The Equal Justice Coalition honored six current and former Massachusetts lawmakers with awards at a reception today at the Massachusetts State House.
The honorees were selected for their outstanding support of state funding for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). MLAC funds and supports organizations that provide civil legal assistance to low-income residents facing critical problems, such as domestic violence and eviction due to foreclosure.
House Speaker Rep. Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and House Ways & Means Chair Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill) received Beacon of Justice awards for their longstanding leadership and support for civil legal aid funding in 2013.
Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), Senate Ways & Means Chair Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre), U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, and former Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty received Champion of Justice awards for their exceptional support of civil legal aid throughout their legislative careers.
MLAC Executive Director Lonnie Powers thanked the lawmakers and noted that their support is critical at a time when funding constraints force legal aid organizations across the state to turn away more than half of the eligible people who seek their help.
“We are extremely grateful for the efforts of these legislative leaders,” said Powers. “The constitution’s promise of justice for all goes unfulfilled without adequate funding of civil legal aid. Today’s honorees have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to increasing our funding so that more of our Commonwealth’s neediest residents have access to the quality legal advice and representation they deserve.”
“Legal aid protects the rights of individuals across the Commonwealth, fosters equality and helps make our state a more just place,” Speaker DeLeo said. “That’s why I was proud the House provided $13 million for legal aid in last year’s budget and why I’m proud to receive this award. Thank you to the Equal Justice Coalition and the many legal associations who make this work possible.”
“It’s important that everyone in the Commonwealth has access to legal aid and support,” said Rep. Dempsey. “I am thankful for the work that the Equal Justice Coalition does on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
“I am honored to be chosen as a recipient of this award,” said Sen. Brewer. “Access to civil legal aid is critical for every citizen of the Commonwealth and we must continue to ensure that our neediest residents have this access and representation. It is true that these are fiscally challenging times, but we must remain resolute to providing services that can be essential to the survival of these citizens.”
“I’m very grateful to receive this recognition from the Equal Justice Coalition,” said Congresswoman Clark. “Justice is a fundamental American promise that belongs to everyone regardless of economic status. The Coalition’s ongoing work helps to ensure that promise for every person in Massachusetts.”
Also recognized at the reception were more than sixty state Senators and Representatives who co-sponsored amendments increasing MLAC’s appropriation in the Massachusetts state budget for fiscal year 2014.