Posts Tagged: Attorney General

Learning About the Realities of Human Trafficking

A lot of the events our Sections put on at 16 Beacon are truly eye-opening, and this week’s presentation on The Realities of Human Trafficking in Massachusetts—sponsored by the Delivery of Legal Services Section and the Boston Bar Foundation, and featuring panelists from the Polaris Project—falls into that category.

The program was hosted by Lavinia Weizel of Mintz Levin, co-chair of the BBA’s Human Trafficking Committee.  You may recall reading about Lavinia—and her co-chair (and Mintz colleague) Alec Zadekin our Issue Spot blog recently, in connection with their efforts to create a streamlined process to allow defendants to vacate convictions for offenses related to their status as trafficking survivors—a proposal the BBA Council recently endorsed.  While that issue was raised during the event, the broader focus was on the various forms of sex- and labor-trafficking that are most common in Massachusetts and specific ways that attorneys can be part of the safety net for survivors.

Our first presenter was Beth Keeley, Chief of the Human Trafficking Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and former head of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bureau.  She started with some recent history on the issue, dating back to the enactment in 2000 of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which strengthened pre-existing laws.

While Massachusetts was “late to the game,” passing a state law only in 2011, Keeley argued that it’s a particularly strong law, in that—with no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion— it’s easier to make a case.  She also said that our statute, unlike many others, puts the focus on the trafficker/exploiter’s mens rea, rather than on the mind of the victim.

The key to enforcement, Keeley stated, is to follow a multi-disciplinary approach, with prosecutors, investigators, and victim-witness advocates all on staff at AGO, working with the State Police’s dedicated trafficking unit, the District Attorneys (many of whom also have dedicated prosecutors focusing on the problem), and social-service agencies.  Her office is able to use its statewide jurisdiction to pursue defendants across counties, treating their operations as criminal enterprises in order to maximize the impact by identifying and taking down networks.

To date, AGO has mostly gone after sex-trafficking, but they are building up their enforcement in labor-trafficking.  While the former is found most often in massage parlors, brothels, and the Web, the latter shows up in construction, domestic and cleaning work, and the service sector in general.  Still, one always needs to be mindful, in any enforcement action, of the concerns of victims.  They frequently suffer from poverty, abuse, and addiction—all factors that make people vulnerable to traffickers in the first place.  And—although the law provides them with an affirmative defense, and prosecutors, starting with AG Maura Healey, have pledged not to do so—they may be fearful of being prosecuted themselves for offenses they committed, such as sex for a fee or working without documentation.

At the same time, advocates are always striving to raise public awareness of the problem, including the role that demand plays, and exploring what else can be done beyond prosecution—educating law enforcement, holding trainings, working with labor leaders, providing pro bono representation, and advocating for enhanced funding.

We next heard from Rochelle Keyhan, who leads the Polaris Project’s strategic initiative to eliminate illicit massage business (IMB) trafficking in the US, and Francheska Loza, formerly of Foley Hoag LLP and now Polaris’s Disruption Strategies Community Organizer.  Keyhan talked more about the patterns she sees, and the 25 different types of trafficking that Polaris has identified—all of which call for distinct responses.  In the IMB sector, for example, victims tend to be older women from outside the country, often undocumented—especially from China and Korea, cultures where these activities trigger high levels of shame and self-blame, making it even more difficult to come forward to law enforcement.  They frequently fear authorities, carry high debts, lack full awareness of their rights, and are under threat from their abusers.

Two other common loci are bars and strip clubs, where an excessive cover charge may be hiding the illegal activities.  Victims there tend to be younger and come from Latin America—or US-born Latinas.  As with workers in IMB, they are usually targeted based on extreme economic need, and the networks frequently have roots in Latin America.

Labor trafficking can be found in such venues as karaoke bars and nail salons.  These cases, which are often interconnected with sex trafficking, can be easier to prosecute because victims are more willing to come forward and to reveal details to investigators.

Polaris’s disruption strategy, a focus of Loza’s work, includes research, creation of a safety net for survivors, partnership with other stakeholders, and the use of culturally-competent and trauma-informed interpreters.  It’s also critical to try to find connections among survivors, for purposes of identifying networks, since trafficking operations are generally much more sophisticated than a typical pimp’s.

