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News from the Massachusetts legal aid community.
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Volume 11, Issue 1
News in this issue...
MLAC
Equal Justice Coalition
Save the Date
Advocacy & Program Updates
Event Recap
People
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 May 2017.

Visit our website to read previous issues. 
MLAC
Statewide convening on meeting the needs of low-income people in Massachusetts

Last fall 
MLAC and the regional legal aid programs hosted a series of convenings around the state. These meetings were an initial step in an ongoing dialog between legal aid and its community partners with the goal of addressing the causes and ameliorating the effects of poverty through high-quality, strategically focused legal assistance. On Monday, March 6, the statewide legal services programs will host a joint convening, entitled Collaborative Problem Solving During Challenging Times: Tackling Priorities & Emerging Needs of Low-Income People. 

MLAC welcomes new staff members

MLAC recently welcomed three new staff members: Michael Raabe, Director of Data and Policy Analysis, who was formerly Associate Director at Northeast Legal Aid; Tonysha Taylor, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, who occupies  the role formerly held by Joyce Allen-Beckford, who retired in June; and IT Support Specialist Dennis Fleury, who takes over the position held by Jacqueline Sullivan, who was based at South Coastal Counties Legal Services.

16th Annual Constituent Services Briefing

The Constituent Services Briefing was held on Tuesday, February 14 at the State House. Our thanks to the programs who joined us: Community Legal Aid, Northeast Legal Aid, South Coastal Counties Legal Services and their subsidiaries; as well as the Children's Law Center of Massachusetts, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, the Disability Law Center, Greater Boston Legal Services, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and MetroWest Legal Services. Special thanks to our presenters Rochelle Hahn (MLRI), Steve Matthews (MWLS), Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies (CLA), Patricia Levesh (GBLS), Ashley Francisque (SCCLS - Justice Center), and Deirdre Giblin (CLSACC).
Equal Justice Coalition
Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid sees near-record attendance
 
On January 26, over 700 attorneys and advocates attended the 18th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid in support of MLAC's request for a $5 million increase in funding for civil legal aid in FY18.  During the event, attendees heard from speakers including Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court, Boston Bar Association President Carol Starkey, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Jeff Catalano. Also speaking was Bill, a legal aid client from Boston, who shared how an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services helped get his health insurance reinstated after a data-matching error caused him to lose coverage at a critical point in his treatment for Hepatitis C. Thanks to legal aid, Bill was able to continue treatment and was recently given a clean bill of health. In the days leading up to the Walk, the Equal Justice Coalition brought back its "I Walk for Justice" social media campaign. Attorneys and other civil legal aid supporters—including Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley—shared their reasons for supporting civil legal aid and attending Walk to the Hill.  See more photos from the campaign and Walk to the Hill on Twitter.

Know someone with a compelling legal aid story to share?

This year, we're continuing our #LegalAidChangesLives project, sharing stories. If you know someone
a colleague or a clientwho has an inspiring story to tell about the importance of civil legal aid, please contact Catherine Rizos at crizos@mlac.org.

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 www.equaljusticecoalition.org
Save the Date 
March 2: MetroWest Legal Services Pro Bono Open House 
5:30-7:30 pm, Fountain Street Fine Art Gallery, 59 Fountain Street, Framingham

March 14: MWLS Training on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
4-6 pm, South Middlesex Opportunity Council, 7 Bishop Street, Framingham

March 27-28: NCLC Fair Debt Collections Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Courses are available at the introductory and advanced levels. Contact SarahEmily Lekberg at slekberg@nclc.org with any questions. 

March 22-28: Prisoners' Legal Services will host several performances of Mariposa and the Saint, a play about the impact of solitary confinement. Performance locations include Boston College, the Massachusetts State House, and Boston City Hall. For more information visit the PLS website or Facebook event.

