Reps. Murphy, DeLeo and O'Flaherty rewarded for their service to the lawyer's lobby

The Equal Justice Coalition has recognized a number of legislators for their service to the legal community. They are:

  • House Speaker Rep. Robert DeLeo
  • Rep. Charles Murphy
  • Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty
  • Sen. Steven Panagiotakos
  • Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem
  • Sen. Patricia Jehlen

The Equal Justice Coalition is a lawyer’s lobby group which advocates for state funding for legal aid for civil actions by poor clients, to pay for representation in domestic violence actions, divorce actions, child custody etc.

EJC successfully lobbied for $10 million dollars of state funding for the legal community. According to their own press release, when it looked like legal aid would suffer the same budget cuts as our schools:

In published letters, 38 managing partners of law firms, and 107 general counsel attorneys went to bat for legal services. Lawmakers have listened, apparently rescuing MLAC from disaster. Lobbying for legal-aid is no easy task…

And today those lawmakers were rewarded.

In the criminal courts the state funds ‘public defenders’ who earn a reasonable salary for representing indigent clients in criminal cases. For civil matters the lawyers have managed to score a bonanza for themselves. The state puts money into a legal aid fund, where lawyers can charge the state full rate to represent indigent clients in civil matters.

Last year, amid deep budget cuts that affected local aid, resulting in layoffs of teachers and police, certain legislators were instrumental in making sure that these cuts did not affect this program beloved of the legal community. And this year these legislators are being honored for selling out the taxpayers and the towns they live in for the benefit of the lawyer’s lobby.

The honorees are notable for their positions of usefulness to the lawyers lobby. Rep. O’Flaherty and Sen. Creem are chairs of the Judiciary Committee, and are in a position to to block laws that affect the fortunes of lawyering in Massachusetts. Both of these legislators are perennial honorees of the lawyers lobbies. This is the fourth award they have given to Cynthia Creem so far this year. It doesn’t hurt that both of these legislators are practicing lawyers first, and legislators second.

Rep. Murphy, and Sen. Panagiotakos are co-chairs of the Ways and Means Committee. They control the state budget. For their heroic efforts to bring home the bacon for the lawyers they are being honored. Rep. DeLeo is the Speaker of the House. He decides the committee assignments. His service in putting the lawyer’s acolytes in positions of power is also deeply appreciated.

I don’t know what service Jehlen provided the lawyers, but it must have been pretty good to be in such elite company.

This award doesn’t come a moment too soon. The budget is being worked on now, and there is a big funding gap. Legislators have to figure out if they are going to cut funding for our cities and towns or to programs that fund lawyers. I think they want to make sure their friends are appreciated during the funding holiday season.

Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid

Lawyers ready to receive the largesse of the taxpayers

The lawyers have an inspiring charity event every year, their ‘Walk to the Hill’. When we regular citizens pledge to walk for a charity, like the walk to end breast cancer, or for the Jimmy Fund, we pledge our own money, or ask our friends to donate.

This year 700 lawyers participated in this wonderous outpouring of support for the state’s poor. But when the lawyers walk for charity, its the taxpayers who do the pledging, thanks of course to these honored legislators.

This year there was a resolution to level fund local aid. Signing on to it would have relieved our towns from deep budget cuts and steep property tax increases, and put the financial pressure where it belongs – on money grabs for lawyers.

You can bet, if any of these legislators had signed on to protecting our schools over lawyer’s interests that they would not be getting this award. They are notably absent from the list of legislators who signed on to it.

I can understand the need of those who cannot afford legal representation to get legal assistance. They are dealing with serious problems. But I suspect that if this program was funded by a special tax on members of the Bar, they not be such strong supporters of it.

This is a question of priorities. Last year towns were hit with deep cuts to local aid, while programs like this were level funded. If we have to cut budgets, programs like this should not be exempt. If the lawyers believe this program is so critical, they should be recommending that it be funded from an extra tax on themselves.

Your kids may have lost the school librarian, their language elective and the after school program. But rest assured, the lawyer’s gravy train was protected.

Updated: Removed some text about the way attorneys who are paid by legal aid are funded. Get more details in a response from MLAC here.