Judges, lawyers seeking more funding for legal aid

BOSTON (WWLP) — Civil legal aid programs provide free or subsidized legal advice for low income individuals, and legal advocates say funding for legal aid has been drastically decreased, while demand for services is higher than ever. 

Hundreds of lawyers, judges and advocates packed the State House on Wednesday, asking lawmakers to match Governor Deval Patrick's proposal to fund legal aid by $15.5 million in the 2014 state budget.  Advocates say income from a key legal aid funding source, the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, has dropped by 78% since 2008.  Meanwhile, families eligible for civil legal aid has increased by 13% in the past two years.

Roderick Ireland, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, says that the need is great.

“Legal aid programs are forced to turn away half of the eligible people with serious civil legal needs who come to them looking for help,” Ireland said.

Since 2008, reduced funding has forced legal aid programs to cut 77 attorney positions in Massachusetts. 

Legal aid clinics help the poor resolve serious legal problems such as foreclosure and domestic violence.

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