My Turn: April is National Second Chance Month (Greenfield Recorder)

On April 27, the Greenfield Recorder published an opinion piece from Alyssa Golden, Senior Supervising Attorney for Community Legal Aid’s CORI/Re-entry Project. An excerpt of the op-ed is below.


April is National Second Chance Month — an effort to highlight the importance of supporting formerly incarcerated community members.

The CORI/Reentry Project of Community Legal Aid believes in more than second chances. The criminalization of poverty, substance use and mental illness, and the over-policing of communities of color, results in a cycle of incarceration and other forms of state supervision that are incredibly destructive for families and communities. There must be room for more than just a second chance.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, around 70,000 Massachusetts residents are booked in local jails across the state each year. In 2018, approximately 22,000 residents were incarcerated in a jail, state or federal prison, or juvenile detention center. Even years after people have served their sentence and remained free of further criminal involvement, the records of their incarceration follow people and have an impact on their lives, making it hard to return to work or find a stable place to live.

The result is that many people are locked out of opportunities to secure steady employment or affordable housing.

Read more in the Greenfield Recorder.

Supreme Court foreclosure decision could affect Worcester case, attorneys say (MassLive)

A May 25 MassLive article covered the potential effect of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in a Minnesota case, on a current Massachusetts foreclosure case handled by the Pioneer Public Interest Law Center; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP; and Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). Todd Kaplan, Senior Attorney at GBLS, is quoted in the article, which is excerpted below.


When Carmen Rodriguez fell behind on her real estate taxes, she wasn’t concerned, given her $2,600 bill was pennies compared to her house, valued at up to $300,000, according to her lawyers.

But when the City of Worcester sold its right to foreclose on her house to a tax title buying group, the new owner brought an eviction action against her and her son. This, despite the fact that Rodriguez continued making payments to the city, according to a press release from her attorney group, Greater Boston Legal Services.

In Massachusetts law, a foreclosure negates any equity the foreclosed party had in a property.

But a U.S. Supreme Court ruling released Thursday regarding a similar Minnesota case could allow for Rodriguez to recoup the profits on the sale of her house, the legal group said.

Read more at MassLive. This story was also covered by WGBH and the Eagle Tribune.

U.S. Attorney’s Office reaches settlement in sexual harassment lawsuit against Chicopee landlord (Spectrum News)

A May 5th Spectrum News article covered a recent settlement in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit and quoted Jane Edmonstone, Senior Supervising Attorney for Community Legal Aid’s Housing Law Unit. An excerpt from the article is below.


Chicopee Landlord Salazar Dos Santos will no longer manage property after claims of sexually assaulting multiple female tenants for over a decade.

A settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office was reached in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit this week after Dos Santos allegedly coerced several women from 2008 to 2019 to engage in sexual acts with him and threatened those who refused.

“We had come across a woman who was being evicted and when we asked her about what was going on,” Supervising Attorney Jane Edmonstone said. “She told us a story about how her landlord had sexually harassed and assaulted her, and brought an eviction case when she rebuffed his advances.”

Read more in Spectrum News. 



Over 100,000 Mass. residents could see thousands taken out of their tax refunds (WGBH)

An April 24 WGBH article about unemployment overpayments in Massachusetts quoted Rory MacAneney, Employment Attorney at Community Legal Aid. An excerpt from the article is below.


For 112,000 residents who were overpaid unemployment benefits in the past few years, the state is coming to collect.

Overpayments are not unusual for unemployment. About 2% of all unemployment payments, or roughly $30 million, were overpayments in Massachusetts in 2019, per the state’s Department of Unemployment Assistance. But chaos in the early days of the pandemic and short-term federal programs — rapidly built, executed and shuttered — made the money owed now at a magnitude that’s anything but normal.

