Thursday, Mar. 22, 2007
Equal access to justice. The eighth annual Walk to the Hill brought together the legal community to Beacon Hill to emphasize the need for funding civil legal services. The program included, from left, Jack Cinquegrana, president of the Boston Bar Association; Julia Huston, president of the Womens Bar Association; Mark D Mason, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association; Elizabeth Anderson, featured speaker and paralegal for the Middlesex District Attorney; and Stephen Oleskey, chairman of the Equal Justice Coalition.
A record turnout for eighth annual Walk to the Hill
Elizabeth Anderson, a former legal aid client, sums up the need for civil legal assistance this way: “For the first time in 17 years, I had the help and protection I needed to free myself and my sons from abuse.”
Anderson, a paralegal with the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, addressed the more than 500 attorneys attending the eighth annual Walk to the Hill at the Statehouse, which was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association and the Equal Justice Coalition.
The event is designed to emphasize the need for legal services. This year, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Coalition is asking lawmakers to increase funding by $5 million to address the shortage of civil legal services for the state’s low-income residents.
“Although the Massachusetts legal community continues to make strides in improving access to justice for all Massachusetts citizens, it is a frustrating reality that the available resources fall short of the need,” said MBA President Mark D Mason. “By properly funding legal aid, we will have an overwhelmingly positive impact in the livelihoods of many low-income families throughout our commonwealth.”
Two major economic studies have concluded that legal aid is the only service that consistently brings down the level of domestic violence in the communities it serves. In addition, legal aid in domestic violence cases often results in health care coverage and collection of child support, saving further state dollars.
Last year, MLAC-funded legal aid programs provided individual assistance that benefited a total of 124,000 Massachusetts residents, including family members. This assistance was provided by 207 attorneys and 60 paralegals who counsel, advise and represent the clients of local programs.
Legal aid programs deliver assistance to low-income residents efficiently and effectively, collaborating extensively with other providers of services to low-income people in order to make the best use of limited resources.