank Governor Baker for approving this important funding increase for civil legal aid. We are deeply grateful for his leadership, and for his recognition of the urgent need to address the overwhelming demand for assistance among our state’s low-income residents. With this funding increase, civil legal aid organizations across the state will be able to help thousands more people who otherwise would not receive assistance in resolving serious civil legal issues that threaten their health, safety, and financial stability. The FY19 Budget of the Commonwealth helps Massachusetts deliver on the promise of equal justice for all.

“In addition to the Governor, his cabinet, and his staff, we thank the Massachusetts legislature for voting to increase funding for civil legal aid. The broad support we received from the House and Senate and from members of both parties truly demonstrates the impact legal aid makes in every corner of the state. We are also grateful to the many supporters of civil legal aid who advocated for this increase, including our legislative champions, 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. Their collective advocacy exemplifies the Commonwealth’s commitment to the principles of justice, fairness, and compassion, and we are fortunate to count them as allies. Our shared success is an important step towards the goal of ensuring that all people—regardless of income—have access to legal advice and representation.”

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About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. For more information, please visit: www.mlac.org.

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.”

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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 www.mlac.org.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Board Welcomes New Member

BOSTON, June 14, 2018 — The board of directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth, is pleased to welcome a new member, Alma Woodberry, who was recently appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Alma Woodberry has served as a member of Greater Boston Legal Services’ Client Caucus since 2011, providing an important voice for low-income residents within one of the largest civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. She volunteers her time in many ways, including with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and also as an advocate for elderly members of her community who face crises and unexpected challenges.

MLAC is governed by an 11-member Board of Directors. Ten members are appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court, and the 11th is the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court or that Justice’s designee.

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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. For more information, visit http://www.mlac.org.