2008's Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid drew a crowd of nearly 600.
Participation in the 2009 Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is more critical than ever this year. Due to the dramatic decline in Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) revenue, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) has already reduced its general support grants to local legal aid programs by nearly 40 percent.
“The MBA encourages its members and others in the Massachusetts legal community to support and attend this vital effort to help protect legal services funding,” said MBA President Edward W. McIntyre.
The 10th annual Walk to the Hill will take place on Thursday, Jan. 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Great Hall of the Statehouse. This year’s message to legislators will be twofold: protect the MLAC line item from state budget cuts, and include this issue as one of their top legislative priorities.
“Now more than ever, the private bar needs to come together and support the cause of equal access to justice. Walk to the Hill only takes two hours, but the impact it has on low-income Massachusetts residents facing threats to their home, employment and health is enormous,” said Julia Huston, partner at Bromberg & Sunstein LLP and chair of the Equal Justice Coalition, which organizes of the annual event. Co-sponsors include the Massachusetts and Boston Bar Associations.
Nearly 600 attorneys attended last year, and even more support from the Massachusetts legal community is expected this year due to the funding crisis. Following a speaking program, participants will meet with their legislators.
Even with no additional cuts, MLAC anticipates that there will be at least an 18 percent reduction in client services statewide.
That means that approximately 20,000 low-income individuals and family members will be left without the legal help they need during these difficult times, including tenants losing their homes to landlord foreclosures, parents wrongly denied health care for their children and elders facing bankruptcy.
“Any reduction in state funding would only further devastate the delivery of civil legal aid to the commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents,” said Lonnie A. Powers, executive director of MLAC.
According to MLAC, legal aid programs generated $48 million in revenue, reimbursements and cost savings for the commonwealth in FY08. Without consistent support from the state in FY10, however, legal aid programs will not be able to generate this income for Massachusetts.
Look for coverage of Walk to the Hill in Lawyers e-Journal and an upcoming issue of Lawyers Journal. For more information, visit www.equaljusticecoalition.org .