The methods of control used by traffickers, which are important for people to be aware of in identifying possible operations, include:

  • isolation and confinement
  • economic coercion
  • threats directed at the victim or their family
  • intimidation and abuse, including sexual/emotional abuse

So.  Armed with all this information, what can you do to help crack down on trafficking?  Some advice from our panel:

  • Buy smarter.
    • Be suspicious of cash-only businesses, very low prices for services, or when a provider is adamant about getting a large tip.
      • Victims may be receiving little or no base compensation, making it an urgent matter that they maximize the income they generate through tips.
    • Other red flags include…
      • Excessive surveillance cameras.
      • “Body work” establishments. Massage therapists must be licensed, but using this term is a way around regulation.
    • Read online reviews:
      • Many users are up-front in describing the illegal services they’ve bought.
    • Alert someone.
      • Call the property owner, the police, municipal officials, or the Polaris hotline.
    • Call your elected representatives about making the issue a priority.
      • While you’re at it, you can ask your state legislators to support vacatur for survivors.
      • At the local level, ask about strengthening ordinances, since some cities and towns lack the authority to shut down or even investigate a business
    • Take on cases pro bono.
      • Again, you may be able to help with vacatur: Even absent the BBA-endorsed streamlined approach now under consideration in the Legislature, there exists a procedure (albeit lengthy and convoluted) to vacate convictions if the defendant was under the duress of a trafficker.

Finally, watch our Issue Spot blog for updates on the progress of vacatur legislation, and keep an eye on the BBA calendar for more events on human trafficking.

—Michael Avitzur
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association

Beth Keeley (Chief of the Human Trafficking Division at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, far right) makes opening remarks at the event. She’s joined on the panel by Lavinia Weizel (Mintz Levin, BBA Human Trafficking Subcommittee Co-Chair, far left), Rochelle Keyhan and Francesca Loza (Polaris Project).

Beyond the Billable Congratulates Law Day Dinner Award Recipients

The BBA Law Day Dinner is the largest annual bench-bar event in Massachusetts. Each year, the event draws over 1,300 judges, policymakers and lawyers from all sectors of the bar.

The BBA Law Day Dinner is the largest annual bench-bar event in Massachusetts. Each year, the event draws over 1,000 judges, policymakers and lawyers from all sectors of the bar.

 

The 2015 Law Day Dinner, featuring Keynote Speaker Attorney General Maura Healey, is just around the corner! As the designated public service blog of the BBA, we are particularly excited for the public service awards, which will be presented to three of our members who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to our community.

Take a look below for more on the award-winners:

staffexecutive001The Boston Bar Association will present Barbara Mitchell, the Executive Director of Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, with the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award to honor her leadership and commitment to legal services. Barbara is a long-term member and former co-chair of the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Service Section. More recently, she has spearheaded the section’s public policy committee, weighing in on key policy discussions within the BBA.  For the past eight years, she has served as the executive director of the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC), a long-time grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.

2e3cfa7Al Wallis, the Executive Director of Brown Rudnick Center for Public Interest, will receive the Thurgood Marshall Award for his leadership in public interest and corporate social responsibility. He is also a member and former co-chair of the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Service Section. Additionally, he served on the BBA Council and as a co-chair and long-term member of the Public Service Oversight Committee. In addition to his work at the BBA, he has served as legal counsel for the BBA’s Summer Jobs partner, the Boston Private Industry Council, for over a decade.

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Jack Ward, the Associate Director for Finance & Development at Greater Boston Legal Services, will receive the President’s Award for this leadership and guidance at Greater Boston Legal Services. Jack has helped the organization navigate the difficult funding environment in the wake of a decline in IOLTA funding and helped establish one of the most diversified funding bases of any legal program. He is a nationally recognized fundraising expert for legal service organizations.

Beyond the Billable congratulates and extends our gratitude to these award winners for their ongoing commitment to our community.

If you’re interested in learning more about the award winners, take a look at this recent Issue Spot post. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the honorees receive their awards in person. Click here for more information on attending the 2015 Law Day Dinner.

 

BBA LRS Makes Connections at Victim Rights Conference

Attorney General Maura Healy welcomes conference attendees with remarks about victim services throughout the state.

Attorney General Maura Healy welcomes conference attendees with remarks about victim services throughout the state.

Last Friday, BBA Lawyer Referral Service staff attended the 2015 Victim Rights Conference hosted by our friends at the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA).  This annual conference brings together individuals and agencies that promote victim rights and services, and is held every April in honor of Victim Rights Month in Massachusetts. For the second year in a row the BBA was there as an exhibitor to highlight services offered by the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) by informing providers how to connect clients with legal resources. This is part of the community outreach the LRS does throughout the year in order to connect with the public.

