News from the Massachusetts legal aid community.
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Volume 9, Issue 4
News in this issue...
Equal Justice Coalition
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 February 2016.

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MLAC Board Welcomes Three New Members

MLAC welcomes three new members to its board of directors: Mary Lu Bilek, Mala Rafik, and Mary Jeanne Stone were recently appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court. Mary Lu Bilek is Dean and Professor of Law at UMass School of Law. She also serves on the statewide Access to Justice Commission and as the co-chair of its Access to Attorneys Committee. Mala Rafik is a partner at Rosenfeld Rafik & Sullivan, P.C., which represents clients denied access to health care as well as individuals seeking short and long-term disability, life and long-term care benefits from private insurance carriers. She is Chair of the Board of Directors of Health Law Advocates, and a member of the Board of Directors of Prisoners’ Legal Services. She also teaches Disability Law at New England Law. Mary Jeanne Stone is a sole practitioner focusing on bankruptcy, family law, and alternative dispute resolution. She is also of Counsel to the Law Office of Nancy C. Stanton. She is the immediate past president of the Bristol County Bar Association and a member of the Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Appointments. She is a Massachusetts Bar Association Fellow, and serves on its IOLTA Grants Committee.
Equal Justice Coalition
Save the Date for Walk to the Hill 2016

The 17th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid will be held Thursday, January 28, 2016. This year, MLAC is requesting a $10 million increase in funding for civil legal aid, for a total appropriation of $27 million in FY17. To learn more about Walk to the Hill visit the Equal Justice Coalition website

Get Involved

Get involved in advocacy for civil legal aid during the budget campaign. Your voice helps ensure that Governor Baker and the Massachusetts Legislature understand the importance of legal aid funding. You can follow the EJC on Twitter, like the EJC Facebook page and sign up for action alerts at
"Celebrating Voices" with Massachusetts Advocates for Children

From left: Senator Sal DiDomenico, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, MAC Executive Director Jerry Mogul, Representative Ruth Balser, Charlotte Golar Richie, Representative Russell Holmes. 

On October 16, Massachusetts Advocates for Children hosted "Celebrating Voices," a fundraising gala that saw hundreds in attendance to help celebrate event honoree Charlotte Golar Richie, spotlight MAC's work in Trauma & Learning, and raise funds to allow MAC to continue to advocate for children who face barriers to educational opportunity. The event featured both live and silent auctions, and the evening followed an “opera” format that celebrated the voices of children’s advocates, including those of MAC's Legislative Champions, Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Ruth Balser, who co-sponsored Safe and Supportive Schools legislation. The highlight of the evening was an “Aria” dedicated to Richie, whose career has been devoted to equality and opportunity for children and families. To learn more and see photos from the event, visit the MAC website

Community Legal Aid's "Celebrate Legal Aid" Event

From left: Dave Martel, Elizabeth Dineen, Justice Francis Spina, Christina Turgeon, Charlie Casartello, Jeff Morneau.

Community Legal Aid hosted its second annual “Celebrate Legal Aid” event on November 12 in Holyoke to thank all those who make civil legal aid possible in Central and Western Massachusetts. Guest speakers included Justice Francis X. Spina of the Supreme Judicial Court, Hon. John M. Greaney (Ret.), and Hon. Gail Perlman (Ret.). Attorneys Dave Martel of Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury and Murphy; and Charlie Casartello of Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan & Blakesley were recognized for their commitment to pro bono work. Senator Elizabeth Warren recorded video remarks to complete the occasion. See more photos from the event here

Prisoners' Legal Services Hosts Annual Second Chances Event

From left PLS Board Chair Patty Garin, guest speaker Sarah Shourd, and PLS Executive Director, Leslie Walker.

On Thursday, November 12, Prisoners' Legal Services held its annual fundraising event, Second Chances. The guest speaker, Sarah Shourd, shared her powerful story of survival after being held in solitary confinement in Iran for over 400 days. PLS' new video, Solitary Voices, was screened, with gratitude to the stars of the film, survivors Benito and Donnell. Photos from the event can be viewed on PLS' Facebook page. Further information about Sarah Shourd and her participation in the evening can be found in this article from the Boston Globe.
Advocacy & Program Updates
Community Legal Aid recently received a $200,000 grant from the Legal Services Corporation to form a pro bono-focused medical-legal partnership with UMass Memorial Medical Center. Three UMass primary care sites—two in Worcester and one in Clinton—will host a CLA staff attorney who will help the clinical staff identify health-related legal issues, such as substandard housing or lack of access to food stamps or MassHealth benefits. Volunteer attorneys from Worcester County’s private bar will then step in and assist the patients with their legal needs.

In October, CLA staff attorney Laura Gal argued a case in the Supreme Judicial Court on the issue of whether parents who have lost custody of their children through guardianship proceedings are entitled to counsel when they want to try to modify or terminate the guardianship. Laura was joined in the argument by attorney Susan Finegan of the firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, who handled a companion case.

MassHealth is now providing coverage for ABA services for children with autism and medically necessary electronic tablets such as iPads for children with autism and other disabilities. MAC’s Autism Center has been leading advocacy efforts as MassHealth initiates coverage of new services mandated by the Autism Omnibus law. MAC hosted its first webinar on the Autism Omnibus Bill on November 10. A recording and the slides are available here.