Administrative errors, fraud and confusion about who qualified for new, short-term federal programs led to billions being overpaid. After years of forgiveness efforts slowly whittled down that sum, the department is now trying to get $719 million back from taxpayers on this year’s tax refunds. The 112,000 claimants owe, on average, $6,400 to the federal and state government. Any tax refunds that would be given to a claimant will instead be put toward paying down their debt to the unemployment overpayments.

Read more at WGBH.

As Mass. considers funds for prisoner re-entry, advocates say more is needed (WBUR)

An April 24 WBUR article on the Commonwealth’s re-entry services for people who have been incarcerated quoted Elizabeth Matos, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services. An excerpt of the article is below.


Massachusetts public safety officials recently did something unusual: They invited politicians, social service workers and journalists into a state prison to demonstrate their efforts to help those being released from custody.

The invitation came as the Department of Correction makes its case for an overall budget increase for the next fiscal year. The department is also seeking more money for programs that help people transition to life outside of prison, a process known as “re-entry.”

Last year, more than 2,000 people were released from state prisons, and many face difficulties finding jobs or housing with a criminal record, or adjusting to life after incarceration.

Read more at WBUR.

Legal aid advocates named to Judicial Nominating Commission

On April 12, Governor Maura Healey appointed (among others) Laura Gal, of Greater Boston Legal Services, and Tatum Pritchard, of the Disability Law Center, to the Judicial Nominating Commission. An excerpt of the official press release from the Governor’s office is below.


Today, Governor Maura T. Healey signed an Executive Order reestablishing the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) and a code of conduct for members and judicial nominees. She also appointed a historically diverse, talented cohort of Commissioners who will be responsible for advising the Governor on nominating and appointing judicial officers in coordination with the Governor’s Council. Representing all regions of the state, the Commissioners bring a wealth of experience in the private and public sectors, in big firms and solo firms.

The Executive Order directs the JNC to perform its due diligence to ensure that judicial candidates hold the qualities necessary to serve on the state’s courts, including integrity, a strong work ethic, clear judgement, and a commitment to equality and impartiality. Commissioners are also instructed to work to ensure that judicial candidates represent the diversity of the communities they serve, including geography, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability and economic status.


Advocates seek further eviction protections (The Eagle Tribune)

In a March 21 article, The Eagle Tribune reported on a letter signed by representatives from 100 advocacy groups to extend Massachusetts’s Chapter 257 law, which blocks eviction proceedings for tenants who are seeking public assistance to pay their rent. Among the letter signers were leaders from Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Greater Boston Legal Services. An excerpt from the article is below.

BOSTON — With pandemic-related eviction protections set to expire at the end of the month, advocates are pushing for an extension to give state lawmakers more time to make the rules permanent.

In a letter to legislative leaders and Trial Court officials, a coalition of 100 social welfare, public health and legal aid groups called for a more than year-long extension to the Chapter 257 law, which blocks eviction proceedings for tenants who are seeking public assistance to pay their rent.

The protections, which were approved by the state Legislature in 2020 and extended twice, are set to expire March 31. The coalition wants Beacon Hill leaders to extend the law’s sunset date until July 31, 2024, “to allow more time for a permanent solution to be put into place.”

“Allowing this critical tool to expire now could result in evictions where tenancies could have been resolved with rental assistance, pushing many families and individuals into homelessness,” they wrote. “There is broad agreement among policymakers that residents across Massachusetts are experiencing a housing crisis.”

The coalition, which includes the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Greater Boston Legal Services and several United Way chapters, said the law “ensures that tenants are not needlessly displaced and maximizes rental assistance payments to landlords.”

The law also requires landlords to upload notice-to-quit letters to a state tracking system, the coalition wrote, “enabling agencies administering rental assistance to conduct outreach to landlords and tenants to prevent evictions.”

“While not perfect, Chapter 257 has been an essential protection for tenants waiting for rental assistance applications to be processed,” they wrote.

Read the full article in The Eagle Tribune. 

This story was also covered in The Salem News on March 27.

