Access to Justice Update, August 3, 2017

Commission Releases Annual Report

The Third Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission (“Commission”) has released its 2017 Annual Report on Activities detailing the Commission’s ongoing work and. This past year, the Third Commission had significant victories in various initiatives, including: receiving one of seven Justice For All grants from the Public Welfare Foundation; successfully advocating for the statewide expansion of the Housing Court in the Massachusetts FY2018 budget; spearheading the allocation of an additional $8.3 million in funding for civil legal aid for victims of crime; expanding the Civil Appeals Pro Bono Program; continuing to develop the Access to Justice Fellows Program; and endorsing the final report of the Commission’s Access to Attorneys Committee. The full report can be found here.


Commission Releases Access to Attorneys Report

In 2015, the Commission adopted a Mission Statement which included increasing the legal services provided by private attorneys to those who cannot obtain the services of counsel. To implement this goal, the Commission appointed the Access to Attorneys Committee (“Committee”), chaired by Commissioner Joel Feldman and former Commissioner Mary Lu Bilek. The nine-member Committee met for eighteen months to investigate and recommend ways in which the private bar could meet the legal needs of litigants who cannot retain an attorney. Its Report to the Commission can be found here.  The Commission adopted the recommendations of the Committee, and the Committee will continue to follow up on the Report’s recommendations.


State FY18 Budget Includes Housing Court Expansion

On Monday, July 17th, Governor Baker approved a final version of the FY2018 Massachusetts state budget which amends the Massachusetts General Laws to expand the Housing Court, effective as of July 1, 2017, to all remaining unserved cities and towns by expanding existing divisions, creating a new 6th division, and adding 5 new judges by passing Outside Sections 78 – 82 in the FY18 Conference Committee Budget. The FY18 budget signed by the Governor also provides start-up funding in the amount of $750,000 (Line Item 0336-0003). This is a major victory for the 2 million people in 84 cities and towns in Barnstable, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Dukes, and Nantucket counties who will now have access to a Housing Court. The Commission extends special thanks to Massachusetts Law Reform Institute staff attorney Annette Duke and Commissioner Jim Van Buren for their dedicated leadership and tireless advocacy in this effort.


MA Access to Justice Commission Meeting Dates for 2017-2018

In preparation for the year ahead, please find below the schedule of Access to Justice Commission Meeting Dates for 2017-2018:

o   October 12th, 2017 (this meeting will be followed by the Access to Justice Fellow Reception from 5:00pm-7:00pm)

o   November 30th, 2017

o   January 18th, 2018

o   March 22nd, 2018

o   May 17th 2018

o   June 14th, 2018

Each of these meetings will take place from 3:00pm-5:00pm in the Social Law Library of the Supreme Judicial Court (1 Pemberton Square, Boston, MA).