Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants Delivers Remarks at 17th Annual Walk to the Hill Event at Massachusetts State House
BOSTON, MA -- At the 17th annual Walk to the Hill event at the State House, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants today delivered remarks to an audience of hundreds highlighting the need for increased state funding of programs that provide civil legal aid to low income Massachusetts residents in need.
"In a few minutes, you will meet with legislators and members of their staff to ask them to increase the state appropriation for civil legal services from $17 million to $27 million," Chief Justice Gants said. "And many will ask you, 'How can we afford an increase of that size during a challenging budget season?' And you will answer, 'How can we afford not to?' "
Civil legal aid plays a critical role in ensuring equal access to justice in Massachusetts. It is estimated that civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts turn away more than 60 percent of indigent clients who are eligible for civil legal aid and are seeking services due to a lack of adequate funding.
"The amount we invest as a Commonwealth in civil legal services is the measure of our true commitment to equal justice," Chief Justice Gants said. "We can declare that we believe in equal justice, we can proudly recite the Pledge of Allegiance's declaration that we are a nation 'with liberty and justice for all,' but if we do not put our money where our mouth is, all our words mean nothing."
In addition to Chief Justice Gants, speakers included: Equal Justice Coalition Chair John Carroll; Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; Massachusetts Bar Association President Robert Harnais; Boston Bar Association President Lisa Arrowood; and a client who told her civil legal aid story.
The event, organized by the Equal Justice Coalition, was attended by hundreds of attorneys from across the state. The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event was also co-sponsored by county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.
Following the speaking portion of the event, those in attendance visited their elected state senators and representatives to encourage them to increase funding in the fiscal year 2017 state budget for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts.