MLAC Appropriation:  Up By $1.0 Million

Today’s news from the legislature’s budget conference committee held a better outcome for MLAC than some had predicted. The FY 2017 appropriation is $18 million, up $1.0 million from FY 2016. The increase was won despite many cuts affecting other state budgets. The work of MLAC supporters is not quite finished, however; the Governor still has to review and sign off on the budget. 

Housing Court Expansion Not So Fortunate

The proposal to expand Housing Court jurisdiction to cover the whole state did not fare so well. Despite an effort that saw many municipalities formally petition for a Housing Court session to apply to them, the conference committee left litigants in one-third of the state with access only to district court when pursuing or defending summary process cases.  For a list of municipalities, see  

Annette Duke, an MLRI attorney who led the campaign,  commented “We shall continue to build.”

Key Trial Court Access to Justice Position Announced

The Massachusetts Judicial Branch has posted a position announcement for a “Senior Manager for Access to Justice.”  The opening arises due to the departure of  Erika Rickard, the Trial Court’s Access to Justice Coordinator, for a research position at Harvard Law School. The position pays $83,644 to start and is listed as having a maximum of $123,355.  The position is for a lawyer with at least five years of relevant profession experience demonstrating a commitment to access to justice. Applications are due by July 15 and must be submitted electronically. See

The person hired for this job will be thrust into a leading role in one of the most interesting, but challenging, times in recent court history. According to the “Justice Index”, Massachusetts is the leading state in the nation on a composite access to justice metric.  The Access to Justice Commission and the Court System will be collaborating on man y A2J innovations for which the Senior Manager will be responsible, including the “100% Access” planning process.

The “Major Duties” listed are:

Leads and provides project management oversight with Trial Court Access to Justice liaisons throughout the Judiciary who are engaged in access projects approved by the Chief Justice of the Trial Court and the Court Administrator;

Works in cooperation with the Supreme Judicial Court Access to Justice Commission and serves on committees as appointed by the Chief Justice of the Trial Court or Court Administrator;

Collaborates with the Trial Court’s Special Advisor for Access to Justice on implementing best practices, identifying unmet needs, and achieving strategic goals; assists in collecting data and evaluating the effectiveness of Access to Justice initiatives;

Builds and coordinates tools and resources, such as self-help materials, plain language forms, translated forms and materials, and access to justice technology, such as document assembly and guided interviews; 

Develops and refines best practices for enhancing Access to Justice across Trial Court departments through the use of local Access liaisons, as outlined in the Trial Court Strategic Plan; 

Serves as the Trial Court’s Language Access Coordinator and facilitates implementation of the actions set forth in the Language Access Plan;

Works to enhance the Trial Court’s commitment and resources for the Lawyer for the Day Programs and Limited Assistance Representation;

Communicates with and shares Access to Justice updates with Judges, Court Officials, Deputy Court Administrators, Directors, Committees and others, as needed;

Represents the Trial Court in collaborative efforts with the Massachusetts legal community, national Access to Justice organizations and builds partnerships with other agencies and organizations in building partnerships;

Develops presentations involving bar associations, law students, law firms, government agencies, lawyers and the general public interested in the development of and participation in Access to Justice programs;

Collaborates with the Grants Manager to explore and develop grant opportunities to enhance access to justice in the Trial Court;

Develops and maintains Access to Justice content for Trial Court website, assists in providing educational programing in the use of Access to Justice tools and publicizing Access to Justice initiatives;

Recruits and manages Access to Justice interns.