News Releases
April 18, 2024

Policy and News from the Courts, Week of April 15


State Budget Update: Call for Help

The Massachusetts House of Representatives will be debating the annual state budget next week, and we could use your help this week with some amendments that will benefit BBA priority items. If you have a moment, please let your State Representative know, by phone or e-mail, that you’d like them to co-sponsor for the following, and to express their support to House leadership:

  • #375: Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Funding
    • In recent years, the Legislature has been generous toward MLAC—the state’s largest funder of legal services—and we very much appreciate it. These investments have reduced the proportion of income-eligible residents being turned away by providers, but still only about 50% of qualified applicants receive legal representation. The proposed budget would provide for a $3.5 million increase in this appropriation, but the amendment filed by Reps. Balser and Day would increase this to $6 million—the full amount MLAC has requested.
    • Read more here.
  • #1147: Committee for Public Counsel Services Private Bar Counsel Compensation
    • This amendment from Rep. Markey would make small but significant increases in the compensation rates for private bar counsel who take on representation of indigent criminal defendants in state courts, addressing an ongoing shortage of available attorneys to meet this constitutional requirement.
  • #1199: SJC Funding
    • Rep. Barber offered this amendment to provide an additional $420,232 to the SJC’s line-item, in order to fund the Court at a maintenance level that would allow it to continue providing the same services.
  • #1479: Access to Counsel in Eviction Cases
    • As part of the coalition advocating for implementation of an Access to Counsel Program in eviction cases, the BBA supports the proposed budget, which would create and fund the first year of such a program. Rep. Rogers filed this amendment to clarify that the program is to offer full, rather than limited, representation statewide and that an advisory committee will help MLAC determine how to implement it.

Every call or e-mail from BBA members helps! If you don’t know who your State Rep is, or how to reach them, you can look that up here. Thanks for your support!

BBA Endorses Bill to Improve Probate & Family Court Efficiency

The BBA Council voted this week to endorse H. 4364, legislation that would improve the efficiency of the Probate & Family Court by statutorily creating new positions for assistant registers and assistant judicial case managers. As practitioners in that Court are aware, it is seriously overburdened, to the detriment of access to counsel and the administration of justice, and this measure will help support judges in their work—complementing recently enacted legislation, supported by the BBA, that created eight new seats on that bench.

Attorney General Andrea Campbell Issues Advisory Regarding Application of State Laws to AI

Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell this week issued an advisory to provide guidance to developers, suppliers, and users of AI regarding their obligations under state consumer protection, anti-discrimination, and data security laws. The advisory clarifies that existing state consumer protection, anti-discrimination, and data security laws apply to emerging technology, including AI systems, just as they would in any other context. You can read the full statement here.

BBA Leaders in DC for ABA Day

Last week, BBA President Hannah Kilson and President-Elect Matt McTygue joined leaders of the MBA in Washington, DC, for the annual ABA Day lobbying event, where the group met with Sen. Ed Markey, Rep. Jim McGovern, and staff for several other members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. They made the case, as we do each year, for robust increases in the appropriation for the Legal Services Corporation—the largest funder of legal-aid programs nationwide. This year, they also cited a couple of other ABA priorities in Congress this session, including increased funding for federal public defenders and legislation to protect the privacy of e-mail communications between federal inmates and their counsel.