$125,000 MBF grant funds eviction rights project

Issue June 2009

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation Trustees proudly announce a grant of $125,000 to support an innovative initiative entitled, “Providing a Right to Counsel in Certain Eviction Cases: A Cost/Benefit Pilot Project.” The program seeks to demonstrate that creating a right to counsel in selected categories of eviction cases leads to more just outcomes, as well as results in significant savings to the commonwealth.

The MBF joins the Boston Bar Foundation and the Boston Foundation in funding this important undertaking. Numerous members of the Massachusetts legal community collaborated to develop and implement this pilot project, which was originally proposed by the BBA Task Force on Expanding the Civil Right to Counsel’s report, Gideon’s New Trumpet: Expanding the Civil Right to Counsel in Massachusetts.

The Boston Bar Foundation will manage the award, which includes funding for legal services staff from both Greater Boston Legal Services and Neighborhood Legal Services in Lynn. Grant funds will support attorneys to provide representation to indigent litigants facing eviction who meet the program’s criteria in Quincy District Court, as well as the Northeast Housing Court.

“This pilot project provides an outstanding opportunity to demonstrate the immense value in providing access to legal representation for clients facing civil legal issues who otherwise could not afford such assistance,” noted MBF President Laurence M. Johnson of Davis, Malm & D’Agostine. “Access to justice is vital to the effective functioning of our legal system. We hope this project will lead the way to an expanded right to counsel in Massachusetts and beyond.”