MLAC’s response to Governor’s Budget

Urges legislature to provide $35M for civil legal aid in FY22

BOSTON, January 27, 2021 – Today, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released his FY22 budget with a recommendation to fund civil legal aid at $29 million, the same amount of funding it received in the FY21 budget.

“I am grateful to Gov. Baker for his commitment to funding civil legal aid and his recognition. of civil legal aid lawyers as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “The public health and economic crisis has had a disproportionate impact on low-income people, who continue to face unprecedented challenges and threats to their safety, financial stability, and wellbeing.

“Even before the pandemic struck, legal aid organizations turned away more people than they could serve, due to lack of financial resources. With the increase in both the amount of demand and the severity of the crises individuals and families are facing, MLAC is seeking an additional $6 million in funding so more people can have equal access to justice. We will work with Senators and Representatives in the Legislature to improve upon the level funding recommendation included in the Governor’s Budget today.

“Civil legal aid is a significant and crucial part of the Commonwealth’s social safety network, especially as we seek to respond to a devastating pandemic year. Funding civil legal is not only necessary and just, it is also a wise investment. Last year, civil legal aid organizations provided an economic benefit to the Commonwealth and its residents of $115 million.

“With the urgent unmet need and the strong return on the Commonwealth’s investment in civil legal aid, we will strongly urge the legislature to increase civil legal aid funding to $35 million for FY22.”

Four law firms and UMass Law win awards for legal aid advocacy

EJC recognizes exceptional participation at Walk to the Hill

The Equal Justice coalition has recognized four law firms and UMass Law School for their outstanding participation in the 2020 Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid.
The award winners are:

Morgan Lewis: Highest Participation Award
Liberty Mutual: Exceptional Support
Fitch Law Partners: Nancy King Award
Wilmer Hale: Team Advocacy Award
UMass Law: Highest Participation for a Law School Award

UMass Law

UMass Law students

The Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is an annual lobby day for increased funding for civil legal aid organizations through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item. 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 $5 million, appropriating $29 million for civil legal aid in FY21.

This year’s lobby day will be held online January 27, 2021, at 11 a.m. Participants can register online. The speaking program includes Attorney General Maura Healey, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, and Michael Curry, president of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. Lawyers, advocates, and law students will have the opportunity to speak with the legislators online to lobby for $35 million in civil legal aid in FY22.

“We are so grateful to members of the private bar for their longstanding support for civil legal aid,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Their advocacy is needed more than ever this year, given the devastating effect COVID-19 has had on low-income people. Civil legal aid is essential to ensure that everyone has equal access to justice to secure their health, safety, and financial stability during the pandemic.”
About the Award Winners:

Morgan Lewis won the Highest Participation Award, with 40 lawyers from the firm attending the 2020 Walk to the Hill.


Liberty Mutual received the Exceptional Support Award in recognition of having the second largest group of lawyers attend, with a total of 26 participants.


Fitch Law Partners 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. 87 students at the Dartmouth-based school traveled to Boston for the 2020 Walk to the Hill.

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

AG Healey, Chief Justice Budd, Michael Curry and Bar Leaders Advocate for Civil Legal Aid

Hundreds of attorneys and law students will urge legislators to support $35 million in state funding for civil legal aid at Talk to the Hill virtual lobby day on Jan. 27

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, President & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers Michael Curry, Esq., and prominent members of the Massachusetts legal community will rally online with hundreds of attorneys, law students, and advocates on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 11 a.m. for Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees will ask state legislators to provide $35 million in fiscal year 2022 to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation to fund organizations that provide legal advice and representation at no cost to low-income Massachusetts residents.

Talk to the Hill is the 22nd annual gathering of Massachusetts attorneys in support of legal aid funding through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. Typically, Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid draws hundreds to the Massachusetts State House, but due to the pandemic, the event will be online for the first time.

“The principle of equal access to justice is a pillar of our Commonwealth,” said Louis Tompros, chair of the Equal Justice Coalition and partner at WilmerHale. “The need for quality civil legal representation for low-income people has increased dramatically during the pandemic. It is the safety net for people who have been rendered even more vulnerable by the COVID-19 crisis.”

Following the speaking program, attendees will move into virtual breakout rooms to speak directly to state legislators about the urgent need to increase funding for civil legal aid by $6 million, for a total of $35 million in the FY22 state budget.

LIST OF SPEAKERS
– Attorney General Maura Healey
– Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, Supreme Judicial Court
– Michael Curry, Esq., President & CEO, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers
– Denise Murphy, President of the Massachusetts Bar Association
– Martin Murphy, President of the Boston Bar Association
– Lynne Parker, Executive Director, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
– Jacquelynne J. Bowman, Executive Director, Greater Boston Legal Services
– Legal Aid clients who received help during the pandemic will share how legal aid assisted them and their families
– Host: Louis Tompros, Chair, Equal Justice Coalition

Media are welcome to attend the speaking program and the virtual event is open to the public. Please register by January 26 at https://ejctalktothehill.org/

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

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MLAC applauds Budget allocating $29M for Civil Legal Aid

House and Senate approve FY21 budget, recognizing need for greater access to legal protection

BOSTON, December 7, 2020 — In voting to approve a compromise budget for Fiscal Year 2021, the Massachusetts House and Senate have included $29 million to fund civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 0321-1600 – a $5 million increase over FY 20.

“We’re grateful to House and Senate leadership and all the legislators who recognized the extraordinary hardship low-income people are facing because of the COVID-19 crisis and the remedies that civil legal aid can provide to people facing eviction, unemployment, loss of benefits, and other serious problems,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “This much-needed funding will go a long way to providing more essential legal services to people in every city and town in Massachusetts.”

Parker recognized the members of the Budget Conference Committee, who worked hard to create the final budget and provide the $29 million in funding for civil legal aid. The Conference Committee members included: Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues; House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz; Senate Ways and Means Vice Chairwoman Cindy Friedman; Senate ranking Republican Patrick O’Connor; House Ways and Means Vice Chairwoman Denise Garlick; and House ranking Republican Rep. Todd Smola.

Speaking on the House floor on Friday, Chair Michlewitz said that the legislature was “investing $29 million into the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, a $5 million increase over last year. These additional funds will provide greater access to the legal protections they deserve.”

“It was wonderful to hear the Chair publicly recognize the extraordinary work that legal aid lawyers have been doing in their communities during the pandemic,” Parker said.

She also thanked the Equal Justice Coalition that has championed the crucial work of civil legal aid during the COVID-19 crisis, 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.

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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 praises Senate Ways and Means for recommending $29M for Civil Legal Aid

In wake of COVID, demand for legal aid surges

Today the Senate 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.

“This funding increase is vital, and we thank Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues for their leadership in providing it,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on low-income people in the Commonwealth. This funding increase will help legal aid lawyers across the state provide essential services to protect people at risk of losing their housing, access to benefits, and other protections.”

Parker also extended her gratitude to the many Senators who support this increased funding and recognize the extraordinary work that legal aid lawyers have been doing in their communities during the pandemic.

She also thanked the Equal Justice Coalition that has championed the crucial work of civil legal aid during the COVID-19 crisis, 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.

“Civil legal aid is an essential service that has been helping vulnerable people in every part of the Commonwealth resolve serious legal issues that threaten people’s health, safety, and financial stability. This budget recognizes that the surge of need is ongoing and that front-line legal aid lawyers and advocates are a vital part of the state’s response to and recovery from this crisis,” Parker said.

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.

END

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.

# # #

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