Top: MBA President Denise I. Murphy speaks at the Virtual Talk to the Hill.
Bottom: Program participants met in Zoom breakout rooms to speak with senators and representatives from their respective districts.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, the Massachusetts Bar Association co-sponsored Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid to advocate for increased funding for civil legal services throughout the commonwealth. Traditionally held as Walk to the Hill, which draws hundreds of lawyers to the State House each year to request their legislators' support for funding for civil legal aid, this year’s program was conducted as a virtual event due to the pandemic.
Louis Tompros, chair of the Equal Justice Coalition and event emcee, kicked off the speaking portion of the event by imploring participants to speak to their legislators and emphasize that civil legal aid is an essential service and that everyone who needs a lawyer should be able to get one. He then introduced a tribute video of the late Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, a vocal champion of legal aid funding, which featured several clips from his memorable speeches at previous Walk to the Hill events.
The Talk to the Hill speaking portion also included remarks from MBA President Denise I. Murphy; Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd; Attorney General Maura Healey; Michael Curry, Current Deputy CEO & General Counsel and Incoming CEO & President, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers; Boston Bar Association President Martin Murphy; Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Executive Director Lynne Parker; Greater Boston Legal Services Executive Director Jacquelynne J. Bowman; and two legal aid clients: Raymond, a Veterans Legal Services client, and Malensky, a Greater Boston Legal Services client.
During Murphy’s remarks on behalf of the MBA, she emphasized the importance of legal aid advocacy — particularly this year.
"If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that civil legal aid is an essential resource for our most vulnerable individuals and families — and that civil legal aid advocates are essential workers," she said. "It is imperative that we support legal aid attorneys and the clients who so greatly depend on their services by asking our legislators to fund MLAC’s $35 million budget request for fiscal year 2022."
Drawing on her own experience as an employment attorney, Murphy noted how the pandemic has "upended" both lives and livelihoods, adding: "Low-income residents who have lost their jobs — and those who continue to work in high-risk environments to keep our state running — must have access to justice and quality legal services when they find themselves in need. As lawyers, we have a shared responsibility to make certain that Massachusetts meets this obligation."
Following the speaking program, participants joined pre-scheduled Zoom breakout rooms to speak with senators and representatives from their respective districts.
Talk to the Hill is sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association, Equal Justice Coalition and Boston Bar Association. To learn more about this year’s Talk to the Hill event, visit https://ejctalktothehill.org.