On October 24, MAC released an action plan on behalf of the Boston Special Education Transition (B-SET) project’s workforce development task force to improve and expand inclusive employment and higher education opportunities for Boston youth and young adults with disabilities. 90 people attended the event at the State Street Corporation Channel Center, which featured young people speaking along with various city and state officials. The full action plan and executive summary are available at:  MAC Executive Director Jerry Mogul was interviewed by WBUR about the B-SET report.
MAC is pleased to welcome Janine Solomon to its staff. Janine is replacing Tom Mela as managing attorney. Prior to her time at MAC, Janine spent 18 years at the Disability Law Center in Boston working on discrimination law and special education law. She served as the lead attorney for the groundbreaking case In Re Dracut Public Schools which set the federal standard for transition services a school must provide. She also represented parents in special education cases at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong LLP. 

Over the past several months, CLA has been fortunate to welcome several new staff members. Fu Chieh (Flora) Chang joined CLA as a staff attorney in the Family Law Unit, working mainly out of the Springfield office. Lerae Kroon completed her year as a Harvard Public Service Venture Fund Fellow and now continues her work focusing on humanitarian-based immigration cases with the Central West Justice Center (CWJC). Also at the Center, Melina Muñoz has joined the staff as an attorney working on a medical-legal partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Milford. After a year as an AmeriCorps attorney, Alina Nir was hired as a CLA staff attorney to spearhead our new education law practice in Worcester County. Staff attorney Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies moved from the CWJC to CLA to work on a new medical-legal partnership pro bono project with UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester. The project is funded by the Legal Services Corporation. Staff attorneys Mitali Biswas and Maria Garriga joined CLA’s HomeCorps foreclosure defense team; staff attorney Janet Vo started work in the Worcester office; Samantha Kirk recently started her job as a Development Associate; Katrina Conley started work as a part-time attorney on CLA’s HUD-funded fair housing grant; and Jena Gutierrez was brought on as a part-time Pro Bono Coordinator in Worcester. In addition, CLA and CWJC have welcomed a new class of AmeriCorps members: Leah Porter, Danielle DeWinter, and Erica Bruno, and welcomed returning AmeriCorps member Katie Ady-Bell.

Stefanie Balandis, senior attorney in GBLS' Housing Unit, will start a new position as associate director of Northeast Legal Aid in December after 19 years at GBLS. GBLS Asian Outreach Unit managing attorney Cynthia “Cyndi” Mark was appointed Chief of the Fair Labor Division of the Office of the Attorney General, a position she started in October. 
Awards & Recognition
Community Legal Services and Counseling Center attorney Elizabeth Ennen recently received the Adams Pro Bono Publico Award for her tireless dedication to representing immigrants seeking political asylum. The Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards are given each year by the Supreme Judicial Court to three attorneys and a recent law school graduate in recognition of distinguished service and outstanding commitment to providing pro bono legal services for those in need.

GBLS Welfare Law Unit attorney Lizbeth Ginsburg was selected by the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts to participate in the 2015-2016 Women’s Leadership Initiative. This program provides mentoring and leadership development for women attorneys in Massachusetts identified as rising stars of the profession. Lydia Edwards, GBLS Employment Law Unit attorney and Equal Justice Works fellow, was recently recognized by the Massachusetts Coalition to End Human Trafficking as one of many advocates on the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers "who have been working tirelessly over this past year to fight against human trafficking."  Edwards was also selected, along with Susan Malouin, CORI & Re-entry Project attorney/AmeriCorps legal advocate, as Rising Stars in the 2015 Super Lawyers Magazine Annual Listing of top attorneys in New England. Nancy Kelly, Immigration Unit acting managing attorney, and Pauline Quirion, lead attorney of GBLS’ CORI & Re-entry Project, were selected as Super Lawyers in in that list.
Media Highlights
These are just a few highlights of recent media coverage.  For a full list, visit the News section of the MLAC website. 

Lynner tips scales of justice against poverty (Lynn Daily Item) 
The Lynn Daily Item profiles Georgia Katsoulomitis, executive director of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, who details how her upbringing as the child of Greek immigrants drives her work to ensure equal opportunity for all children. 

Five things you should know about Lydia Edwards (Boston Globe)
GBLS Equal Justice Works fellow Lydia Edwards discusses her motivation to become a public interest lawyer and work to protect the rights of immigrants. 

Advocates push for solitary confinement reform in Mass. (Boston Globe)
The Boston Globe covers a legislative hearing for a bill filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Liz Malia. The proposed legislation seeks to reform the use of segregation in Department of Correction facilities as well as county jails and houses of corrections.

Accessibility issues persist for disabled (Boston Globe)
Twenty five years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, much work remains in the effort to make the streets and buildings of our cities and towns accessible to all. Carol Steinberg, president of the board of directors of the Disability Law Center, expressed the need to channel anger over this lack of progress into advocacy for change.   

Low-income entrepreneurs welcome added assistance (Boston Globe)
The Globe profiles a number of efforts to support low-income entrepreneurs, including Northeast Legal Aid's new business practice, which has provided free legal assistance to more than 40 entrepreneurs in Lynn and Lawrence in the past year. 

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 © 2015 Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, All rights reserved.

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