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News from the Massachusetts legal aid community.
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Volume 11, Issue 4
News in this issue...
MLAC
Equal Justice Coalition
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 February 2018.

Visit our website to read previous issues. 
MLAC
MLAC Executive Director Lonnie Powers to Retire

Lonnie Powers, who has led the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation since its founding, has announced that he will retire in August 2018. 

“I am honored to have served as MLAC’s founding executive director,” said Powers. “I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the board and staff of MLAC and our many partners and supporters in the private bar, the judiciary, the legislature, and our programs to increase access to civil legal aid in the Commonwealth. Together, we have established a vibrant network of legal aid providers that works ceaselessly to serve our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

The MLAC Board of Directors has appointed a transition committee that will conduct a national search for Powers’ successor. Read the full announcement here.
Equal Justice Coalition
Join Us at Walk to the Hill 2018

The 19th Annual Walk to the Hill will be held Thursday, January 25, 2018 at the State House, where our supporters will advocate for a $5 million increase in civil legal aid funding in the State's FY19 budget. We look forward to seeing you in January! To learn more about this year's budget campaign, download our fact sheet.

Know someone with a compelling legal aid story to share?

The Equal Justice Coalition is continuing the project it began last year to show how legal aid can change the lives of low-income people across Massachusetts. Online and through social media, #LegalAidChangesLives highlights the stories of legal aid clients, attorneys, and community members to educate the public about the importance of legal aid, support the EJC’s budget campaign, and demonstrate the many ways civil legal aid can help vulnerable people. If you or someone you know has a story to share, please contact Catherine Rizos at crizos@mlac.org.
Advocacy & Program Updates
The Center for Public Representation recently won $85,000 in the inaugural "Arc Tank" competition, modeled on the entrepreneurship-focused TV show Shark Tank. Arc Tank was sponsored by Northeast Arc, an organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities become full participants in the community. CPR's winning proposal focuses on supported decision making as an alternative to guardianship.

The Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund, a public-private partnership and funding collaborative spearheaded by the City of Boston, was launched in September to “strengthen the Greater Boston area's capacity to protect and defend its many immigrant communities, refugees, and temporary status holders by increasing education and access to legal services.”  Five legal services programs will receive funds through this grant: Greater Boston Legal Services, MetroWest Legal Services, Northeast Legal Aid, the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project and South Coastal Counties Legal Services. GBLS Executive Director Jacquelynne Bowman was quoted in the City's press release announcing the grants, saying, “Immigrants are vital members of our society. Unfortunately, changes in federal policy have forced many to fear going about their daily life activities. This grant will enable GBLS to work with community-based organizations and provide needed legal support to change this dynamic.” 

A two-year, $8 million grant from the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance will provide free civil legal services to crime victims across Massachusetts. Working in partnership with Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, MLAC will disburse funds to regional and statewide civil legal aid programs to increase capacity to serve individual clients at the local level. Children's Law Center of Massachusetts, Community Legal Aid, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, Disability Law Center, Greater Boston Legal Services, MetroWest Legal Services, National Consumer Law Center, Northeast Legal Aid, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, Victim Rights Law Center, and the Volunteer Lawyers Project will receive funds as part of this grant. This funding will increase access to critical services for victims of child abuse, sexual assault, elder abuse, domestic violence survivors, and victims of non-violent crimes like fraud, financial abuse, and theft.

The Volunteer Lawyers Project recently won an important victory for a young mother and abuse survivor. Ms. Pipkin was a 24-year-old mother of two when she decided to file a restraining order against her abusive husband, triggering his removal from her home and then eviction proceedings that claimed that she was an unauthorized tenant in her federally subsidized home. In order to control her, Ms. Pipkin’s husband had refused to put her on the lease for years. Ms. Pipkin received assistance from VLP attorney Milton Wong at the Housing Lawyer for the Day Program. Wong assisted with filing a motion to intervene in order to give Ms. Pipkin the right to act as party in the case, filing an appeal when the motion was denied. Wong worked with David Emer and Alison Holdway, attorneys at Nutter McClennen & Fish, who were volunteering at a newly established appeals clinic, to represent Ms. Pipkin at the appellate level. They lost the appeal, and immediately applied for further appellate review at the Supreme Judicial Court. They argued that Ms. Pipkin was entitled to the right to intervene under the Violence Against Women Act because her failure to have her name on the lease was due to her husband’s abuse, and won the case. With VLP’s assistance, Ms. Pipkin and her children have been able to stay in their home. The team played a significant role in shaping protections for domestic violence survivors attempting to leave their abusers and looking to rebuild their lives.
 
