Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice commends the Trial Court for Emergency Administrative Order 20-10, issued on June 24th 2020, which takes effect on July 13th and temporarily eliminates bans on the use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices (“PEDs”) inside all Massachusetts state courthouses. Our 2018 report, Cell Phones in the Courthouse: An Access to Justice Perspective, examined the disproportionate impact courthouse cell phone restrictions have on self-represented litigants and low-income court users. 
As that report demonstrated, many self-represented litigants need to use cell phones within the courtroom to display evidence, conduct legal research, or access language translation services. In addition, many court users require their cell phones to coordinate aspects of everyday life, such as ensuring proper childcare, obtaining transportation, or communicating with employers. Our report found that without access to these resources through their cell phones, self-represented litigants are placed at an even further disadvantage compared to litigants with attorneys. To fully correct the unintended consequences of these cell phone bans, Massachusetts Appleseed recommended that the Commonwealth adopt a universal permissive policy that allows cell phone use in courthouses statewide.
The Court’s Order temporarily eliminating all cell phone bans is a significant step towards that goal and has the potential to greatly expand access to justice in Massachusetts. We are extremely grateful to the Trial Court for this essential progress, but we urge the Trial Court to make this temporary change permanent in order to further increase self-represented litigants access to justice.


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for our mailing list.

Action Alert

For years Massachusetts Appleseed has been working to bring an end to zero-tolerance school discipline policies, school arrests, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Amidst the wave of protests against police brutality, now is the time to demand more. Over-policing in Massachusetts schools disproportionally impacts Black and Latinx students, who are significantly more likely to be arrested at school than their white counterparts. School Resource Officers (SROs) are meant to protect our students, but instead many SROs actively place our students in danger. On December 3, 2018, a Springfield Massachusetts school resource officer assaulted a 14-year-old high school boy, grabbing him by the back of his neck and pushing him against the side of a school hallway. Subsequently, the officer filed a false incident report. We cannot allow this to go on any longer. We need change now.
Tomorrow the Massachusetts Senate will be voting on S.2800 An Act to Reform Police Standards and Shift Resources to Build a More Equitable, Fair and Just Commonwealth that Values Black Lives and Communities of Color, known as the Reform, Shift + Build Act.
This legislation:
  • Requires the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to report out the number of mental health counselors and school resources officers
  • Limits school personnel from disclosing student information to law enforcement, and subsequent entry of that information into shared law enforcement databases
By providing us data on the current number of counselors compared with school resource officers in Massachusetts public schools, this legislation will allow us to more deeply understand the practical solution of replacing SROs with mental health counselors. In addition, this legislation takes important initial steps to limit the ability of school administrations and SROs to share incident reports with local law enforcement.
This legislation is a solid foundation for dismantling the over-policing in Massachusetts schools. However, amendments are necessary to truly achieve our goal.
Amendments we support:
  • Senator Boncore’s Amendment 25 “Training and Certification for School Resource Officers” requires specific training for SROs on a host of important topics, to be developed in consultation with experts, and to be required before an officer can be assigned as an SRO.
  • Senator Jehlen’s Amendment 80 “School Committee Approval of SROs and Data Reporting” puts school committees – not superintendents and police chiefs – in charge of annually approving school policing by vote, and requires that the district and police department comply with the reporting requirements of school-based arrests to qualify to have an SRO.
  • Senator Jehlen’s Amendment 93 “Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline” prevents students who have been merely accused of a crime from being excluded from school without any real due process, and clarifies the type of student behavior that would rise to the level of being a danger in the school to justify expulsion and suspension.
  • Senator Jehlen’s Amendment 108 “Protecting Students from Profiling” strengthens existing provisions of S.2800 on information sharing by prohibiting Massachusetts school staff and school police from sharing student information to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center and other gang databases.
These amendments require increased training for SROs, place the power to approve SROs within the community, provide students due with process in future disciplinary action, and keep school administrators from sharing disciplinary information with state and federal law enforcement such as the Boston Police Department, ICE, and the FBI. 
These measures represent an essential step in supporting the grassroots movements led by young people in Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and across the Commonwealth advocating for the removal of SROs entirely.

Click Here to Read S.2800

Click Here for Amendments

What You Can Do

Time is of the essence! The Senate will be voting Tomorrow!

