In Memory of Chief Justice Ralph Gants

Chief Justice Gants once said: “There is abundant room for discussions that begin with the words, ‘What if…?'”


This lifelong attitude was part of what made Ralph Gants a true pillar in the legal community.  For him, “What if?” was not just a rhetorical question–it was a challenge.  Chief Justice Gants championed progress and access to justice. He was never afraid to speak up, even if he spoke alone.  Chief Justice Gants spoke out about injustices and corruption, and he inspired hope in a fairer justice system.  It was in that spirit that he helped create the Access to Justice Commission in Massachusetts.  Knowing he was paying attention to citizens with needs, and looking out for any future needs of the Commonwealth, was something we could always count on.  


One of his later decisions was to close the courts statewide back in March. This decision was unpopular, and he faced loud opposition, but it ended up saving lives and it truly embodies his “people first” perspective.  He always said that being the smartest person in the room wasn’t going to help anyone if you were not, first and foremost, a human being.


After the stay-at-home order had been issued, Chief Justice Gants was asked if any measures were being taken to help those dealing with Civil Appeals.  “I’m not sure,” he said.  “Let’s make it happen!”  He saw a need, and he did whatever he could to help make a solution to that need.  


Chief Justice Gants recognized that VLP was a leader, and the right organization to be tasked with the creation of a Civil Appeals virtual clinic.  Chief Justice Gants knew how “agile, imaginative, and persevering our judicial workforce can be,” and therefore he had nothing but faith and confidence in organizations like ours as new realities of the Covid-19 pandemic set in. He once said that “there would be no justice without VLP.”


To mourn a public hero is difficult, but to grieve a friend hurts all the more. Chief Justice Gants was a vocal and active supporter of VLP since being appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and he has touched so many of our lives professionally and personally. We all can honor Chief Justice Gants’ spirit by continuing to persevere and by holding onto that inspiring voice in the back of our minds which spurs us on even when times are tough.


To quote Chief Justice Gants, we must keep going so that a future generation will say of us, “This was their finest hour.”

You’re Invited!

VLP's logo against a silhouette of the Boston skyline.

Join us for VLP’s 2020 Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Event!

This year, we will be coming to you live on Zoom.  You will still learn about our fantastic awardees and hear from our incredible keynote speakers, but now you can attend from the comfort of your own home!

Please RSVP to the event here.
(You will receive the Zoom link upon registration.)

Keynote Speakers

  • Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell
  • Ms. Thelma Ajike, J.D.

Join us in celebrating our volunteers and honoring our awardees:

Gideon’s Trumpet Award

  • Hon. Joan Feeney (Ret.)

Denis Maguire Awards

  • Caryn Mitchell-Munevar, Esq.
    New England School of Law
  • Joel Gardiner, Esq.
  • Ryan Rosenblatt, Esq.
    Sullivan & Worcester LLP
  • Samuel Bombaugh, Esq.
    Sullivan & Worcester LLP

We hope you can join us!  Stay happy and healthy!

Call Center Hours During COVID

Our callcenter, ERLI, has new hours!  We will keep you posted if anything changes but the updated hours for Eastern Region Legal Intake are as follows:

 

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 9AM-12PM
Tuesday & Thursday: 12:30PM-3:30PM

 

Thank you and stay healthy!

Your Rights in Small Claims Court During the Pandemic

Because of the coronavirus COVID-19, the Trial Court, which includes Small Claims Court, has made some new rules:
 
  • POSTPONED COURT DATES: All pending Small Claims cases are postponed until no earlier than Monday, May 4, 2020. 
 
That means if your Small Claims case is currently scheduled for any date before May 4, 2020, you do NOT have to go to court. If a debt collector wants a telephone (rather than in-person) hearing before May 4, 2020, they must file a motion showing why they want an earlier date. You should receive notice of any new court date by mail. If you don’t receive notice of a new date, you can look up your case file online at www.masscourts.org or call the court where your case is scheduled.  
 
  • DO NOT SIGN AN AGREEMENT TO PAY WITHOUT LEGAL ADVICE.
 
The attorney for the company suing you might reach out to you urging you to sign an agreement to pay outside of court. We strongly urge you to get advice before signing any agreement, even one that does not require you to make payments now. You may have defenses in these cases and the company suing you cannot force you to make payments without a court order. 
 
Please do not sign an agreement without consulting an attorney. 


Thank you and stay safe! 

VLP Clinics Update

Please note: in compliance with recommendations from the CDC, our clinics are now scheduled to reopen as of May 4th (5/4/2020). Stay safe and thank you for your patience!

VLP Office Closure

After careful consideration, we at VLP have decided to close our physical office and call center locations from Monday, March 16- Friday, March 27. At that time, we will reassess opening our offices. 
 
We will continue to operate remotely during these next two weeks. We are set up to continue running our call center remotely, as well as work with our clients, pro bono attorneys, and community partners. You can still reach out to us with all of your needs as you normally would. The only change is that you will need to leave a message in all cases, even for the call center. All staff will have access to emails and voicemails so that we can respond to anyone who reaches out. So if you call and reach a voicemail, don’t worry! We will still respond to everyone. Just please be sure to leave your name and number so we know how to contact you.
 
If you direct a client to call us, please let them know that they will need to leave a voicemail. Our staff will return their call as soon as possible. We have re-recorded our call center voicemail to reflect this change. We are also in the process of creating an online intake, and we will update you all as soon as it has launched.
 
If you had any client meetings scheduled at our office that have not been canceled by our receptionist yet, please contact our receptionist at receptionist@vlpnet.org or 617-423-0648.
 
If you have questions about volunteering during this time, please reach out to me at mblack@vlpnet.org.
 
Thank you for your understanding as we all learn to manage in these unprecedented times.

VLP Clinic Closures

We here at VLP have been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak closely, always with you in mind. Our primary concern is, and always will be, keeping our staff and volunteers safe while still being present for our clients, who, in many cases, ardently need our help.
 
With all of this in mind, we have decided to close VLP’s legal clinics beginning next Monday, March 16th. The clinics will be closed for the rest of March, and we will reassess the situation closer to April. At that time, we will provide an update to all of you.
 
This was not an easy decision to make. We know our volunteers look forward to their pro bono work, and our clients deserve access to justice. It does break our hearts to not be at the clinics, but we must think about everyone’s health and safety.
 
For volunteers, if you still wish to help clients in other ways, please reach out me at mblack@vlpnet.org.
 
For clients, please call our call center at 617-603-1700 for legal help. The call center is open Monday-Friday from 9am-12pm.
 
We appreciate all of you. Thank you for your understanding. Stay safe and healthy.

Welcome, Interns!

VLP is proud to host our new Legal Interns! 

For their Alternative Spring Break, these students are spending their time helping underrepresented citizens of the Greater Boston Area.

Thanks to Boston College Law School and New England Law for sharing your talented students with us!