In another VLP success story, Daphne, a single mother, was facing eviction after her daughter's father stopped paying his court-ordered child support. Thanks to the Attorney for the Day Project at Boston Housing Court, sponsored by VLP and the Boston Bar Association, Daphne and her children were able to fight the eviction and stay in their home. Unfortunately, soon after, her daughter’s father filed for sole physical custody to avoid paying child support. After 18 years of living with her mom, Daphne’s daughter, who has developmental delays, regressed when she was ripped away from her routine and the only life she knew. Daphne reached out to VLP for help because she knew she would be treated with dignity and respect. With VLP’s assistance, Daphne was granted guardianship of her daughter and was able to keep her family together. 

Attorney General Maura Healey recently hosted an outreach summit focused on expanding partnerships to address economic and civil rights challenges. The summit highlighted a partnership between the Attorney General's office and VLP to host free legal clinics for victims of wage theft and unrepresented parties in debt collection cases. At the event, Healey announced a $300,000 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant from the Legal Services Corporation to VLP to expand these clinics.  Read more about the summit and the grant here.
Event Recap
MAC Celebrating Voices

Massachusetts Advocates for Children held its annual Celebrating Voices gala on October 24. The event brought together over 350 parents, attorneys, legislators, and disability advocates and spotlighted MAC’s longstanding advocacy for children and young adults with disabilities in Massachusetts. The Honorable Alice Wolf, a legislative and policy champion for children, and Oswald “Oz” Mondejar, visionary leader in workforce inclusion, were honored for their dedication to being a voice for children and embodying MAC’s mission and values. View more info, photos, and videos of the event on MAC's website.
 

From left: The Honorable Alice Wolf, MAC Executive Director Jerry Mogul, civil rights activist, veteran, and philanthropist Marvin Gilmore, and Oswald “Oz” Mondejar. Photo by Tony Irving.

MetroWest Legal Services Hosts Open House Friend-Raiser
 

On November 2, MetroWest Legal Services held an Open House Friend-Raiser. MWLS donors Lynn and Glenn Migliozzi (pictured above, right with MWLS Executive Director Betsy Soule and staff attorney Elizabeth Firestone) opened up their home to 25 individuals interested in learning more about MWLS. Attendees have already reached out to MWLS about ways to support the organization's work.
People
Community Legal Aid and the Central West Justice Center are pleased to welcome six attorneys to work on the Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime (CLAVC) statewide project funded by the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance with a grant from the federal Victims of Crime Act. The CLAVC attorneys—Franci Gazzaniga, Esther Darko, Jaki Fishkin, Julie Dick, Victoria Baratian, and supervisor Catherine Kay (pictured below)—are based throughout CLA's five-county service area and are assisting victims with a multitude of civil legal issues.
 

CLA bids a fond farewell to Valerie Zolezzi-Wyndham, managing attorney of the Worcester office. Valerie, who spearheaded CLA's medical-legal partnership and fostered relationships with a host of human service partner agencies, will be opening a consulting business for non-profit organizations.

Brian Reichart has joined the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and will work on the Mass Legal Services and Mass Legal Answers Online websites. Brian recently completed a fellowship as a clinical instructor at the Community Justice Project at Georgetown Law.

Massachusetts Advocates for Children welcomes Stephanie Molina as its Bart Gordon Fellow. Stephanie is a graduate of Boston College Law School and Boston University. In a partnership with Justice Resource Institute, she will provide case advocacy for Roxbury-area clients in school discipline and special education matters and conduct related training to JRI staff and Latino parents and caregivers.

Ernesto Berkowitz Groennou is the new Bart Gordon Fellow at the Children's Law Center of Massachusetts, and will be working on education cases. Ernesto is a graduate of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico School of Law, and also holds a Master's degree in clinical psychology. 

Kim Janey, Senior Project Director of MAC's Boston School Reform project, was elected to the Boston City Council on Nov. 7. She will be sworn in in January. In other election news, Northeast Legal Aid attorney Sumbul Siddiqui was elected to the Cambridge City Council.

The Northeast Justice Center's Lawrence office recently welcomed attorney Louisa Gibbs, who will be handling housing impact litigation matters, and attorney Daniel Ruben, who will assist victims of crime. 

MetroWest Legal Services recently welcomed four new employees. Mary Kiely, the new finance manager, started in October. Mary was previously the chief operating officer for Danforth Art Museum/School. She also worked at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston. She has an MA from New York University and a BA from Boston College. Ileana Matamoros started in early November as intake supervisor. Ileana is an anthropologist who has worked in the Metro West region for the past decade, mostly in the health care field. Ileana speaks Spanish and Portuguese. MWLS also welcomed two members of the AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts program: Joseph Sherman is a 2016 graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he was Online Content Editor of the Kentucky Law Journal. He will be representing elders with a variety of legal issues, including housing, benefits, and MassHealth. Colleen Ward recently graduated from Boston College with a degree in Political Science. She will be working in MWLS' Private Bar Involvement Unit, focusing on family law, bankruptcy, and wills.

The Volunteer Lawyers Project recently welcomed several new team members: legal advocate Christopher Neighbors, bilingual administrative assistant Rosa Ortiz, legal advocate Ashley Shen, and Bankruptcy and Consumer Paralegal Julia Villaruel. Also joining VLP in a temporary capacity were two students: legal intern Areli Bustamante and administrative assistant Melissa Scholem Heller.
Awards & Recognition
Claudia Quintero, the Central West Justice Center's new migrant farmworker advocate, was recently honored by the Supreme Judicial Court as this year’s law student recipient of the Adams Pro Bono Publico Award. Claudia was recognized for her access to justice activities while she was a law student at Western New England University School of Law.

Longtime Northeast Justice Center attorney John J. Ford, who has been a leader in elder law for over 40 years, was recently awarded the inaugural John J. Ford Service Award. The award, named in Ford's honor, is given in recognition of “professional excellence and service to the legal care needs of the greater Lynn community,” and was presented at the Greater Lynn Bar Association dinner on October 26.
Media Highlights
These are just a few highlights of recent media coverage. For a full list, visit the News section of the MLAC website. 

Schools face challenges accommodating students with disabilities from Puerto Rico (Springfield Republican)
With Massachusetts seeing an influx of people displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, legal services programs are responding. Here, the Springfield Republican highlights the work of Massachusetts Advocates for Children to ensure that newly arrived students can access the specialized educational services they need.

Nationwide Class Action Challenges Hulu’s Discrimination against Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals (Disability Rights Advocates)
A coalition of advocacy groups, including the Disability Law Center, filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Hulu for its continued exclusion of the blind and visually impaired. In addition to its failure to provide audio description for any of its streaming videos, Hulu's website is not accessible individuals using screen readers, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund Launched: $1.1 million available (Mass Nonprofit News) In September, the City of Boston launched the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund, bringing foundations and nonprofit organizations together on an initiative to provide legal services to immigrants facing deportation. Grants have since been made to ten legal services and community organizations.

UMass, legal aid group land $195k for medical-legal partnership (Worcester Business Journal)
Community Legal Aid has been awarded a two-year grant from the Legal Services Corporation to continue a medical-legal partnership with UMass Memorial Health Care. The partnership, started in 2015, has already assisted 200 low-income patients with legal issues related to housing, financial security, and education.

Group sues Lowell, Ayer district courts over debt-collection procedures (Lowell Sun)
Northeast Legal Aid recently filed suit against Lowell District Court and other district courts to prevent exempt income and benefits from being included in debt-collection orders.
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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