Although we made many great connections, the highlight of the day was listening to an inspiring panel of survivors who have taken action to help empower victims and prevent crime.  The conference kicked off with a welcome from Liam Lowney, the Executive Director of MOVA, and Attorney General Maura Healey (who will also be the Keynote speaker at the BBA’s Law Day Dinner next month!).  Survivors and providers shared their stories and were honored for their service, including Congresswoman Niki Tsongas for her work to address military sexual assault, and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley who has dedicated her career to addressing violence and poverty in the city.

If you would like more information about the Lawyer Referral Service please contact Solana Goss at [email protected].

LRS staff connect with conference attendees, and explain the referral process to those looking for legal help.

LRS staff connect with conference attendees, and explain the referral process to those looking for legal help.

Public Interest Leaders Making Great Strides

As the BBA begins the recruiting process for another class of emerging leaders for the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class of 2013, we thought it would be nice to check in with three of our PILP alums. Randy Ravitz (PILP class of 2005) is now Chief of Appeals in the Criminal Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, Leiha Macauley (PILP class of 2003) is now Managing Partner of Day Pitney’s Boston office, and Samantha Morton (PILP class of 2004) is Executive Director of Medical Legal Partnership | Boston. See more below about how the PILP experience helped these lawyers achieve success:

Ravitz, RandallRandall Ravitz
Chief, Appeals Division
Criminal Bureau
Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley

During my year in PILP, I learned from a series of speakers about community organizing and leadership, Boston-area politics, and ensuring access to justice. I also made good friends, and we have continued to support each other. Additionally, all of us in the program were warmly welcomed to become more involved in the BBA after the year concluded. As a result, I have since taken on several positions of responsibility in the Association. Those positions have given me opportunities to build effective teams, and to work with accomplished professionals in analyzing recent legal developments, educating other members of the bar, and mentoring new lawyers.

Randy Ravitz is .is a recipient of his office’s Attorney General Edward W. Brooke Award for Excellence. In the fall of 2010, Randy was a National Association of Attorneys General Supreme Court Fellow in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, Randy practiced general litigation at the Boston law firms of Hanify & King, P.C., and Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels LLP. He has also worked for the Massachusetts State Senate and on the staff of Massachusetts political campaigns.

At the BBA, Randy has served as co-chair of the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Section and its Litigation Public Policy Committee, and as a member of its Amicus Committee. Randy has served as a Mentor in the BBA’s Group Mentoring Program since 2010.

Macauley, LeihaLeiha Macauley
Managing Partner the Boston Office, Day Pitney LLP

As for PILP — It was absolutely valuable. I have maintained the good friendships I made, and I truly consider it my launch pad for the very happy career I’ve had this far!

PILP Class 2003 Year End Reception.

PILP Class 2003 Year End Reception. L-R Past BBA President Hugh R. Jones, Jr., Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, Leiha Macauley, Colby Brunt and Kevin Currid.

Leiha Macauley practices in the areas of trust and estate administration, estate planning and trust, estate and fiduciary litigation. Leiha is a member of the firm’s Disabilities and Special Needs Planning and Probate Litigation and Controversies practice groups and also advises clients on achieving philanthropic goals through the use of private foundations and charitable trusts. Leiha developed and co-directs the Child Health Advocacy Partnership, a venture of the East Boston Community Health Center, the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, and Day Pitney which teams doctors with attorneys to provide legal information and advocacy to underprivileged families.

Leiha is a trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation and currently serves on the BBF’s Executive Committee. Leiha is a trustee of the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Foundation and a member of the Executive Committee of the Boston University Law Alumni Association.

Morton Samantha2Samantha Morton
Executive Director
Medical Legal Partnership | Boston

PILP made it possible to connect with like-minded peers early in my career — many of them have become colleagues, collaborators, and friends. I was able to meet and talk with prominent leaders from all sectors of the legal community — rare opportunities indeed. PILP set the stage for other types of valuable BBA involvement — I’m sure that my positive experience with the program helped pave the way for other rewarding BBA leadership roles.

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PILP Alumns Samantha Morton, Randy Ravitz, Philip Graeter, and Thuy Wagner.

