News from the Massachusetts legal aid community.
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Volume 10, Issue 2
News in this issue...
Equal Justice Coalition
Save the Date
Event Recap
Advocacy & Program Updates
Awards & Recognition
Media Highlights
People Pages

Want to see your news in Legal Aid Link?  Send it to the person responsible for communications and development at your organization. The next issue will be published in August 2016.

Visit our website to read previous issues. 
Please Join Us for MLAC's Annual Meeting

MLAC hosts its 33rd Annual Meeting in the Second Floor Conference Suite at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston on Thursday, June 30, from 4:30-6:30 pm. Congressman Joseph Kennedy III is the evening's featured speaker. RSVP to if you plan to attend. 
Equal Justice Coalition
FY17 Budget Campaign Update

This week, the FY17 state budget moves to Conference Committee, where three senators and three representatives will reconcile the House and Senate versions into a single budget. Our action alert will be released tomorrow, so please watch for it! Once it's available, please use the link to contact your legislators and urge them to advocate to the Conference Committee to include the House budget recommendation of $18.5 million for civil legal aid in the final FY17 legislative budget.

Equal Justice Coalition Launches #LegalAidChangesLives Project 

In April, the EJC launched a new project focused on demonstrating the many ways civil legal aid can make a difference in the lives of low-income people—from helping families fight unlawful evictions, to providing support to domestic violence survivors so they can find safety and stability to protecting elders and others from abuse and fraud. #LegalAidChangesLives seeks to illuminate the everyday stories of clients, attorneys, volunteers and community members whose lives have been touched by civil legal aid. Read the stories on the EJC website, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Get Involved

Looking for other ways to get involved in the budget campaign? Follow the EJC on Twitter, like the EJC Facebook page and sign up for action alerts at
Save the Date 
June 8 (today!): Community Legal Aid fundraiser: customers at the Bertucci's in Amherst can show the flyer at right and 15% of the cost of their meal will be donated back to CLA.

June 27 – 28: The National Consumer Law Center hosts Mortgage Servicing Litigation: Moving Forward in a Post-HAMP World. Though foreclosures still persist, the federal government’s flagship loss mitigation programthe Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMPwill soon come to an end. As a result, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau mortgage servicing rules and other laws will take on greater importance. Topics to be covered at this Boston-based conference include litigating legacy cases and learning effective litigation strategies for the future. CLE credits are available. For more information or to register, visit the NCLC website.  

October 19: Massachusetts
Advocates for Children will hold its annual Celebrating Voices gala. MAC will honor Michael Curry, the president of Boston’s NAACP, and spotlight MAC’s long-standing advocacy in Boston as well as the 20th anniversary of the Boston School Reform Project.
Event Recap 
CLSACC Hosts Volunteer Appreciation Event

On April 4, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Event, honoring the contributions of its 119 volunteer professionals. The event, held at Lesley University, also honored Congressman Michael Capuano and his staff members Kate Auspitz and Jose Vaquerano for their human rights and advocacy work on behalf of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. They were presented with the 2016 Dr. Joseph H. Brenner Award, named after CLSACC’s founder.

4th Annual Legal Service Conference: A Success!

On May 2, over 200 members of the Massachusetts legal services community gathered at the 4th Annual Legal Services Conference, hosted by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education. This year's conference focused on legal aid’s use of multiple tactics and strategies to effect change for clients and communities. The day began with a panel of advocates from different arenas describing the multi-pronged response to the SNAP crisis. This was followed by the keynote panel featuring State Senator Jamie Eldridge; Jonathan Miller, Chief of the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau at the Attorney General's Office; and Steve Meacham, community organizer at City Life/Vida Urbana, who addressed the role of legal aid in their respective settings. Attendees participated in afternoon break-out sessions focusing on legislative advocacy, community lawyering, and collaborative approaches to address mass incarceration and its consequences. The day ended with a Year-in-Review panel that highlighted three innovative and collaborative advocacy initiatives: supported decision making in guardianship cases; an effort to address unlawful disciplinary practices at the Peck School in Holyoke; and a campaign against wage theft.

From left:  Valerie Zolezzi-Wyndham (Community Legal Aid), Jacquelynne Bowman (Greater Boston Legal Services), Georgia Katsoulomitis (Massachusetts Law Reform Institute), Jonathan Miller (Office of the Attorney General), State Senator Jamie Eldridge.

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Honors Paul Dacier 

On May 5, MLRI presented its 2016 Catalyst for Change Award to Paul T. Dacier, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Dell/EMC, for his tireless support of civil legal aid and his commitment to a strong, fair and accessible court system. The Honorable Roderick Ireland, retired Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, provided the keynote address. The 2nd annual Catalyst for Change Reception was a great success and exceeded its fundraising goal of $100,000. Pictured, from left: MLRI board president Richard C. Allen, the Honorable Roderick Ireland, and Paul Dacier.
Advocacy & Program Updates
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has released the first annual report of the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission, which is co-chaired by Massachusetts Advocates for Children's Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative Director Susan Cole. The report contains key recommendations on building capacity to allow schools the time and support to create whole school inclusive, safe, supportive cultures that can address the needs of all students. 

