Sen. Stanley Rosenberg wins award for assisting low-income residents with civil legal issues
Low-income residents facing civil legal issues, such as eviction from their homes or denial of benefits, often don’t have the resources to hire their own attorneys.
For state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, it’s always been important to ensure a person’s access to the judicial system, no matter his or her ability to pay for representation.
This philosophy earned him recognition last week with the Beacon of Justice Award, presented by the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. and the Massachusetts and Boston bar associations.
“It’s humbling and it’s a reminder that people do value this work,” Rosenberg said of the honor, which he received Thursday.
Working for many years on a range of social- and economic-justice issues, Rosenberg said he appreciates the award, observing that it came on the eve of the celebration of Martin Luther King’s life and legacy. He said he is pleased to support the work of the legal assistance corporation.
“The organization has for many years ensured that people get legal representation even if they can’t afford it, so they can have the opportunity to present grievances through the courts and get their matters resolved on an equal footing with those they are engaged with who can hire their own legal counsel,” Rosenberg said.
Besides tenant-landlord disputes, these can include other forms of discrimination, Rosenberg said.
On his Facebook page, Rosenberg noted the importance of giving everyone an opportunity to get legal assistance should they need it.
“It was a great event and true honor for me to be in a room of people who believe, as I do, that the only judicial system worthy of the United States is one that is fair and accessible to all,” Rosenberg wrote.
For 30 years, the MLAC, created by the Legislature, has ensured that people with limited means and facing critical, non-criminal legal problems have access to legal information, advice and representation.
MLAC spokesman Tom Brant said Rosenberg recognizes the need to continue the state’s commitment to this funding, even as other sources of money have dried up.
“Sen. Rosenberg has been a consistent supporter during the budget process,” Brant said.
This year the state is spending $12 million, up from $10.5 million the previous year.
Northampton attorney William Newman, a board member for Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp., presented the award to Rosenberg. Newman said investing in civil legal aid provides a benefit to those who couldn’t afford lawyers.
“Sen. Rosenberg’s leadership for civil legal aid embodies his commitment to justice for all persons in the commonwealth regardless of status or wealth,” Newman said.
Newman also pointed to the economic benefits to the state economy.
Besides helping the economic condition of low-income residents, in fiscal year 2012, MLAC estimates that nearly $48 million in new revenue and costs savings was generated by the legal aid line item. This included around $27 million in federal revenue and savings in excess of $20.5 million in avoided benefits and social services costs.
Other Beacon of Justice awards were given to state Rep. Ruth B. Balser; state Sen. Brian A. Joyce, chairman of the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets; and state Rep. Patricia A. Haddad, speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives.