News from the Massachusetts legal aid community.
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Volume 12, Issue 2
News in this issue...
Equal Justice Coalition
Advocacy & Program Updates
Save the Date
Event Recap
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 2018.

Visit our website to read previous issues. 
Please join us for MLAC's 35th Anniversary Gala

Please join us on Monday, June 18th as we celebrate our 35th anniversary. Our speakers will be the four living chief justices of the Supreme Judicial Court: Ralph Gants, Roderick Ireland, Margaret Marshall, and Herbert Wilkins. Along with Lonnie Powers, MLAC's founding executive director, we will honor 35-year employees of Massachusetts civil legal aid programs. Legal services staff, law students, and client board members attend free of charge. We ask that guests eligible for free tickets register for the event, as that will help us estimate attendance. 
June 18 | 5:30-7:30 
Morgan Lewis | 1 Federal Street| Boston
MLAC welcomes new board member

MLAC welcomes Alma Woodberry of Brockton as its newest board member. Woodberry, who was recently appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court, is also a community representative on the board of directors of Greater Boston Legal Services. MLAC extends its thanks to outgoing board member Salea Perry for her many years of service to the legal aid community.  
Equal Justice Coalition
State budget heads to Conference Committee

On May 25, the state Senate passed its FY19 budget, including $21 million for civil legal aid 
– a $3 million increase over FY18. This increase is slightly higher than the $20.79 million included in the final House budget. We will need continued advocacy to maintain the Senate's increase as the budget moves to Conference Committee, so please stay tuned for action alerts on our website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

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
Advocacy & Program Updates
Family Cap Repeal in Massachusetts is on the Horizon
This spring the House and senate budgets included provisions eliminating the welfare family cap – the rule that denies a child welfare benefits if the child was conceived while the family was receiving welfare. Deborah Harris of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Naomi Meyer of Greater Boston Legal Services organized and led the repeal campaign. The Lift the Caps on Kids coalition consists of 119 organizations, including a number of legal services organizations, reproductive justice groups, Catholic Charities, and many others. Thanks to campaign members’ vigorous advocacy, 87 House members signed a letter to the Speaker supporting the family cap repeal. The campaign also organized a number of events at the State House to bring attention to the issue and engage legislators. For one such event – Diaper Day – campaign members collected 9,000 diapers to highlight the struggle parents face when they can’t afford enough clean diapers for their child. The House provision repeals the family cap effective July 1, 2019. The Senate provision repeals the family cap effective January 1, 2019. The Conference Committee on the budget will resolve the differences.
Photo: MLRI’s Deborah Harris and GBLS’ Naomi Meyer are interviewed about the Lift the Cap campaign on Boston Neighborhood News.
MLRI Releases Report on School Meal Debt and Meal Shaming

A new study released by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute in March finds that the policies of many Massachusetts school districts related to unpaid school meal debt can be punitive towards children in low-income households. Over a six-month period, MLRI conducted an inventory of meal policies in 154 Massachusetts public school districts that do not provide universal free school meals. The report, “Denying Food and Shaming Children: Unpaid School Meal Policies in Massachusetts,” garnered significant local and national media attention, and it resulted in bills sponsored by Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Andres Vargas to end “lunch shaming” in our public schools. On May 22, the Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously to require school districts to publish their policies on school meal debt, an important first step to end meal shaming in schools. 

Photo:  MLRI’s Pat Baker testified before the Joint Committee on Education in support of bills to end school "lunch shaming" practices

Governor signs landmark criminal justice reform bill

In April, after years of work from a broad coalition of groups including Greater Boston Legal Services' CORI and Re-entry Project, Governor Baker signed landmark criminal justice reform legislation. This legislation cuts waiting periods to seal records, makes resisting arrest convictions (which previously gave people lifetime CORI) sealable, creates housing and trade licensing anti-discrimination protections, permits juveniles and adults to expunge records, decriminalizes poverty by permitting more waivers of fees defendants cannot afford, and makes many other improvements. The new law will be life changing for countless people and help them get back to work, obtain housing and access other opportunities.

MetroWest Legal Services Annual Report

MetroWest Legal Services recently released its FY2017 Annual Report, which features a client success story and highlights of MWLS' recent accomplishments, including its 40th anniversary celebration.  

MAC Advocacy Updates

Massachusetts Advocates for Children is proud to have played a leading role in advocating for increased maximum allowable rates used to reimburse independent educational evaluations for students with disabilities, giving low-income families in Massachusetts who have children with disabilities one less barrier in securing the supports and services their children may need to succeed in school. Read more and view testimony provided by MAC Senior Project Director Julia Landau on MAC's website.