CLA's subsidiary, the Central West Justice Center, recently co-created the Food Security Outreach Project. Headed by Attorney Gina Plata-Nino, this project is designed to help more eligible families keep their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. CWJC and the Worcester County Food Bank are working together to provide training to medical providers and to volunteers who can assist applicants for SNAP across the community. Pictured at right is a volunteer helping a client apply for SNAP benefits.

On May 4, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that indigent parents have a constitutional right to counsel in two circumstances: (1) termination/removal of a guardian; and (2) modification to “substantially chang[e]” the terms of visitation, provided that the parent presents a creditable claim for either circumstance. This groundbreaking decision was due to the efforts of a team of attorneys from CLA and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. The team represented low-income mothers who were looking to regain custody of their children after guardianships had been entered by the court. The clients initially represented themselves before the trial court. The case went to the Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that indigent parents are entitled as a matter of due process to an attorney, and to be informed of that right, so long as they substantiate their claim. 

With the support of a Legal Services Corporation Pro Bono Innovaton Fund grant, CLA has joined forces with UMass Memorial Medical Center to create a Medical-Legal Partnership. The project will provide legal services to low-income patients who are receiving care through an innovative new primary care model being implemented at three sites at UMMC. In the past few months, CLA has hosted three trainings on topics including healthy housing, education law, and guardianship of incapacitated persons for attorneys interested in participating in the partnership on a pro bono basis. CLA will hold a training on MassHealth on June 27. Pictured above: Attorney Alina Nir presents at CLA's education law training.

On May 2, The Boston Foundation announced that the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute–as lead of the Mortar Between the Bricks Project: Building a One Stop, Two-Generation Foundation for Child Health–would receive one of its four Health Starts at Home grants. These implementation grants, awarded after a highly competitive review process, are designed to bring housing advocates and health organizations together to address the negative impact that a lack of stable, affordable housing has on children’s health outcomes. The Mortar Between the Bricks project brings together MLRI, Boston Children’s Hospital Primary Care at Martha Eliot Health Center (Roxbury) and Longwood (Boston), and Horizons for Homeless Children as the core partners, with additional partners Lawyers Clearinghouse for Affordable Housing & Homelessness, Jewish Vocational Services, and Action for Boston Community Development, to launch an integrated, family-focused continuum of services and supports. The partners will identify at-risk, housing insecure and homeless patients at the Children's Hospital centers using a new universal housing screen developed and launched during the planning process. Social work staff at the health centers will connect families to a network of interventions to prevent homelessness, stabilize homeless families and help families move out of homelessness. These services include intensive legal services; housing workshops; parenting trainings and supports; early education and childhood development programs; and targeted referrals to other social services based on family needs. Through an integrated, one-stop, cross-referral system, this model intentionally focuses on services to parents and children, based on a two-generation framework informed by an advisory committee that includes parents of low-income patients. 

Pictured, from left: Emily Levine (Horizons for Homeless Children); Elise Gottesman (Boston Children's at Martha Eliot Health Center); John Riordan (Boston Children's Hospital); Georgia Katsoulomitis (Massachusetts Law Reform Institute); Sally Cheeck (Boston Children's Hospital at Longwood); Mariam Maloyan (Boston Children's Hospital)
The National Consumer Law Center recently published several new reports and policy briefs:
· Opportunity Denied: How HUD's Note Sale Program Deprives Homeowners of the Basic Benefits of Their Government-Insured Loans, May 2016
· Minefield of Risks: Taxpayers Face Perils from Unregulated Preparers, Lack of Fee Disclosure, and Tax-Time Financial Products, March 2016
· Snapshots of Struggle: Saving the Family Home after a Death or Divorce, March 2016
· Paper Statements: An Important Consumer Protection, March 2016
· Stop Taking the Earned Income Tax Credit from Struggling Student Loan Borrowers, May 2016
· Past Imperfect: How Credit Scores and Other Analytics "Bake In" and Perpetuate Past Discrimination, May 2016​
In addition to the resources listed above, NCLC regularly hosts webinars on a variety of topics, including measuring the racial wealth gap, discrimination in the manufactured housing industry, and recognizing and remedying elder abuse in Medicaid denials. Recordings of these webinars, as well as a list of upcoming webinars can be found on the NCLC website.  
CLA recently welcomed three new staff members: Emilee Gaebler, a staff attorney in the housing unit who previously served as an AmeriCorps attorney; Marsha Gleason, human resources manager; and Michael Fitzpatrick, part-time advocacy coordinator.

