Recent News

On December 4, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission unanimously adopted a resolution to support the recommendations of the BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, urging the Legislature to enact, and the Governor to sign, appropriations increasing MLAC funding by a total of $30 million over the next three fiscal years.

On December 1, the National Law Journal published an op-ed by Jeffrey Baliban and Renee Miller-Mizia, managing directors at Alvarez & Marsal, who worked on the Investing in Justice report.  Read their article here.

On November 22, the New York Times referenced the BBA Task Force Report multiple times in its story on national civil legal aid issues.  Read the story here.  This story was followed by two letters to the editor supporting legal aid.  Read the November 25 letter from Rory Lancman, Chairman of the New York City Council Committee on Courts and Legal Services here.  Read the December 7 letter from David Udell and Ellen Rosenthal, the Executive Director and Chairwoman of the Board of the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School here.


Statewide Task Force Report Information

On October 15, the BBA Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts concluded its 18 month study by issuing a report, Investing in Justice: A Roadmap to Cost-Effective Funding of Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts

Read the press release: BBA Study Reveals Majority of Those in Need of Civil Legal Aid In MA turned Away as Funding Plummets here, or the full report here.




Key Findings

  • 64% of eligible cases were turned away by civil legal aid programs in 2013 due to lack of funding.
  • More than 54,000 eligible people were turned away last year, over 33,000 in the areas of housing and family law alone.
  • Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) funding has gone from $31.8 million in 2007 to $4.5 million in 2014. During that time, the number of eligible citizens to receive legal aid has increased by 25%.
  • Investing $30 million in legal aid is urgently required to provide appropriate civil legal aid to those who are eligible.This $30 million investment would ultimately save the taxpayers of Massachusetts money in back end costs.
  • For every $1 spent on legal aid, the state’s Return on Investment would be between $2 to $5.

Press Coverage

The release of the report has resulted in significant press coverage. A few highlights include:




The Task Force

The BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts was created by then-President J.D. Smeallie in 2013 to examine civil legal aid in MA and identify ways to improve the system. The Task Force was composed of lawyers of a variety of practice areas and backgrounds, members of academia, business leaders, representatives from all three branches of government and independent economic consultants.

The Task Force focused its 18 month study on three key areas of need, evictions and foreclosures, domestic violence, and federal economic benefits. The study involved intense data gathering, surveys of legal service agencies and courts, and interviews with clients and legal service employers.

Thank you to the members of our Task Force who dedicated their time:

Chair:

J.D. Smeallie - Partner, Holland & Knight; President, Boston Bar Association

Members:
  • Susan Alexander- Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Biogen Idec Inc.
  • Lawrence Bacow- President Emeritus, Tufts University 
  • Christopher Barry-Smith- Deputy Attorney General of Massachusetts
  • Manisha Bhatt- Senior Attorney, Greater Boston Legal Services
  • Jonathan Chiel- Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Fidelity Management and Research Corporation Legal Department
  • Martha Coakley- Attorney General of Massachusetts
  • Katherine Cook- Chief Legal Counsel, Office of the Governor
  • Paul Dacier- Executive Vice President and General Counsel, EMC Corporation; President-Elect, Boston Bar Association
  • Lawrence DiCara- Partner, Nixon Peabody LLP
  • Russell Engler- Professor of Law, New England Law | Boston
  • Representative John V. Fernandes- State Representative, Massachusetts House of Representatives
  • Robert Holloway- President, Massachusetts Bar Association
  • James C. Kennedy- Chief Legal Counsel, Massachusetts House of Representatives
  • Joan Lukey- Partner, Ropes & Gray
  • Judge Richard McMahon- Associate Justice, Probate and Family Court, Bristol County
  • Martha Minow- Dean, Harvard Law School
  • Alice Moore-Counsel , Massachusetts Senate
  • Susan Murley- Co-Managing Partner, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
  • Joseph Nauman- Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Acushnet Company
  • Lon Povich- General Counsel, BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Lonnie Powers- Executive Director, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC)
  • Mary Puma- Chief Executive Officer, Axcelis Technologies
  • Faye Rachlin- Deputy Director, Community Legal Aid
  • Elizabeth Soule- Executive Director, MetroWest Legal Services
  • Veronica Turner- Executive Vice President, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East in Massachusetts
  • Judge David Weingarten- First Justice, Boston Municipal Court, Roxbury Division 
  • James T. Welch- State Senator (D), West Springfield




BBA President J.D. Smeallie with Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Judiciary Ralph Gants and Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals Jonathan Lippman.

Please contact Michael Avitzur at mavtizur@bostonbar.org if you have any questions related to the BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts.