How to Talk to Your Legislator About Civil Legal Aid Funding

We’re two weeks away from the 15th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid on Thursday, January 30, 2014. The event starts at 11:00 am at the Great Hall of the State House in Boston. A brief speaking program including Chief Justice Ireland, BBA President Paul Dacier, MBA President Douglas Sheff, and a legal services client will conclude around noon. At that point, we hope you’ll visit your own legislators. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you stop by their office courtesy of the Equal Justice Coalition:

  • Introduce yourself as a constituent and an attorney
  • State that legal services is important to you and thank your legislator for his or her past support
  • Tell your legislator that legal aid is in crisis and strongly urge him or her to request $17 million in funding for MLAC in FY15, a $4 million increase over this year’s budget
  • Ask your legislator to make this funding request one of his or her top three budget priorities

Supporting facts:

  • Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) revenue has decreased by 85%, from $17 million in Fiscal Year 2008 to a projected $2.6 million in FY14.
  • Legal aid programs are forced to turn away at least half of the eligible people who request help.
  • Funding legal aid is a sound economic investment, saving the state money by bringing clients federal benefits such as disability payments and food stamps.
  • It is critical for people to have lawyers; legal representation is essential to the fair and efficient administration of justice.
  • People represented by legal aid are better prepared to protect their basic needs for housing and income.