Massachusetts Attorney General reaches deal to keep Fenway women’s rooming building affordable (Boston Herald)

A March 22 Boston Herald article about a rooming house in the Fenway neighborhood quoted Margaret Turner, Senior Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. An excerpt from the article is below.


One of the lowest-cost housing options for women in Boston will remain that way following an agreement secured with the state attorney general’s office.

The Our Lady Guild House, a single-occupancy rooming building on Charlesgate West, lists its smallest room, a 10-by-11 footer, at $810 and its largest, a 12-by-14, at $950 — Boston steals, especially at easy walking distance to several arts and parks, including Fenway.

The property is owned by the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, though state’s filing lists a separate entity named for the building since 1981, and has its building open for residency by about 130 “women of all faiths and national origins” — but the Attorney General’s office said a sale is pending that could could have put the affordability of this housing in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, the AG’s office announced that it had secured a deal with the owners and management of the House that provides “protections against evictions and rent increases while the sale of the building is pending,” settles allegations of age and disability discrimination against long-term tenants and secured a $115,000 penalty payment that will be mainly distributed to seven long-term residents of the House.

Read more in The Boston Herald.

State finds Boston Public Schools transportation issues violated students’ right to special education services

In a March 1 article, The Boston Herald reported on an investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that determined Boston Public Schools had violated students’ rights to special education services. Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Advocates for Children filed a joint complaint about the issue on behalf of several families last year. An excerpt of the article is below.

In a letter sent to Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper on Friday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said an investigation found the district’s transportation issues violated students’ rights to special education services.

“The findings in the preceding sections of this letter indicate that the District did comply with some of its obligations under federal and state requirements,” DESE officials wrote in the letter.

Several families issued a joint complaint with Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Advocates for Children in October, outlining incidents in which the district failed to provide students with one-on-one and specially trained bus monitors, families notification of transportation issues, or just any transportation at all — in effect denying the students their right to a free appropriate public education.

In many of these incidents, “students’ families are required to (provide transportation), causing financial and other burdens,” the letter states, and systemic failures have “deprived many students of their education due to ongoing absences and late arrivals resulting from lack of or delayed transportation.”

The state reviewed parent reports of bus issues in the last year, finding 3,469 coded “Missed Stop,” 775 “Late Bus,” 736 “Stranded Student,” 721 “Bus Monitor,” 597 “Other,” and 236 “Blown Route” or “Uncovered Route.”

In the fall of the 2022-23 school year, an average of 16.4% of buses were still dropping off students late or not at all, the letter states.

These wide-scale issues had an especial impact on students with disabilities, the investigation found, including the “key deficiency” of bus monitors.

“The District reported that approximately 35–40% of monitor-required routes have not had a designated monitor assigned to the route during the 2022-2023 school year,” the letter reads.

Read more in The Boston Herald.

How Beacon Hill could expand abortion care for pregnant teens in Mass.

In an article published on February 24, reported on a movement to change the law that currently requires minors under 16 who seek an abortion to either obtain parental consent or go to court and request permission from a superior court judge. Jamie Sabino, Deputy Director of Advocacy at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), is quoted in the article, which is excerpted below.

For nearly four decades, a cohort of Massachusetts lawyers have wrangled Beacon Hill lawmakers to remove hurdles for young people seeking abortion care independently, without involving their parents.

The ROE Act, which the Legislature passed in December 2020, expanded access to 16- and 17-year-old individuals, who no longer need parental consent to get an abortion or circumvent their parents by going to court and receiving permission for the procedure from a superior court judge.

But in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year, Jamie Sabino, co-chair of a panel of lawyers that helps minors navigate the judicial bypass process, said there’s heightened urgency to reform what she says is a fraught system that punishes a small fraction of Bay Staters who are younger than 16 and desperately want an abortion.

Sabino, deputy director of advocacy at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, estimates that about 20 individuals younger than 16 are forced to go to court annually to avoid backlash from their parents or guardians. Other teens may cross state lines, such as those who live in Springfield and can receive an abortion in Hartford without needing to involve their parents, she said.

Read the full article on