Following the release of the Governor's budget for the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2012, Boston Bar Association President Lisa C. Goodheart issued the following statement:
"While I plan to review the Governor's budget in greater detail, I want to thank him for appreciating the importance of civil legal aid and for appropriating $12 million for the line item for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the statewide entity responsibility for administering funds to programs providing legal aid to poor people. At the same time, the Governor's recommendation falls short of the $14.5 million needed by MLAC.
What I ask our state lawmakers to remember is that last year MLAC funded programs brought in $27.7 million in new federal revenue. I urge them to check out MLAC's report, but we're talking about millions of dollars in food stamps, SSI/SSDI, Medicare Appeals, Federal Tax Appeals, and Federal Unemployment Benefits appeals. MLAC funded programs won an additional $10.4 million in other benefits for low income residents, including $3.3 million in child support orders -- potentially reducing dependence on public assistance. As for homelessness and domestic violence prevention, civil legal aid made possible by MLAC funding is projected to have saved tax-payers $15.1 million.
Funding for civil legal aid is about fairness and equal access to justice, but it's also about investing in programs that yield significant social and economic benefits. Tomorrow, Boston Bar Association members will join their brothers and sisters from bar associations across the Commonwealth for the Walk to the Hill Lobbying Day for civil legal aid.
Our message is this: The benefits of civil legal aid are so significant relative to the investment that Massachusetts cannot afford to shortchange people who have so little to begin with. On this issue, the interests of justice and fiscal pragmatism are fully aligned."
The Boston Bar Association is a non-profit, voluntary membership organization of 10,000 attorneys drawn from private practice, corporations, government agencies, legal aid organizations, the courts, and law schools. It traces its origins to meetings convened by John Adams, the lawyer who provided pro bono representation to the British soldiers prosecuted for the Boston Massacre and went on to become the second president of the United States.