When the foreclosure crisis hit Massachusetts, one of the most frustrating aspects for legal services lawyers and advocates for homelessness prevention was the fact that many homeowners were falling through the cracks. That is because legal services and other homelessness prevention agencies have strict income guidelines and can only assist indigent individuals or families. Due to these restrictions, many families have been unable in the past to get the help they desperately need to try and save their home from foreclosure.
Good news! Thanks to the multi-state settlement that Massachusetts was a party to, the Attorney General has been able to provide help for to any homeowner facing foreclosure regardless of income. The five national banks involved in the $44.5 million settlement are: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo and GMAC. With a portion of this money, the AGO has launched a new statewide program, “HomeCorps”, available to any homeowner facing foreclosure, regardless of income eligibility.
The goal of the AGO’s HomeCorps is to mitigate the impacts of the foreclosure crisis by providing advocacy to distressed borrowers in Massachusetts facing foreclosure. HomeCorps is a comprehensive program which includes loan modification assistance, free direct legal representation to borrowers and post foreclosure assistance to families, as well as a series of grants to foster community restoration and organizations focused on foreclosure crisis response. HomeCorps has already received almost 10,000 calls from distressed homeowners to date. For more information about HomeCorps, or to refer a client who may be facing foreclosure, please click here.
In addition to the services available to all distressed borrowers via the AGO’s HomeCorps, there are also payments available under the National Mortgage Settlement to 21,000 Massachusetts borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011 and whose mortgages were serviced by Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Application or these payments are made directly through the national grant administrator. More information is click here.
Before a crowd of more than 1,200 people at the Boston Bar Association’s Annual Luncheon, Lynn Girton, Chief Counsel of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, will be awarded the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award. Lynn has been devoted her career to helping those unable to afford private counsel in civil cases.
Beyond her direct service work, Lynn has been a fixture at the BBA. Lynn was co-chair of the Delivery of Legal Services Section (DLS), is an active member of the Public Service Oversight Committee, and has been a speaker at countless training sessions. But those contributions pale in comparison to the work Lynn has done as co-chair of the DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee.
Lynn’s commitment to Military Members and Veterans is unmatched. She was initially appointed to the BBA Committee on Legal Services for Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families in 2009. This committee worked to determine how the BBA could help soldiers who are being overwhelmed with legal issues in light of their ongoing military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee was the result of this work.
Lynn has chaired the DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee since its inception in 2010. She has been the driving force behind aligning resources in the community to provide these soldiers and their families with the best legal resources available. But Lynn is more than just the co-chair of this committee. She is the person we call when we have a veteran in need of an attorney and don’t know where to turn. She is the resource we use when we can’t find the answer to a veteran’s questions. She is the glue and the inspiration that has us all coming back month after month to ensure that we are providing the services that these men and women deserve.
Lynn Girton leaves her mark on everything that she does. The soldiers and veterans in Greater Boston are better off today not only because of the work Lynn does, but because of the work she inspires others to do.
1. The Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) is the largest public service program of the Boston Bar Association. Over the years it has grown and now the LRS staff screens over 100,000 calls per year connecting members of the community to lawyers and legal resources for advice, representation and information on legal issues.
2. The BBA LRS is the only ABA-accredited Lawyer Referral Service in Greater Boston. In order to become approved by the American Bar Association, the BBA LRS complies with standards established by the ABA, including the creation of objective experience requirements for the attorneys on each practice area panel. Furthermore, LRS staff conducts daily quality assurance calls with callers about the referrals made, and each month all of the attorneys on the panel are individually verified that they are in good standing with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers.
3. The BBA LRS receives requests from over 600 organizations, including courts, libraries, and hospitals to receive marketing materials. A few times per year, the LRS sends brochures in English and Spanish that highlight our referral process, as well as bilingual tear sheets that have our contact information. These organizations share our information with their patrons that they cannot assist. The LRS receives many calls from people who found our contact information at a library, or other non-profit organization.
4. Our attorneys can do well by doing good. Consider the following…An 85 year old woman called the BBA LRS when injured trying to enter a business establishment with her walker. A patron held the door open for the client, but the large door struck her as it was closing, resulting in substantial injuries and other health complications. The BBA LRS referred the caller to Petrucelly, Nadler & Norris P.C. Due to the client’s age and disabilities, partners Jeffrey Petrucelly and Jennifer Norris along with associate Daniel McCabe visited the client extensively at her home, completing depositions and arranging meetings. The firm found that the door did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements or Massachusetts disability guidelines. Ultimately, the firm obtained a $200,000 settlement on behalf of the client. In addition, another important and meaningful result was achieved when the company’s representative and attorney met with the client’s family to apologize and express their sympathy about the unfortunate accident.
5. The BBA LRS Conducts extensive outreach. Throughout the year, the LRS staff attends approximately one community and outreach event per month, connecting with many neighborhoods and populations in the Greater Boston area. LRS staff speak to hundreds of people who wanted to learn more about the service and how they can get in touch with an attorney. For example, last Sunday the BBA LRS joined in the festivities at the 20th annual Cambridge Carnival.
Solana Goss, LRS Intake Coordinator and Alison Kuba, LRS Intern at the 20th Annual Cambridge Carnival.
An August 27th article in Lawyers Weekly, “Bar, court still adjusting to probate code overhaul,” (subscription required) highlights the challenges that the probate courts, the trusts and estates bar and the community have faced as the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) has been implemented during the last five months. The article emphasizes the court’s efforts to adapt to the new law while being constrained by a hiring freeze. Despite being understaffed, the court has gone to great lengths to provide information about the new law to the public and the bar, including making a procedural guide, forms, checklists, training materials and practice tips available on its website.
In turn, the trusts and estates bar, led by the Boston Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association, has made significant contributions of time and expertise to help ease the transition to the MUPC. Well before the MUPC took effect, the BBA, MBA and the court collaborated on ways to assist practitioners, pro se litigants and court staff in understanding the new law. In addition to sponsoring numerous CLE programs on the new law, they spearheaded an effort to establish MUPC resource desks staffed by bar association volunteers. These resource desks have been set up in the probate registries in seven counties across the state and are typically in session for two to four hours each week.
The resource desks have allowed trusts and estates practitioners to supplement the court’s efforts by providing input and guidance on MUPC related questions posed by lawyer and non-lawyer visitors to the probate registries. Resource desk volunteers have also helped open a dialogue between the court staff and the bar, discussing issues and questions that have arisen for both groups during the first months that the MUPC has been in effect. To date, 49 volunteer lawyers have assisted 166 people, including at least 44 attorneys, 71 pro se litigants, and 28 court staff.
The MUPC resource desks will be in place at least through the end of October and are in need of volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering a few hours of your time to help the court and the bar through what continues to be a challenging time, please contact Peter Shapland (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Cameron Casey (email@example.com) for more information about the program.
Cameron Casey is an Associate at Ropes & Gray LLP. Cameron is a member of the Boston Bar Association’s Trusts and Estates Section Steering Committee and currently serves as co-chair of the Section’s Public Service Committee.