June 5: MWLS 20th Annual Nancy King Memorial Golf Tournament at the Framingham Country Club. Stay tuned for more information.
Advocacy & Program Updates
Immigration Policy Update from Mass Law Reform Institute

Executive Orders Signed and Implemented or Stopped:
President Trump issued three Executive Orders in January 2017 that specifically change federal immigration policy. The first signed “Interior Enforcement” order affects the priorities that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are required to follow in removing people from the U.S. under existing laws enacted by Congress. The second signed “Border Enforcement” order affects immigrant detention and “border wall” construction. Both orders also address the relationship between the federal government and state and local governments, among other issues, and a lawsuit has since been filed by the cities of Chelsea and Lawrence to challenge the so-called “sanctuary cities” penalty that one order proposes. Two U.S. Department of Homeland Security memoranda issued on February 20 implement the Interior and Border enforcement orders; the memoranda combined are expected to significantly increase the number and types of immigrants detained in and/or subjected to removal (deportation) from the U.S.  A third signed order originally restricted admission to the U.S. for certain nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations as well as for refugees generally, but this order was enjoined as the result of litigation pending in the Ninth Circuit as well as various federal courts throughout the U.S., including Massachusetts; lawyers for the Trump Administration in the Ninth Circuit case have recently represented that a new Executive Order would be issued, reports of which have been described in the media
 
Leaked Order Not in Effect:  Three draft orders that have not been signed have been published in the media and are causing alarm among immigrants and community organizations that help them. These drafts address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (“DACA”), immigrant access to safety net programs, and the immigrant visa process. It is important to note that these leaked drafts may not be signed at all or could be revised if ultimately signed in some form in the future. Immigration legal services advocates are planning a client information session in March to address questions about how the receipt of safety net benefits may or may not affect the status of certain categories of immigrants. Please contact MLRI at ImmigrantBenefitsProgram@mlri.org, for information about how to register low-income immigrant clients for this event. 
 
For ongoing information about immigration-related policy changes as they are announced, visit http://www.masslegalhelp.org/immigration.
 
Community Legal Aid staff attorney Dan Bahls got a favorable Rule 1:28 decision from the Appeals Court in FNMA v. Quill, in which he represented a post-foreclosure tenant who appeared pro se in his eviction case in the Western Housing Court and won possession and $6,600 in damages for Fannie Mae’s breach of the warranty of habitability and interference with quiet enjoyment. When Fannie Mae appealed, CLA represented Mr. Quill to preserve his win. The Appeals Court’s decision upheld the Housing Court judge’s findings that Mr. Quill client was a bona fide tenant under G.L. c. 186A and thus was entitled to certain notice protections, and also upheld the damages claims that were based on water and electricity shut-offs that the tenant had endured.

Several attorneys at CLA’s subsidiary Central West Justice Center successfully settled a case while it was pending in the Appeals Court. CWJC represented a client who sought help after losing an administrative hearing before the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) on the termination of her child care subsidy. In addition to terminating her subsidy, EEC had assessed an overpayment of nearly $20,000 and barred the client from participation in the program for three years. After investigation, CWJC believed that the termination was incorrect and that EEC had acted without legal authority in assessing the overpayment and imposing the participation bar.  After unsuccessful efforts to overturn the agency decision in Superior Court, an appeal was filed. EEC then agreed that there was no overpayment of child care benefits and that the client would not be barred from participation in the program, and the appeal was dismissed. We hope that this case, combined with ongoing efforts by other programs, will help to bring some improvements in agency practices. 

GBLS and clients the Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) and Jae Beal reached an agreement with Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) in late 2016 concerning care and services for patients and visitors with visual impairments. BSCB and MEEI announced the launch of a comprehensive initiative to ensure that persons with visual impairments have full and equal opportunity to the best possible care.
The five-year initiative includes:
  • Providing improved patient and visitor forms, documents, publications, and materials in alternative formats;
  • Developing and implementing annual training for staff on disability awareness;
  • Developing and implementing policies on communications, auxiliary aids and services, service animals, patient data, and use of personal adaptive equipment; and
  • Adopting a website accessibility policy.
GBLS co-counseled this case with Lainey Feingold, a leading disability rights lawyer from California who is one of the founders of the Structured Negotiations (SN) movement. GBLS attorney Alexa Rosenbloom took the lead role in bringing the negotiations, which lasted almost three years, to a successful conclusion. Dan Manning, GBLS’ Litigation Director, and attorney Feingold provided support.