CLSACC welcomes staff accountant Sarah Calkins, clinical social worker Libby Mooers, and housing/disability supervisor Geraldine Gruvis. Lauren Shebairo has been promoted to associate clinical director of the counseling program.

MAC welcomes two new employees: Marissa del Rosario is the new project coordinator for the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI). Marissa has worked for 19 years in urban and rural public school districts. She began her career as an elementary school educator in New Orleans and most recently worked as a school social worker in Austin, Texas. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Political Social Work and is a licensed clinical social worker. Maximo Pimentel is MAC's Young Adult Leaders fellow. He has interned for Boston's Department of Innovation & Technology. He also worked in child care at Acorn Preschool in Boston's Chinatown and currently attends Bunker Hill Community College.
MetroWest Legal Services welcomes two new attorneys: Pablo Carrasco and Jordan Engelhart. Carrasco, a Bart Gordon Fellow, will be doing wage and hour work for low-income wage earners and day laborers in the greater Framingham area. He is a 2014 graduate of American University College of Law. Engelhart, a 2013 Boston College School of Law graduate, will be working on a new Community Enterprise grant through the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, where he will work with small business entrepreneurs who are starting up businesses and receiving loans through a microloan program, SMOC Financial Services, in Framingham. 
Awards & Recognition
Monica Halas, lead attorney in GBLS' Employment Law Unit, was awarded one of two 2016 Solidarity Awards by Justice at Work on April 7.

Jacquelynne Bowman, executive director of GBLS, was awarded the 2016 Public Interest Award by Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys on April 9. 

On April 28, several civil legal aid attorneys were honored with Access to Justice Awards at the Massachusetts Bar Association's annual dinner. MWLS benefits attorney Margaretta Kroeger was selected for the Rising Star Award for her dedication to assisting people in crisis who are trying to access basic life necessities. Valerie Fisk, an immigration attorney at CLSACC, was honored with the Legal Services Award for her outstanding work representing clients in immigration proceedings in more than 25 years as an attorney. South Coastal Counties Legal Services attorney Rick McIntosh was posthumously honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his "unparalleled commitment to ensuring that low-income families had access to quality legal representation" during his 42 years as a legal aid attorney. CLA board member Charles Casartello was honored with the Pro Bono Publico Award for his passion and dedication to pro bono service.  

CLSACC paralegal Karen Bobadilla was recognized for 10 years of service assisting victims and survivors of crime at the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance’s (MOVA) 2016 Victim Rights Conference.

On May 19, the Women’s Bar Association honored Patricia Levesh, managing attorney in GBLS' Family Law Unit, with the 2016 Nery Arrano Pro Bono Award for her long-standing commitment to assisting low-income survivors of domestic violence through the WBA Family Law Project.
Media Highlights
These are just a few highlights of recent media coverage.  For a full list, visit the News section of the MLAC website. 

Our Opinion: MLAC needs funding to do its good work (Berkshire Eagle)
The Berkshire Eagle's Editorial Board voices its strong support for MLAC's FY17 budget request. The newspaper also published a story that highlights the work of CLA in Western Massachusetts, particularly its efforts to protect survivors of domestic violence.  

BHA, HUD providing second chance for local youths (The Bay State Banner)
The Boston Housing Authority and GBLS will co-manage a $100,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help ex-offenders ages 16-24 living in public housing to seal their criminal records.  

Undue process: Poor people lose homes, children and money without a lawyer (Salon)
Dire consequences often await low-income people who face civil legal issues without legal representation. Zoe Cronin, GBLS' Director of Development, describes the complex and tragic calculus that legal services programs–lacking funding and unable to assist the majority of eligible clients–must make in deciding which cases to take and which people they must turn away. 

Widows, divorcees struggle with foreclosure rules, consumer group finds (Boston Globe)
Despite improvements in how lenders and mortgage companies assist homeowners facing foreclosure, many people, especially widows and divorcees, face great difficulty accessing relief that federal guidelines provide to other homeowners, according to a new report from NCLC.

Taking Stock (and Moving On) after School Abuse Claims (New England Public Radio)

New England Public Radio details two recent investigations into school abuse in Western Massachusetts, including insight from the Disability Law Center's Litigation Director, Stan Eichner.

All Generations Benefit from PIE in Schools (Huffington Post)
Partners in Education is a multi-generational program aimed at getting grandparents involved in providing academic support to their grandchildren. The program is being piloted at an elementary/middle school in Baltimore in partnership with the Center for Law and Education and Grandfamilies PST.
People Pages
CLICK HERE to print "People Pages," an alphabetical directory of Massachusetts Legal Services staff members and their contact information.  (Note: You must log in to to access this list.)  You can also look up staff individually by last name using the search function on
Copyright © 2016 Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, All rights reserved.

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