Thursday, November 06, 2014
Report Shows Civil Legal Aid Funding Inadequate in Massachusetts
A Boston Bar Association task force issued a report in October 2014 entitled Investing in Justice: A Roadmap to Cost- Effective Funding of Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts. It states that sixty four percent of low income people in Massachusetts seeking civil legal assistance were denied services last year. The reason is that legal aid agencies do not have enough staff to handle all of the cases due to lack of funding. Revenue comes from state appropriations, federal assistance, and private sources such as law firms and foundations. The inadequate level of funding not only has a negative effect on low income citizens seeking justice, but it also impacts the courts. Unrepresented litigants often do not understand court procedure or how to introduce evidence which slows down cases. Judges reported problems from lack of representation were most often seen in housing and family law cases. Independent economic consultants looked at "whether increased civil legal aid funding could provide cost savings and other benefits to the Commonwealth." The conclusion was that there were direct and indirect benefits for low income residents and the Commonwealth. Based upon the information gathered, "the task force urges the Massachusetts legislature to significantly increase funding for civil legal aid programs."