Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009
2008's Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid drew a crowd of nearly 600.
Record number of attorneys expected at 10th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid
On Thursday, Jan. 22, attorneys will urge legislators to protect legal aid funding
The Equal Justice Coalition, Boston Bar Association and Massachusetts Bar Association, along with 24 county and specialty bars, are sponsoring the 10th annual Walk to the Hill for Legal Aid. Lawyers from some of the most prestigious law firms in Boston and Massachusetts will come together at the State House to urge legislators to maintain funding for programs that provide civil legal aid for low-income Commonwealth residents. Last year 600 attorneys participated in the Walk; this year, due to the funding crisis facing legal aid, record attendance is expected.
Legal aid programs provide advice and assistance to low-income Massachusetts residents in matters such as housing, domestic violence, elder issues, employment rights, and health care. Even in strong economic times, legal aid programs are forced to turn away nearly half of all eligible applicants because of a shortage of resources. Now, demand is greater than ever.
Boston Bar Association President Kathy Weinman
Massachusetts Bar Association President Edward W. McIntyre
Lisa Damon and Spc. Michael Damon, who served for 15 months in Iraq. The Damons and their two children were able to remain in their home following foreclosure thanks to a legal aid attorney.
Thursday, January 22
Massachusetts State House – Great Hall of Flags
NOTE: Speakers will be available for interviews immediately before and after the program.
Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators to ask them to maintain the current level of funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest source of funding for civil legal aid in the commonwealth. MLAC receives both an appropriation in the state budget (line item 0321-1600, funded at $11 million in FY09) and income from the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. MLAC already has been forced to cut general support funding to the 17 programs it funds by 40 percent this fiscal year due to a drastic decrease in IOLTA revenue.
Although private attorneys have no direct stake in MLAC funding, they see firsthand the effects of the civil legal aid shortage. Those turned away from legal aid programs often appear in court unrepresented, leaving them at a severe disadvantage when they are faced with critical civil legal problems that threaten their housing, health and income.