On April 12, Massachusetts Advocates for Children Staff Attorneys Liza Hirsch and Stephanie Molina spoke at a panel on the school-to-prison pipeline, hosted by the Boston University School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health. Read more about the event and learn how MAC’s school discipline project is keeping children in school and learning on the MAC website.

Attorney General Healey leads call for Legal Services Corporation funding

Attorney General Maura Healey is leading a national, bi-partisan effort by 39 state attorneys general to protect funding for the federal Legal Services Corporation. Said Healey, “The state attorneys general know that legal services help our veterans access healthcare, protect survivors of domestic violence, support communities recovering from natural disasters and keep seniors in their homes.” Learn more about this important effort on the attorney general's website.
Event Recap
2018 Legal Services Conference – a Success!
On May 4, over 200 people attended the 6th annual Massachusetts Legal Services Conference, sponsored by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE). This year’s conference focused on the overlap and intersection of civil legal services and criminal justice and for the first time brought together indigent defense counsel with advocates from a large number of civil legal aid programs around the state. Professor Phillipe Copeland of the Boston University School of Social Work delivered a compelling presentation on the trauma of poverty, followed by keynote speaker Seymour W. James, Jr., Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society in New York City, who focused on ways that civil legal aid and criminal justice professionals can work together to serve clients. A series of interesting and informative breakout sessions were held in the afternoon. The conference co-chairs extend their thanks to all faculty and attendees, with special thanks to MCLE for hosting again!
Above: 2018 Legal Services Conference co-chairs Jacquelynne Bowman of Greater Boston Legal Services, Shira Diner of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and Georgia Katsoulomitis of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

Speak Up: How to Work for Change in Your Community
The Central West Justice Center (CWJC) partnered with the Worcester County Food Bank to offer advocacy workshops throughout Worcester County. The goal of the workshops was to inform and empower community partners to advocate to protect the safety net, more specifically, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). During the two-hour workshops, attendees had the opportunity to hear from state representatives and community advocates about the most effective methods to advocate for a cause. State Representatives Natalie Higgins, Brian Murray, Dan Donahue, Hannah Kane, and Harold Naughton each attended a workshop. The attendees left knowing about advocacy and its importance, how to contact local and state representatives, how to write letters to the editor, how to develop a message, and the power of storytelling in advocating for change.
Above: Rep. Dan Donohue (center) with advocates during one of the advocacy workshops. 

Voices of Hunger on Campus: Meaningful Change Together
On May 11, the CWJC participated in the annual Voices of Hunger on Campus Conference. The conference brings together campus staff, faculty, and community partners from across the region to share and highlight the work being done on campuses to alleviate food insecurity among college students and to provide tools and resources and identify opportunities to collaborate in the work. The staff at CWJC was part of the planning steering committee and also led workshops and facilitated table discussions.  
During the conference, Carlos Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner for Higher Education, introduced the “sobering” results of a first-of-its-kind survey that found widespread hunger and homelessness among the state’s public college students. According to the Wisconsin HOPE Lab survey, 44 percent of community college students and 33 percent of state university students said they were dealing with hunger issues, and 49 percent of the former and 32 of the latter reported having housing insecurity. The survey also found that 13 percent of participating community college students and 10 percent of state university students were struggling with homelessness. CWJC is committed to being a resource for local colleges and universities in their effort to stop hunger on campus.

Free Online Resources from the National Consumer Law Center

Webinars: View recordings of recent webinars from NCLC, including the most recent, "Ensuring that People Are Not Jailed Due to Poverty: Reforming Policies and Representing Clients in Criminal Justice Debt Ability to Pay Proceedings."

Legal Analysis - Digital Library Articles Reports Issue Briefs
Save the Date
June 4 - MetroWest Legal Services hosts its annual Nancy King Memorial Golf Tournament. This year, the tournament will be held at a new location, Charter Oaks Country Club in Hudson. After the golf tournament, MWLS will host a dinner honoring Senator Karen Spilka, who will receive the Nancy King Award. Learn more and register on the MWLS website.

June 14-15 - Save the date for the National Consumer Law Center's Summer Mortgage Conference: In the Eye of the Storm: Saving Homes Between the Last Foreclosure Crisis and the Next One, which will take place in Indianapolis. A new Reverse Mortgage Intensive has been added on June 13! 