MetroWest Legal Services is hiring a long-term temporary attorney to work on immigration matters. Learn more on the MWLS website; apply by March 3.   

Mass Legal Answers Update
 
In November, the Massachusetts Legal Aid Websites Project, a statewide project funded by MLAC, launched a new resource for low-income people who need help with civil legal problems: Mass Legal Answers Online (MLAO) at www.masslao.org.  

Low-income Massachusetts residents can create an account on the secure website, then log in and post their legal questions. Volunteer lawyers answer the questions through the same website. Both clients and lawyers can access the site from anywhere they have internet access, including smart phones. Since its launch just three months ago, over 425 clients have created accounts on the site, and panel attorneys have answered over 280 questions.  
 
MLAO is part of the national Free Legal Answers project sponsored by the American Bar Association, and is being managed by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute with the assistance from the Volunteer Lawyers Project. Thank you to MLAC, the Boston Bar Foundation and the Massachusetts Bar Association for supporting MLAO!

Free Resources from NCLC
 
Legal Analysis & Updated Model State Law
Consumer Advisory
Event Recap
Celebrating 65 years of Legal Aid in Worcester County

Community Legal Aid celebrated 65 years of civil legal aid in Worcester County at Tuckerman Hall in Worcester this past October. Guest host Congressman Jim McGovern spoke about the vital need for civil legal aid. He noted that many more residents of the region would face terrible injustices without the services CLA provides. During the event, a slideshow and exhibits showed some of the history of Community Legal Aid, the result of the merger of several forerunner organizations, including the Legal Aid Society of Worcester and Central Massachusetts Legal Services. John Shea, president of CLA’s Board of Directors, presented awards to the United Way of Central Massachusetts, represented by Tim Garvin, as well as to private attorneys Robert Lian and Robert Seder. The awards celebrated the honorees' decades of service to Worcester residents through support for legal aid. Over $11,000 was raised that night through ticket sales, sponsorships, raffle and auction items. The evening was capped by music by The Annulments, a local group of central Mass. attorneys and judges, featuring singer Arose Nielsen, a former legal aid lawyer in Worcester and current CLA board member.
 
From left, CLA staff members Anita Conte, Leighann Agyemang, Jena Gutierrez, Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Valerie Zolezzi-Wyndham  with Kate Eshghi, General Counsel at UMass Memorial Health Care.

CLA and UMass Memorial Health Care Medical-Legal Partnership

On December 2, Community Legal Aid and UMass Memorial Health Care celebrated the first anniversary of their medical-legal partnership. Funded by a $200,000 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant from the Legal Services Corporation, the program has trained and supported over 50 private lawyers this past year to help clients dealing with housing, employment, public benefits, guardianship and education issues.
 
Eric Dickson, CEO UMass Memorial (left) with CLA Executive Director Jonathan Mannina
People
Joanna K. Darcus recently began work at NCLC as a two-year MLAC Racial Justice Fellow. Joanna represents low-income student loan borrowers of color, using advocacy and litigation to address predatory education and lending practices. Prior to joining NCLC, Joanna was a supervising attorney at Community Legal Services, Inc. of Philadelphia.