Samantha Morton .has focused on sustainability strategies, preventive law orientation, pro bono capacity-building, ethics and confidentiality, and immigration advocacy in the Medical Legal Partnership context. She spearheaded the “adoption” of four Boston-area health clinics by law firm partners; this model is now being replicated by the American Bar Association through the ABA Medical-Legal Partnerships Pro Bono Support Project. Samantha has published and presented extensively on MLP practice.

Samantha currently serves as co-chair of the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Services Section and is a member of the BBA’s Health Law Section Steering Committee. In 2011, Samantha served as a mentor in the BBA’s Group Mentoring Program. Samantha has served as a Lecturer on Law at New England Law | Boston and as a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Health Law Section Council. Before joining MLP | Boston in 2003, Ms. Morton was a litigation associate at WilmerHale (formerly Hale and Dorr LLP), and served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Morton A. Brody of the United States District Court for the District of Maine.

The BBA is currently accepting applications for the PILP class of 2013. The application deadline is February 15th. More information on PILP and the application process is available here. For more information, please email Susan Helm, Member Programs Coordinator, at [email protected].

Public Service Year in Photos

In January 2012, the John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $600,000. That amount helped to fund grants to 24 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas such as immigration, domestic violence and homelessness.

Volunteer lawyers and law students help unrepresented tenants and landlords with a range of services, from information, and advice for full representation in eviction proceedings.  Since May 1999, an estimated 12,000 volunteers have assisted more than 14,700 individuals. Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi at the Boston Housing Court.

At the BBA Lawyer for a Day in the Boston Housing Court, volunteer lawyers and law students helped unrepresented tenants and landlords with a range of services — from information and advice to full representation in eviction proceedings. Since May 1999, an estimated 12,000 volunteers have assisted more than 14,700 individuals. Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi at the Boston Housing Court.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke to East Boston High School students as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a joint program of the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke to East Boston High School students as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a joint program of the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Emily Hodge, Choate, Hall & Stewart, teaches students about the importance of due process and access to justice at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. In May 2012, 28 volunteers taught 580 students at 5 different schools about the field of law.

Emily Hodge, Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP, as part of Law Day in the Schools taught students about the importance of due process and access to justice at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. In May 2012, 28 volunteers taught 580 students at 5 different schools about the field of law.

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), is the BBA’s largest public service program, with a specific commitment to reaching historically underserved populations. The LRS Program connects callers in need of legal assistance with qualified help from private attorneys, legal services agencies, government offices and community programs.

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), is the BBA’s largest public service program, with a specific commitment to reaching historically underserved populations. The LRS Program connects callers in need of legal assistance with qualified help from private attorneys, legal services agencies, government offices and community programs.

In its ninth year of producing young public interest leaders, the Public Interest Leadership Program selected an outstanding class of 14 up-and-coming leaders from the largest-ever applicant pool. The 2012-2013 class of the BBA's Public Interest Leadership Program. L-R: Omar F. Gonzalez-Pagan, Staci Rubin, Benton B. Bodamer, Christopher T. Saccardi, Eric A. Haskell, Julia E. Devanthéry, Jacqueline Silva Anchondo, Emily F. Hodge, Meghan D. H. Walsh Raquel Webster and Daniel M. Routh

In its ninth year of producing young public interest leaders, the Public Interest Leadership Program selected an outstanding class of 14 up-and-coming leaders from the largest-ever applicant pool. The 2012-2013 class of the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program. L-R: Omar F. Gonzalez-Pagan, Staci Rubin, Benton B. Bodamer, Christopher T. Saccardi, Eric A. Haskell, Julia E. Devanthéry, Jacqueline Silva Anchondo, Emily F. Hodge, Meghan D. H. Walsh Raquel Webster and Daniel M. Routh.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, a partnership between the BBA, Mayor’s Office and Northeastern University, gives young people the opportunity to reach out to other Boston teens. The BBA provides the Mayor’s Youth Council lawyer-mentors. Lisa Goodheart, Past President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, a partnership between the BBA, the Mayor’s Office and Northeastern University, gives young people the opportunity to reach out to other Boston teens. The BBA provides the Mayor’s Youth Council lawyer-mentors. Lisa Goodheart, Past President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

Larry DiCara, a partner at Nixon Peabody and former member and president of the Boston City Council conducts a mock City Council hearing with the 2012 Summer Jobs students. L-R: Tatenda Mundeke, Aubrey Griffin, Raymond Cen, Ashley Dixon, and Samantha Argon.

