Massachsuetts legislature reviving program to prevent evictions (Fall River Reporter)

Below is an excerpt from a July 31 article published by the Fall River Reporter discussing the return of a pandemic-era housing protection program. Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s (MLRI) Director of Community Driven Advocacy Andrea Park is quoted.

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 31, 2023 — A pandemic-era program that paused roughly 10,000 eviction cases while tenants sought financial aid could return as a permanent tool if Gov. Maura Healey joins lawmakers in support.

The compromise fiscal year 2024 annual state budget approved by the Legislature on Monday revives “Chapter 257” protections. Anti-homelessness advocates say the protections are a key strategy to keep Bay Staters in their homes while landlord groups say tenants have exploited the program.

Language in the conference committee report filed Sunday night effectively mirrors the previous program, which lawmakers kept in place for much of the COVID-19 emergency before allowing it to expire on March 31.

Read more at the Fall River Reporter.

Western Mass project helps parents keep custody of their kids (NEPM)

Below is an excerpt from a July 19 article published by the New England Public Media about a new initiative at Community Legal Aid (CLA) that provides legal support to guardians approached by the Department of Children & Families (DCF). CLA’s Senior Supervising Attorney Madeline Blanchette is quoted.

On an afternoon last January, a 49-year-old artist and mother named Cara was working a warehouse shift, one of two jobs she held to support her family. She was still sharing a house in Greenfield, Massachusetts, with her ex-partner and had left their 4-year-old daughter in his care.

But he got drunk, and Cara — not sure what to do — ended up calling the police.

Cara, who asked to keep her last name private, said she had already been in touch with a domestic violence organization about her ex. After the drinking incident, she said, that organization called the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).

“I thought that when DCF stepped in, that it would be an outside authority that could put this situation in control,” she said. “And it did the opposite.”

Read more from New England Public Media.

Massachusetts’ system for migrant families seeking shelter approaches its breaking point (GBH)

Below is an excerpt from a July 13 article published by GBH discussing a recent policy change for migrants seeking shelter at Boston Medical Center. Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) Housing Division Staff Attorney Liz Alfred is quoted.

Boston Medical Center changed its policy of serving as an ad-hoc safe harbor for migrants last week. Some local officials and advocates say they saw that change coming.

Monique Tú Nguyen, executive director of Boston’s Office of Immigrant Advancement, told GBH News that city officials had worried that the hospital would not be able to sustain its efforts as demand on the state’s emergency assistance system kept increasing.

“We were aware that they would have to start turning people away if it compromises their operation,” said Nguyen. “But we weren’t sure of the timeline of when they were going to start that.”

Read more at GBH.

A mother was accused of neglect. DCF then denied her a hearing to challenge it. (The Boston Globe)

Below is an excerpt from a July 2 article published in The Boston Globe discussing the implications of a Department of Children and Families (DCF) policy on cases involving neglect allegations. Massachusetts Legal Reform Institute (MLRI) Child Welfare Policy Advocate Susan Elsen is quoted. 


Massachusetts child welfare officials violated a mother’s constitutional rights when they denied her request for a hearing to challenge neglect allegations, a Suffolk Superior Court judge found, in a decision that could have implications for thousands of parents and caregivers investigated each year by the state.

The ruling, handed down in late May, has already prompted the Department of Children and Families to shift course. State officials said they are now offering those accused of neglect — but who, under a DCF policy, were not given the chance to appeal to an impartial hearing officer — the ability to request a so-called fair hearing. In the quasi-judicial settings, DCF’s decisions are just as likely to be overturned as upheld, state data show.

Attorneys in the case said the decision has the “potential to have a profound effect” on how DCF interacts with families going forward.

Read more at The Boston Globe.

Migrants in Boston’s fast-track immigration court are more likely to be ordered deported, report finds (The Boston Globe)

Below is an excerpt from a June 22 article published in The Boston Globe about the impact of a new immigration court program called the “Dedicated Docket.” De Novo Center for Justice and Healing Immigration Supervisor Valerie Fisk is quoted.


When the Biden administration announced in July 2021 a new immigration court program in Boston, top officials promised it would make asylum cases faster and fairer for migrant families.

Two years later, those promises are far from being fulfilled, according to local advocates and a new report from an immigration clinic at Harvard Law School that provides the first detailed review of Boston’s expedited program, called the “Dedicated Docket.”

Migrants assigned to Boston’s fast-track program are more likely to be ordered deported, less likely to be represented by an attorney, and less likely to prevail in an asylum case compared to those who are funneled into Boston’s regular immigration court, the report found. A key problem, the report concluded, is that migrants assigned to the new program struggle to secure legal representation within an expedited timeline of 300 days to have their cases decided.

Read more at The Boston Globe.

Community Legal Aid looks to strengthen connection with clients through medical partnerships (The Recorder)

Below is an excerpt from a June 19 article published by The Greenfield Recorder highlighting Community Legal Aid’s (CLA) medical-legal partnerships. CLA Managing Attorney Jennifer Dieringer is quoted.

GREENFIELD — An organization that provides free legal services to low-income and elderly residents is partnering with Baystate Franklin Medical Center and the Community Health Center of Franklin County in hopes of more easily connecting with people who need its services.

The partnership with Baystate Franklin will enhance the EMPOWER+ (Engaging Mothers for Positive Outcomes with Early Referrals) Family Clinic, a comprehensive screening and referral program that assists pregnant women with substance use disorder, including opioid use. The EMPOWER+ Family Clinic is based out of The Birthplace at Baystate Franklin/Pioneer Women’s Health in Greenfield.

The partnership with the Community Health Center of Franklin County, meanwhile, will help Community Legal Aid connect with potential clients at the center’s Orange and Greenfield locations.

Read more at The Recorder.

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.