Boston Bar Launches Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in MA

Saying that "too many poor people now face eviction or an abusive spouse without a lawyer to help them navigate an often complex legal system," Boston Bar Association (BBA) President J.D. Smeallie today announced the creation of a twenty-seven person statewide task force that will determine the unmet need for civil legal aid across the state and examine the most cost effective way to meet that need.

"This first stage will involve determining which geographic and demographic segments of the Commonwealth are in greatest need of civil legal aid, but not getting it," said Smeallie. "As part of this initial stage, we will seek to quantify the expected cost of providing civil legal aid to those in need, as well of the economic benefits or cost savings to the state associated with providing counsel in matters such as evictions and domestic violence. Our analysis will also attempt to determine which geographic areas and populations would offer the greatest return on funds directed toward increased civil legal aid," Smeallie added.

The second stage of the task force's effort will focus on identifying various ways to deliver civil legal aid in the most cost effective manner. "There may be opportunities to provide legal assistance to poor people which does not require the presence of a lawyer in every instance," said Smeallie. "The Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission has done some terrific work in this area and we will look for their thoughts and ideas in that regard."

The BBA task force expects to release its recommendations within one year, and will be modeled on a similar study performed in New York State.

Those on the roster of the BBA Statewide Task Force on Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts include:

J.D. Smeallie - Partner at Holland & Knight, President of the Boston Bar Association (Chair)
Susan Alexander - Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Biogen Idec Inc.
Lawrence Bacow - Former President of Tufts University
Manisha Bhatt - Senior Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services
Jonathan Chiel - Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Fidelity Investments
Martha Coakley - Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Katherine Cook - Chief Legal Counsel at The Office of the Governor
Paul Dacier - Executive Vice President and General Counsel at EMC Corporation, President-Elect of the Boston Bar Association
Lawrence DiCara - Partner at Nixon Peabody LLP
Russell Engler - Professor of Law at New England Law | Boston
John V. Fernandes - State Representative at the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Robert Holloway - President of the Massachusetts Bar Association
Sheila Hubbard - Executive Director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
James C. Kennedy - Chief Legal Counsel at the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Joan Lukey - Partner at Ropes & Gray
Richard McMahon - Justice at Probate and Family Court, Bristol County
Martha Minow - Dean of Harvard Law School
Alice Moore - Counsel to the Massachusetts Senate
Susan Murley - Co-Managing Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Joseph Nauman - Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Acushnet Company
Lon Povich - General Counsel at BJ’s Wholesale Club
Lonnie Powers - Executive Director of Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC)
Mary Puma - Chief Executive Officer of Axcelis Technologies
Faye Rachlin - Deputy Director of Community Legal Aid in Worcester, MA
Elizabeth Soule - Executive Director of MetroWest Legal Services
Veronica Turner - Executive Vice President at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East in Massachusetts
David Weingarten - First Justice at Boston Municipal Court, Roxbury Division