Community Legal Aid, a non-profit organization that provides free legal services to low-income and elderly residents of Western and Central Massachusetts, is pleased to announce that Attorney Claribel Morales has been awarded the Bart Gordon Fellowship by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). The fellowship will support Ms. Morales’s housing work throughout Western Massachusetts, where she will assist tenants facing homelessness or denied the housing of their choice for discriminatory reasons. Ms. Morales will be based in Community Legal Aid’s Springfield office starting in August.
A 2019 graduate of Western New England University School of Law, Ms. Morales joined Community Legal Aid in the summer of 2019 as an AmeriCorps Legal Advocate serving in the organization’s Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime and Housing Units. A native of Trenton, New Jersey, Ms. Morales earned her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in 2008 and Masters in Public Administration in 2014 from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Ms. Morales worked at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office for six years as a paralegal before moving to Massachusetts to attend law school.
While attending law school, Ms. Morales interned at Mass. Fair Housing Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in Hartford, Connecticut. She also participated in the Legal Services Clinic, a partnership between Western New England University Law School and Community Legal Aid, where she assisted tenants with eviction cases in the Western Housing Court.
“Even though she is just beginning her legal career, Claribel Morales has already demonstrated her strong commitment to ensuring that the most vulnerable people among us can live in safe housing,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “Her work is so needed during the COVID-19 crisis, when many people are at risk of losing their homes. I’m thrilled that MLAC can fund this essential work through the Bart Gordon Fellowship.”
Jonathan Mannina, Executive Director of Community Legal Aid, said, “We are so grateful to MLAC for funding the Bart Gordon Memorial Fellowship and enabling us to hire Claribel. This Fellowship will let us expand our housing work in Western Massachusetts at a time of great community need.”
MLAC created the Bart J. Gordon Memorial Fellowship to improve access to justice for people who face linguistic or cultural barriers to attaining legal assistance. The fellowship funds positions for recent law school graduates at legal aid organizations funded by MLAC. It is named in memory of Bart Gordon, a Springfield attorney and founding member of the MLAC Board of Directors.
MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts. It was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice, and representation.
About Community Legal Aid:
Community Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to the low-income and elderly residents of the five counties of Western and Central Massachusetts (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester), and maintains full-time offices in Worcester, Fitchburg, Springfield, Northampton, and Pittsfield. Community Legal Aid works to assure fairness for all in the justice system, protecting homes, livelihoods, health and families. For more information, please visit www.communitylegal.org.