Thursday, Mar. 6, 2008
MBA President David W. White Jr. addresses a large crowd at last week's rally for civil legal aid.
Hundreds rally for increase in civil legal aid at annual Walk to the Hill
Record attorney and legal advocate attendance marks event
More than 600 attorneys and legal advocates packed the Statehouse Great Hall last week for the ninth annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. The standing room only crowd set a new record for the event.
Following the half-hour rally on Feb. 28, attendees visited their legislators and urged them to support a $5 million increase in civil legal aid for fiscal year 2009. Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed a $12 million budget, a boost of $2.4 million.
“It remains a frustrating reality that the resources available continue to fall short of what we need,” Massachusetts Bar Association President David W. White Jr. told the mass of supporters. “Let us remember the voices of the people who are barely heard, and let the budget remember them as well.”
The shortage of resources means legal aid programs turn away nearly half of all applicants with serious legal needs who meet the income limit of 125 percent of the federal poverty line, or $510 a week for a family of four. Legal aid programs are often the last resort for individuals who have nowhere else to turn.
Janice Gray of Haverhill is one of those individuals. The mother of six and her husband, Lou, turned to Neighborhood Legal Services in Lawrence for help with a mortgage that had ballooned to an interest rate of 14 percent in the fall of 2006. A lawyer with the organization was able to secure a new mortgage at a fixed rate of 7 percent, after determining the lender was guilty of more than a dozen consumer protection violations. “The help we got from Neighborhood Legal Services was the greatest,” Gray said.
The event was co-sponsored by the MBA, the Boston Bar Association and the Equal Justice Coalition.