Our attorneys participated in the Equal Justice Coalition’s Walk to the Hill this morning at the Massachusetts State House. Marc L. Breakstone, David W. White, Ronald E. Gluck and Reza Breakstone joined hundreds of other attorneys in urging state lawmakers to raise state funding for civil legal aid.
Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker released his FY2021 budget and proposed a level budget of $24 million for civil legal aid. The Equal Justice Coalition, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and supporters are seeking a $5 million increase and that’s why our attorneys participated today. Civil legal aid provides legal assistance to low-income Massachusetts residents who need help with housing, employment, medical care, immigration matters and domestic abuse. It is the last resort for many families, children and the elderly. Advocates say it’s life-changing for people, creating stability and opportunity to stay in their homes and keep working.
The Equal Justice Coalition says civil legal aid organizations are being forced to turn away many Massachusetts residents in need due to funding.
“Investing in civil legal aid is just and makes good economic sense,” the coalition says.
Breakstone, White & Gluck was pleased to support and participate in the Equal Justice Coalition’s Walk to the Hill, seeking increased funding for civil legal aid in Massachusetts. Attorney David W. White joined hundreds of lawyers at the Massachusetts State House, urging legislators to help fund free legal services to residents who cannot afford an attorney on their own. Many Massachusetts residents are not familiar with the coalition until they need help with a landlord dispute, consumer fraud or another non-criminal matter. Then the coalition’s services become critical because when someone faces criminal charges, they have the right to an attorney. But those who need representation in a civil matter are on their own. If they can’t afford a lawyer, the person could suffer devastating losses, personally and financially. With more funding for civil legal aid, the coalition and other legal aid organizations can help more individuals and families stay on track, in their homes, working, receiving medical treatment or going to school without interruption.
The Equal Justice Coalition was created in 1999 by the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. Representatives from these programs participated in a speaking program in the Great Hall at the State House, before attorneys began visiting lawmakers’ offices. Speakers included Louis Tompros, chair of the Equal Justice Coalition; Lynne M. Parker, Executive Director of the Mass. Legal Assistance Corporation; Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants; Christopher Kenney, President of the Massachusetts Bar Association and Jacquelynne Bowman, Executive Director of the Greater Boston Legal Services.
Breakstone, White & Gluck has received the Nancy King Award for its 100 percent participation in last year’s annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid.
The Equal Justice Coalition, which organizes the annual Walk, recently presented our firm with the award. Attorneys Marc L. Breakstone, David W. White, Ronald E. Gluck and Reza Breakstone participated last year.
The Walk was held on January 28, 2016 at the State House in Boston. Hundreds of attorneys gathered in the Great Hall to hear from Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court and Attorney General Maura Healey. Several past presidents of the Massachusetts Bar Association participated, including Attorney David W. White, who served a term from 2007-2008.
The attorneys were then dispatched to speak to state Senators and Representatives and urge them to fund the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line in the Fiscal Year 2017 state budget.
Last year’s campaign was successful, which should provide good motivation for even more attorneys to attend again this year. Governor Charlie Baker approved $18 million in funding for civil legal aid in the final Fiscal Year 2017 Budget of the Commonwealth. This was a $1 million increase over the prior year’s funding.
With the additional funding, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation was able to help more low-income people facing homelessness, domestic violence, gain access to health care and other legal services.
To qualify for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, a family must earn no more than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (or $30,375 a year for a family of four). Despite the increase, the Equal Justice Coalition reports that legal aid organizations are still forced to turn away 64 percent of those eligible because of a lack of funding.
This year, MLAC is seeking a $5 million increase for civil legal aid. To learn more about the event, visit http://equaljusticecoalition.org/.
2016 Walk to the Hill Attendance awards were recently presented to these firms:
• Nancy King Award: Breakstone, White & Gluck (highest percentage of attorneys participating)
• Highest Participation Award: WilmerHale
• Exceptional Support Awards: Foley Hoag and Ropes & Gray
We joined hundreds of lawyers at the Massachusetts State House Thursday to lobby for increased funding for civil legal aid. We gathered as part of the 17th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Funding is in crisis in Massachusetts, with nearly two-thirds of eligible low-income residents who seek help being turned away.
With an increase, more people will be able to stay in their homes, find shelter and avoid hardship. Please keep reading this blog on the $27 million budget appropriation sought and visit this page to contact your legislator.
Right to Left: Attorney David W. White, Massachusetts Bar Association President (2007-2008), Attorney Ronald E. Gluck, Attorney Marc L. Breakstone and Attorney Reza Breakstone at the Annual Walk for Civil Legal Aid on January 28, 2016.
The annual event, sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, draws lawyers from across the Commonwealth for a day of lobbying for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, which provides legal aid for the poor and underserved.
This year, lawyers asked for the state appropriation for civil legal aid services to be increased from $17 million to $27 million in Fiscal Year 2017. Governor Charlie Baker has proposed $17.17 million, a $170,000 increase.
Lawyers from more than 40 private firms attended this year, along with Attorney General Maura Healey and Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court, who addressed participants:
“In a few minutes you will meet with legislators and members of their staff to ask them to increase the state appropriation for civil legal services from $17 million to $27 million,” Gants said. “Many will ask you: ‘How can we afford an increase of that size during a challenging budget season?’ And you will answer: ‘How can we afford not to?'” Gants’ comments were published by the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Lawyers E-Journal.
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Post blog note: Our thanks to the Equal Justice Coalition, who later recognized us with the Nancy King Award for the highest percentage of attorneys participating at a firm – 4 out of 4, or 100 percent!
The coalition also recognized: Wilmer Hale for having the most attorneys participate and Ropes & Gray and Foley Hoag with exceptional support awards. Sally & Fitch was honorably mentioned. Highest participation among law schools went to UMass Law, which had 56 students in attendance. Liberty Mutual was the leading corporate law department, with 24 participants.