Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland of the Supreme Judicial Court joined hundreds of private attorneys from more than 50 law firms at the Massachusetts State House in January for the 14th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the best-attended of the year, asked for increased state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.
Justice Ireland kicked off the speaking program in the Great Hall of Flags. Governor Deval Patrick asked participants to urge their legislators to support increased state funding for civil legal aid.
“Start the conversation with the importance of investing in ourselves,” Gov. Patrick told the audience. “We need new, fresh resources from our citizens in order to deliver a range of services that make our Commonwealth better.”
The Governor’s remarks come one week after he recommended $15.5 million for the
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) in his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal. MLAC, which is the largest single funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, received a $12 million appropriation from the state this fiscal year.
Following the speaking program, attorneys visited their legislators and asked them to increase funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item (MLAC, 0321-1600) by $3.5 million to $15.5 million in the FY14 budget. MLAC is the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts.
Increased funding is critical to restore service levels and prevent further cuts to civil legal aid programs, which have been struggling to meet demand due to a 78 percent decrease in revenue since FY08 from the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, the other major funding source for civil legal aid.
Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, Boston Bar Association and Massachusetts Bar Association, and it is co-sponsored by several county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.
The other speakers were Boston Bar Association president James D. Smeallie, and Massachusetts Bar Association president Robert L. Holloway, Jr.