Dana Doyle joined Community Legal Aid's Pittsfield office as a family law attorney. Dana worked for Western Mass. Legal Services for four years after law school and returns to legal services after having spent the last 15 years in private practice. Donna Morelli, formerly CLA’s family law attorney in Pittsfield, has taken a new job at the Central West Justice Center doing humanitarian immigration law. Unique Rodriguez, CLA's new receptionist in Springfield, is a fluent Spanish speaker and has experience as an administrative assistant and in the hospitality industry. Alyssa Golden, who was hired as the fair housing testing coordinator for CLA’s Worcester office, has worked at the Committee for Public Counsel Services and has done outreach, training and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Rebecca Lopez, who joined CLA as our new elder law staff attorney in Springfield, spent the last few years at the Mass. Fair Housing Center and worked at the Tenancy Preservation Program in Springfield before that. Daniel Margolis is CLA’s new Development Associate. Daniel, a Worcester native, has worked in Boston and New York in both program and development capacities, and also was a  writer and editor for the Oxford University Press. Nicole Cardamone, a recent graduate of Boston College Law School, has joined CLA as our new education attorney in Worcester.

Alex Bonazoli joins the Central West Justice Center as an immigration attorney in Worcester. Alex was an AmeriCorps member for the last few years, focusing on humanitarian immigration law. Susan Garcia Nofi joined the CWJC in Springfield as an employment staff attorney. Susan worked for 7 years as an attorney and appeals referee on unemployment matters at the Connecticut Labor Department; she also worked in various capacities at New Haven Legal Assistance for about 13 years, including as a staff attorney, deputy director, and executive director. Diona Vakili was hired for CWJC’s removal defense position and will be based in Worcester; Diona has immigration experience from internships and clinical work at Boston University Law School, and through a post-graduate fellowship at BU Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. Catherine Ady-Bell is our new benefits attorney in Springfield, after serving as an AmeriCorps member for the last two years. Melissa Pomfred has left the CWJC to start her own firm in Franklin, Mass. During her nine years of work with us, Melissa has been a strong and passionate advocate for her clients in unemployment, wage & hour, and discrimination cases.

Northeast Legal Aid welcomes new elder law attorney Eleanor Cashmore, who will be joining the staff in early March. Associate Director Michael Raabe departed NLA in December to take a new position at MLAC. Accounting Specialist Ruthanne Switzer left NLA after 15 years of services to take a new position at a local non-profit. NLA thanks Ruthanne and Michael for their dedicated service and wishes them both well in their new endeavors.
Awards & Recognition
GBLS Lead Attorney Monica Halas and GBLS Board member and Chelsea Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega will be honored as dynamic women leaders by the Chinese Progressive Association on March 8 at its celebration of International Women's Day
Media Highlights
These are just a few highlights of recent media coverage.  For a full list, visit the News section of the MLAC website. 

Hundreds of veterans in need to benefit from $350,000 in funding from Attorney General Maura Healey (Springfield Republican) 
Community Legal Aid is among four recipients of funding from the Attorney General's Office directed at providing services to veterans. CLA will use its grant to hire an attorney to conduct trainings for veterans and to mentor private attorneys.

Massachusetts legal aid groups see uptick in calls since Donald Trump's election (Springfield Republican)
The Springfield Republican highlights the 18th Annual Walk to the Hill, emphasizing how potential cuts to federal funding for safety net programs will affect low-income people served by legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

After 40 years, MetroWest Legal Services still works for justice (Boston Globe)
The Globe highlights the work of MWLS, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, with this interview of the organization's executive director, Betsy Soule.

Sustained ICE Presense Creating Atmosphere of Fear in Framingham (Framingham Source)
Katie Condon Grace, a medical-legal partnership attorney at MWLS, comments on the need to provide community members with information on their rights as new immigration policies implemented at the federal level cause confusion and fear locally.

Advocates: Mass. unlawfully isolates mentally ill inmates (Boston Globe)

An investigation by Prisoners' Legal Services found that the state is unlawfully placing male prisoners with severe mental illness in solitary confinement, despite agreeing to end the practice.
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 MassLegalServices.org to access this list.)  You can also look up staff individually by last name using the search function on MassLegalServices.org.
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