June 21: Ten New Bedford-area artists are hosting an art show celebrating access to justice for all, to benefit South Coastal Counties Legal Services. The event will take place from 4-7 pm on Thursday, June 21 at the Temple Landing complex on Ash Street in New Bedford. Tickets are only $20. Contact SCCLS for more information. 
June 22: The Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee and the Social Law Library host a full-day seminar on employment discrimination claims for clients with mental health challenges. Learn more on the Social Law Library website

October 25-28: The National Consumer Law Center's Consumer Rights Litigation Conference will be held in Denver. With a full schedule of 66 sessions (more than ever before!), the conference also includes unique sessions pertaining to natural disasters and consumers, criminal justice, and immigrant issues. 

October 30: Save the Date for Massachusetts Advocates for Children’s annual Celebrating Voices event! This year’s event will spotlight MAC’s legal advocacy in collaboration with the legal community for children’s educational rights in Massachusetts. The Honorable Julian T. Houston, Retired Justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, will be the keynote speaker. The event will take place from 5:30-7:30 pm at Harvard Law School's Wasserstein Hall. Visit for more information and to sponsor.
South Coastal Counties Legal Services attorney Thomas Kosman recently retired after 36 years of work on behalf of low-income and elder clients. Kosman, who worked in SCCLS' Hyannis office, was honored by the Massachusetts Bar Association in 2010 with its Access to Justice Award in recognition of his dedication to civil legal aid. When asked about his motivation for a lifetime career at SCCLS, Kosman noted that, "Growing up poor and watching my mother try to cope as a single mother impressed upon me the anxiety of poverty—living with the knowledge that one simple stroke of bad luck—a car repair, an illness—can send your whole life spiraling out of control. In legal services, we are fortunate to be in a position to try and alleviate that anxiety for our clients, and to offer them hope."
Awards & Recognition
At the 2018 Massachusetts Bar Association Annual Dinner, two legal services attorneys were honored for their work on behalf of low-income people: Massachusetts Law Reform Institute housing attorney Annette Duke (pictured, right, with MBA president Christopher Sullivan) received the Legal Service Award. Duke was recognized for her leadership in the four-year campaign to extend access to the Housing Court statewide and for her career-long commitment to protect affordable housing and advance the rights of low-income tenants. Katherine Condon Grace, a medical-legal partnership attorney at MetroWest Legal Services, received the Rising Star Award for her work with vulnerable populations facing serious health and legal issues. Learn more about Duke and Condon Grace and their achievements on the MBA website
Media Highlights
These are just a few highlights of recent media coverage. For a full list, visit the News section of the MLAC website. 

SJC to consider whether Massachusetts policy on hotels and homeless shelters accommodates disabilities (Springfield Republican)
The Supreme Judicial Court recently heard arguments in a case against the Department of Housing and Community Development, which has frequently placed individuals in shelters that did not accommodate their disability-related needs.  

Ryan eyes ban of ICE agents from state court detainers (Lowell Sun)
A coalition of advocacy groups, including Greater Boston Legal Services, filed a petition seeking to ban federal immigration agents from detaining people at state courthouses. Among the concerns mentioned by advocates is that fear of immigration detention will prevent victims of crime from seeking justice through the court system. 

Gov. Charlie Baker signs landmark Massachusetts criminal justice overhaul, despite concerns (Springfield Republican)
In April, Governor Baker signed a new criminal justice reform law that will, among other things, eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions, and create a process to expunge records of convictions for offenses that are no longer crimes, like marijuana possession.

LSC Briefing to Highlight Medical-Legal Partnerships and Legal Aid’s Role in Confronting the Opioid Epidemic (Legal Services Corporation)
The Legal Services Corporation recently hosted a congressional briefing on the role of medical-legal partnerships in addressing the opioid crisis. Among the featured experts was Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, managing attorney of Community Legal Aid's Worcester office, who formerly worked as a medical-legal partnership attorney at CLA and South Coastal Counties Legal Services. Watch a recording of the briefing here.

With Aging Prison Population, Massachusetts Looks To Possible Cost-Saving, Compassionate Fix (WGBH)
Although the criminal justice reform bill signed in April included provisions for compassionate release for incapacitated and terminally ill inmates, Governor Baker has filed amendments to restrict who is eligible for release. Advocates say that Massachusetts, with one of the oldest prison populations in the country, will see significant cost-savings through the reforms already passed by the legislature.
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 © 2018 Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, All rights reserved.

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