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Dear Editor

Administration of legal aid is biased against men

Mike Franco

"Administration of legal aid is biased against men." Chicopee Herald July 23-29, 2003
"Administration of legal aid is biased against men." MetroWest Reminder July 23-29, 2003
"MLAC legal aid skewed." The Sun, Holyoke July 24-30, 2003
"Legal advocacy group biased" Hello Holyoke July 30, 2003

Dear Editor,

Your paper has done a fair and objective job of covering Governor Romney's veto of nearly $7.6 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp., and legal aid for poor, as well as it has reported the recent House override to restore the aid.

These legal services are provided by 18 legal aid programs under the umbrella of the MLAC, whose lawyers represent about 33,000 low-income residents in a range of civil cases, including divorces, custody disputes, evictions and domestic violence cases.

The Governor has some valid justifications and concerns about legal aid.  First, his veto is obviously motivated by our current budget crisis and may also be influenced by a philosophy that lawyers should provide civil legal services to the poor as part of their pro bono function to society. Pro bono is a very worthy and fulfilling endeavor for most lawyers.

However there is yet another dominant concern of which your publication and readership should be informed. That concern, articulated by a several citizen advocacy groups across the Commonwealth, is that the administration of legal aid here is inherently bias; moreover, blatantly discriminatory against men.

Along with community-minded attorneys providing pro bono legal work as our thoughtful and conscientious Governor suggests, perhaps our legal aid programs should be evaluated -- since they will likely continue to exist -- to ensure that the services are being provided equally across gender lines.

It would be interesting to know just how much bias exists in the current administration of the MLAC program. But, I think we can be sure that the rendering of Massachusetts legal aid relative to gender is skewed at least to the level of a clear and convincing standard of evidence.

Mike Franco
The Fatherhood Coalition

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