Massachusetts State House.
Policy Library

Right-to-Counsel Coalition Gains Support

November 14, 2019

This year, the BBA joined a broad coalition seeking to enact a right to counsel in eviction cases for indigent tenants and landlords. This position jibes with our past support for a right to counsel, generally, in civil matters involving basic human needs.

In the past month, both The Boston Globe and SJC Chief Justice Ralph Gants have expressed strong support for legislation to achieve the coalition’s goal.

As the Globe put it in their editorial after citing successful efforts along the same lines in a few U.S. cities, “For renters who don’t have the financial means, the right to a court-appointed lawyer would level the playing field and offer them a better chance of success at staying in their homes.”

At his State of the Judiciary speech on October 30 (read more about the event here), the chief justice endorsed the measure, saying, “I know that there are legislative efforts afoot here in Massachusetts to provide legal counsel for all indigent parties in eviction proceedings, not only tenants but also indigent landlords who rely on the timely receipt of rent to make their mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure, and I hope that by next year these efforts may finally come to fruition.”

The coalition will soon be delivering bill language to the Legislature that would make Massachusetts the first state to offer this right to counsel.

-Michael Avitzur
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association