Larry DiCara, a partner at Nixon Peabody and former President of the Boston City Council conducted a mock City Council hearing with the 2012 Summer Jobs students. L-R: Tatenda Mundeke, Aubrey Griffin, Raymond Cen, Ashley Dixon, and Samantha Argon.

At the 4th Annual Pro Bono Fair for Attorneys and Law Students sponsored by BBA and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston Bar Foundation Grantee, explains the pro bono opportunities available in Greater Boston.

At the 4th Annual Pro Bono Fair for Attorneys and Law Students sponsored by BBA and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston Bar Foundation Grantee, explained the pro bono opportunities available in Greater Boston.

BBA President James D. Smeallie talks to 8th and 9th graders at Quincy Upper School during the Principal for A Day program on Tuesday, November 13th. The program allowed public and private sector leaders to better understand the improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system.

BBA President James D. Smeallie talked with 8th and 9th graders at Quincy Upper School during the Principal for A Day program on Tuesday, November 13th. The program allowed public and private sector leaders to better understand improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system.

Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League conducts a training for BBA volunteers to be judges at debate tournaments. The BBA entered a partnership with Boston Debate League earlier this year.

Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League trained BBA volunteers to be judges at debate tournaments. The BBA entered into a partnership with Boston Debate League earlier this year.

BBA Past President Renee Landers (Suffolk Law School) presented GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley with the Beacon Award honoring Diversity & Inclusion for their work as lawyers in advancing same sex marriage. The Boston Bar Association’s third annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion took place on November 13 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

BBA Past President Renee Landers (Suffolk Law School) presented GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley with the Beacon Award honoring Diversity & Inclusion for their work as lawyers in advancing same sex marriage. The Boston Bar Association’s third annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion took place on November 13 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

The Fight Starts Somewhere

On November 13, the Boston Bar Association will have the honor of presenting its third annual Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)  and the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (AG). They will be honored for their work in advancing marriage equality, a civil rights battle thathas its origins well before DOMA. But more on that in a moment.

The combined efforts of both GLAD and the AG’s Office have brought together an impressive network of lawyers to advance one of the most significant civil rights issues in recent history.  What’s particularly meaningful for us is that the two honorees engaged the legal community as an advocate for greater Diversity and Inclusion both in Massachusetts and the nation.

This fight for civil rights for gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts could be seen in a fundamental way as starting with a single pro bono case from the mid ‘80’s,  Babets v. Johnston. It began with The Boston Globe breaking a story about two brothers in the foster care system placed with a gay couple, Babets and Jean. The very same day the story broke, the Dukakis administration removed the children from their home.

The couple’s sexual orientation was the sole reason the boys were removed from their home. No issues of neglect, abuse, or any sort of mistreatment were ever raised. After the children were removed, the administration approved a new DSS policy that essentially banned gays and lesbians from being foster parents.

From GLAD Website: Don Babets and David Jean (back) with
GLAD attorney and Executive Director Kevin Cathcart (r) and co-counsel Tony Doniger
Photo by Ellen Shub

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders started the legal fight to overturn this blatantly discriminatory policy and return the boys to their home. Today, there would be lawyers lining up around the block to help fight for this family, but in 1986, GLAD found it nearly impossible to find any support in the legal community. Attorney Anthony M. Doniger, a partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C. – later to become President of the Boston Bar Association –stepped up to the challenge and represented the plaintiffs in the case pro bono all the way up to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The court rejected the claim of executive privilege asserted by the Dukakis administration in order to withhold documents related to the DSS policy banning gay and lesbians from being foster parents. This ruling allowed the plaintiffs to move forward on their suit to reverse the policy. The policy was ultimately reversed back to the “best interests of the child” standard and the initial suit was settled out of court.

The Beacon Award is celebrating the great work GLAD and the AG’s office have done to promote marriage equality not only in the Commonwealth, but across the nation. Every civil rights effort begins with small steps that, like pebbles dropped in a pond, send out ripples that ultimately can have profound impact.  The Babets v. Johnston case is just one of those “pebbles” dropped just over 25 years ago.

Please join us on November 13 at 6:00 at the Liberty Hotel for the Beacon Award.  The event is free but we do ask that you RSVP.

AG Assisting Homeowners Facing Foreclosure Statewide

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.