MA ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION UPDATE – October 9, 2018

Dear friends and colleagues,

The first Access to Justice Commission meeting of the 2018/2019 year is just a few days away.  We hope that many of you will be able to join us for the meeting this Thursday, October 11th, at 3:00 pm in the Social Law Library at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston. In preparation for the meeting and/or in the event that you are not able to attend, below are a few updates that may interest you.

 

In local news,

 

Access to Justice Commission 2018 Annual Report:  In August the Commission published its 2018 Annual Report, a copy of which can be found under the “library” tab of our website, www.massa2j.org.

 

MLAC Welcomes New Executive Director:  The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation welcomed a new executive director this September. Commissioner Marijane Benner Brown is also the Chair of MLAC’s Board of Directors and had this to say about Attorney Parker:

“We are delighted to welcome Lynne Parker as the next leader of MLAC. Her wealth of experience, deep commitment to social justice, and impressive track record of forging alliances in support of civil legal aid will enable MLAC to build on the dedicated efforts of MLAC’s board and staff, particularly outgoing Executive Director Lonnie Powers, to ensure access to just for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents.” http://mlac.org/mlac-announces-appointment-of-lynne-parker-as-executive-director/

 

New Chief Justice Appointed to the Probate and Family Court:  September also marked the beginning of Hon. John M. Casey’s term as Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court.  Chief Justice Casey previously was the First Justice in Norfolk County, served on the Commission on Judicial Conduct, and co-chaired the 2025 Volunteer Transition Leadership Team, which was “charged with examining the present and future needs of the Probate and Family Court.” https://www.mass.gov/news/trial-court-chief-justice-paula-m-carey-appoints-honorable-john-d-casey-chief-justice-of-the

 

Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards Ceremony:  The Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services will host the 2018 Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 18th from 3:30 to 5:00 pm in the Supreme Judicial Court Courtroom and will be followed by a reception.  During the ceremony, the Committee will recognize attorneys, law firms, and organizations that participated in the Court’s Pro Bono Honor Roll Program.  This year the awardees include attorneys David G. Fromm,  John Taylor Hand, and Alec J. Zadek, with a special student award to 2018 law school graduate Amy Elizabeth Volz.

 

Access to Justice Fellows Program Celebrates 100+ Fellows:  All are invited to the ATJ Fellows Program Kick-Off Event and Reception this Thursday, October 11th at 5:00 pm in the Supreme Judicial Court Courtroom, immediately following the Access to Justice Commission meeting. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants will introduce twenty new Fellows at the seventh annual Access to Justice Fellows event at the John Adams Courthouse, hosted by the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission and the Lawyers Clearinghouse. With the announcement of the 2018-2019 class, the Program celebrates the participation of over 100 Fellows!

 

Massachusetts Receives Technology Innovation Grant from the Legal Services Corporation:  September also brought additional LSC funding to Massachusetts. Community Legal Aid, working with Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, has been awarded a Technology Innovation Grant (“TIG”) by the Legal Services Corporation to improve the accessibility and functionality of the state-wide Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder (LRF).

 

On the national front,

 

President Trump Proposes Expansion of the “Public Charge” Barrier to Immigration:  The Department of Homeland Security has announced proposed changes to the definition of ‘public charge’ under the Immigration and Nationality Act, potentially making it much harder for persons seeking to immigrate to the U.S. to avoid disqualification based on assessment of the likelihood the individual will become primarily dependent on the government to meet basic needs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has characterized the change as “a radical change in immigration rules that could make it much more difficult both for many immigrants lawfully in the United States to remain here and for many seeking legal entry to come.” https://www.cbpp.org/press/statements/greenstein-trump-administrations-proposed-rule-will-result-in-legal-immigrants-of.  Massachusetts Law Reform Institute is currently working on a comprehensive analysis of the proposed rule change.  An initial analysis and more information about the proposed change and its potential impacts can be found at https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/public-charge and https://www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org/.

 

Conference of Chief Justices Passes Resolutions on Consumer Debt and Courthouse Cell Phone Policies:  In August 2018, the national Conference of Chief Justices passed two resolutions directly related to work in which our Commission is presently engaged, one relating to consumer debt and the other to courthouse cell phone policies.  Commission Co-chair Chief Justice Gants was instrumental in drafting and proposing both resolutions. The resolutions can be found at National Center for State Courts website:

https://ccj.ncsc.org/~/media/Microsites/Files/CCJ/Resolutions/08222018-Debt-Collection-Default-Judgments.ashx

and

https://ccj.ncsc.org/~/media/Microsites/Files/CCJ/Resolutions/08222018-Review-Courthouse-Cell-Phone-Policies.ashx

 

Recent Reports of the American Bar Association:  The ABA recently published two reports relating to access to justice.  One looks at pro bono efforts across the nation and the other reviews the funding and staffing of state access to justice commissions and offers recommendations based on its findings.  The reports can be found on the ABA webpage: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_aid_indigent_defendants/initiatives/resource_center_for_access_to_justice.html

and

https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/probono_public_service/ls_pb_supporting_justice_iv_final.authcheckdam.pdf

 

Exhibit on Eviction at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.:  The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. has opened a year-long exhibit – “Evicted” – that explores the process and impact of eviction.  “A collaboration with Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology at Princeton University, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and best-selling author, Evicted offers an immersive experience bringing our visitors into the world of low-income renter eviction. With unique design elements and striking graphics, the exhibition challenges adults and youth to face the enormity of a difficult subject, while providing context and a call to action.”  https://www.nbm.org/exhibition/evicted/.