For six consecutive years, UMass Law students and faculty have walked to the hill–the Massachusetts State Capitol on Beacon Hill–to lobby for civil legal aid funding.
Although this year’s Walk to the Hill event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the support of UMass Law did not go unnoticed. The law school was honored for the third consecutive year with the 2020 Strongest Participation for a Law School Award from the Equal Justice Coalition.
Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is an annual lobby day for increased funding for civil legal aid organizations through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item. Last January, nearly 700 attorneys and 87 UMass Law students convened at the Massachusetts State House to ask legislators to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid. The commonwealth ultimately included an increase of $5 million, appropriating $29 million for civil legal aid in FY21. Legal representation is not guaranteed in civil matters as in criminal cases.
According to Alexandria Murphy, JD ’21, who has captained the team for the last three years, “the most exciting part of Walk to the Hill, besides perfectly aligning with UMass Law’s motto to pursue justice, is that it is a fun day to visit the State House, tour it, and meet with legal minds and legislators who want to make an actual difference.”
Walk to the Hill is a cause close to the heart of UMass Law as it connects with the school’s Pursue Justice mission and encourages students to give back to their community.
“I wanted to be part of something that makes a difference,” said Kara Kocurek, JD ’22, who has captained the UMass Law team for two years.
“I’ve met many good-hearted people in this school who want to make a difference in any way they can,” she added. “This is one small way that we can help those who can’t help themselves. I believe that support from our professors play an important role in the popularity of the event as our professors encourage us to participate every year.”
Madeline Paquette, JD ’23 participated as a co-captain for the first time this year when a 3L reached out and asked her to get involved. “I wanted to encourage my representatives to support increased funding for civil legal aid and I am honored that I was able to join in urging legislators to increase this funding.”
“It shows that our students, faculty, and staff continuously support the fight for equal justice for all. We are excited to be involved and make change in the legal profession,” added Murphy.
This year’s event was held virtually and reinvented as Talk to the Hill, headlined by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, MA Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, and Michael Curry, president and chief executive officer of the MA League of Community Leaders.
Hundreds of attorneys, law students, and advocates urged legislators to include $35 million for civil legal aid for the MA Legal Assistance Corporation line item in the FY 2022 budget, an increase of $6 million over FY ‘21.
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and works to increase state funding for civil legal aid.
The 2020 award will be presented at a later date while the 2021 participation awards will be announced at the 2022 Walk to the Hill event.