MA ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION UPDATE May 30, 2018

ts from the May 17th Meeting of the ATJ Commission

Thank you to the Commissioners and guests who joined us for the most recent meeting of the MA ATJ Commission on Thursday, May 17, 2018 at the Adams Courthouse. Highlights and key takeaways from the meeting included:

  • Recap of the 2018 Access to Justice Commission Co-chairs Conference: This year’s conference took place on May 12th in San Diego, immediately following the ABA’s Equal Justice Conference in the same city.  Chief Justice Gants sat on two panels, one addressing civil legal needs of criminal defendants and the other discussing Justice for All efforts across the country.  Sue Finegan sat on a panel exploring ways to encourage pro bono participation at all stages of a lawyer’s career (our Access to Justice Fellows program was a key feature).  Other panels addressed a variety of tech innovations; use of LAR; fines and fees; development of service/assistance continuums; and more.
  • Trial Court Access to Justice Initiative update: Judge Fein provided a detailed update on ATJ Initiatives of the Trial Court.  This update included a report on e-filing in the Trial Court; ongoing efforts to simplify and standardize summary process forms and informational materials; and the start of work on developing best practices guidelines for Lawyer for the Day programs in housing and, eventually, other practice areas.
  • Justice For All update on pilot projects: Both our housing and consumer debt pilot projects have been confirmed! We can expect to receive our funding by mid-June.
  • Discussion on incubators, accelerators and referral programs: Len Zandrow from Justice Bridge, Damian Turco from Lawyers for Affordable Justice, and Suffolk Law Associate Dean Gerald Slater (Accelerator to Practice Program) provided informative presentations and insightful discussion on the role that their programs fill in delivering effective legal services to low and moderate income litigants in Massachusetts.
  • Presentation & discussion on the American Bar Association Center for Innovation by Dean Andrew Perlman: Dean Perlman broke down three major issues facing legal services (the lawyer-first mindset, the slow pace of innovation, and the slow adoption of innovation), and explained how the ABA’s Center for Innovation is overcoming these obstacles in new ways.

Our June ATJ meeting, the last meeting of the year, will take place on June 14, 2018 in Social Law Library at the Adams Courthouse from 3-5pm. We hope to see you there!

 

 

Funding Updates

MLAC Receives $21 million from MA Senate for FY 2019
On May 25, the Massachusetts Senate passed its FY 2019 budget, including $21 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), an increase of $3 million over FY 2018. Next, a Conference Committee consisting of three Senators and three Representatives will combine the House and Senate budgets into a single bill. After the House and Senate approve the bill, it will be sent to the Governor. Given the depth of unmet need for civil legal aid services among people living in poverty, MLAC will continue to advocate for an additional $4 million in funding from the Senate. To learn more about the proposed MLAC budget for FY 2019, read its annual fact sheet here!

 

Legal Services Corporation Update
On May 17, 2018 the House FY 2019 Appropriations bill, which funds LSC at $410 million, passed the House Appropriations Committee.  The bill was supported by a bipartisan coalition of 39 state attorneys general led by Maura Healey and Colorado AG Cynthia Coffman.  The coalition sent letters to both the House and the Senate.  A copy of the coalition’s letter to the House can be found here.

More information about LSC funding for FY 2019 can be found on the ABA’s website.