Lawmakers, do the right thing on civil legal aid (Commonwealth)

Below is an excerpt of an op ed penned by MLAC Board Member Jeffrey Catalano and published in Commonwealth Magazine on May 15.

There is no right to an attorney in most noncriminal legal cases, even when the stakes are high as people suffer employment discrimination, face eviction, or are victimized by predatory lending. Those unable to pay for legal guidance and representation must try to navigate our complex legal system alone – and face daunting odds and real-life consequences. That is why civil legal aid organizations are so critical.

Civil legal aid organizations across Massachusetts provide representation to people with incomes at or below 125 percent of federal poverty guidelines ($39,000 per year for a family of four or $18,825 for an individual). They help people solve serious problems that impact their most basic needs, including housing, employment, access to health care, domestic safety, and more.

As a board member of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, I see the life-changing impact civil legal aid has on people, families, and entire communities. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, and it gets the majority of its funding from a state budget line item.

Read the rest of Jeff’s op ed here.