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Rosenberg honored for work with low-income residents

Low-income residents facing civil legal issues, such as eviction from their homes or denial of benefits, often don’t have the resources to hire attorneys.

State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, has tried to address that by supporting access to the judicial system for all, regardless of the ability to pay for representation.

Rosenberg’s work on that front was recognized last week when the Equal Justice Coalition presented him with the Beacon of Justice Award. The coalition is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. and the Massachusetts and Boston bar associations.

“It’s humbling and it’s a reminder that people do value this work,” Rosenberg said of the award, which he received Jan. 17.

Rosenberg said the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. has an important mission.

“The organization has for many years ensured that people get legal representation even if they can’t afford it, so they can have the opportunity to present grievances through the courts and get their matters resolved on an equal footing with those they are engaged with who can hire their own legal counsel,” he said.

Besides tenant-landlord disputes, these matters can include other forms of discrimination, Rosenberg said.

On his Facebook page, Rosenberg noted the importance of giving everyone an opportunity to get legal assistance should they need it.

“It was a great event and true honor for me to be in a room of people who believe, as I do, that the only judicial system worthy of the United States is one that is fair and accessible to all,” Rosenberg wrote.

For 30 years, the MLAC, created by the Legislature, has worked to ensure that people with limited means who are facing critical noncriminal legal problems have access to legal information, advice and representation.

MLAC spokesman Tom Brant said Rosenberg recognizes the need to continue the state’s commitment to the corporation’s funding, even as other sources of money have dried up.

“Sen. Rosenberg has been a consistent supporter during the budget process,” Brant said.

This year the state is spending $12 million, up from $10.5 million the previous year.

Besides helping the economic condition of low-income residents, in fiscal year 2012, MLAC estimates that nearly $48 million in new revenue and costs savings was generated by the legal aid line item. This included around $27 million in federal revenue and savings in excess of $20.5 million in avoided benefits and social services costs.

Other Beacon of Justice awards were given to state Rep. Ruth B. Balser; state Sen. Brian A. Joyce, chairman of the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets; and state Rep. Patricia A. Haddad, speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives.

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