  1. Contact your Senator TODAY and ask them to support Amendments 25, 80, 93, and 108.
  2. Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether the Senator will support these amendments.
  3. Click here to find your Senators emails and phone numbers.

Thank you for working with us to improve this important legislation and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline!


Our Response to COVID-19

From advocating for increased support for youth experiencing homelessness, to sharing multilingual resources to help immigrant and Limited English Proficient families withstand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for future action alerts.

Action Alert

Amid record levels of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Massachusetts residents are struggling to pay rent and afford basic necessities. The statewide eviction moratorium prevents anyone from being forced out of their home for now, but if the Governor does not extend the moratorium, that protection could end on August 18th – flooding courts with eviction cases. According to landlord organizations, as many as an estimated 15,000 new evictions will be filed.

As part of the response to the tidal wave of evictions expected to hit when the moratorium lifts, Senator Sal DiDomenico has filed emergency legislation to establish a statewide Right to Counsel pilot project. The bill, SD 2971, would protect low-income renters and owner-occupants facing eviction in areas of the Commonwealth hit hardest by the pandemic by establishing projects statewide, within each of the Housing Court’s six divisions.

As a member of the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition, we know that without a lawyer, many tenants do not know how to protect themselves in and out of the courtroom from the threat of eviction. This bill is an important step in ensuring a fairer, more balanced process, preventing homelessness, displacement, unjust evictions, and creating a path to housing stability in the wake of the pandemic.

SD 2971 Fact Sheet

What You Can Do

Time is of the essence!

  1. Contact your Senator & Representative TODAY and ask them to co-sponsor SD 2971 Emergency Right to Counsel Pilot.
  2. Check whether your Senator and Rep co-sponsored Right to Counsel bills earlier this year. If they did, thank them for their earlier support when you ask them to co-sponsor SD 2971. 
  3. Use the starter email below which includes links to the fact sheet and information about the Coalition.
  4. Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether the Senator or Rep will co-sponsor the bill.
  5. Click here to find your Senator and Representative emails and phone numbers. 

Sample Language:

My name is _______ and I am a Massachusetts resident from _____________. I’m contacting you to ask that you co-sponsor Senate Docket 2971, a statewide right to counsel pilot program to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. It is urgent that we advance this bill quickly to avert the coming eviction crisis. Landlord organizations estimate 15,000 new evictions will be filed when the eviction moratorium ends. 

Over 90% of tenants face eviction without legal representation, while 70% of landlords have lawyers – an imbalance that may be felt even more when the moratorium ends. Massachusetts needs a comprehensive eviction prevention response that includes full legal representation in eviction cases to stabilize people’s housing. 

Over 130 organizations have joined together to support a right to counsel in MassachusettsI hope you will join with others to co-sponsor SD 2971. Please see the fact sheet with more information about SD 2971. Thank you for all of your work to keep Massachusetts residents safe and housed.

Your name ______________

Organization/Contact Information


Thank you for supporting low-income and unrepresented tenants and taking quick action to expand access to justice!


SD 2971 Fact Sheet

Find Your Legislator

Did Your Legislator Co-Sponsor a Right to Counsel Bill?

Growing List of Supporters for Right to Counsel

Join the Right to Counsel Coalition

Our Response to COVID-19

From advocating for increased support for youth experiencing homelessness, to sharing multilingual resources to help immigrant and Limited English Proficient families withstand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for future action alerts.

America is hurting. The unjust murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others have sparked a national movement to hold our leaders accountable for the insidious racial inequality that penetrates both consciously and unconsciously throughout American society. People across the nation are fighting to overcome generations of pain caused by white supremacy, racial injustice, police brutality, and a broken criminal justice system that penalizes Black citizens at disproportionate rates. This is increasingly obvious as we are suffering through a global pandemic that is impacting communities of color at far higher rates than white communities due to the inequities these communities are forced to endure. We continue to see the over-policing of Black communities and the unjust use of force against Black citizens. Segregated schools and segregated educational opportunities reproduce inequality and racial disparities. These societal issues entrench racial injustice in our schools, neighborhoods, and jobs, which ultimately lead to the violence perpetrated against innocent people such as George Floyd.
Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with Black voices and Black-led movements across the country who are organizing and mobilizing citizens to fight for justice for all.  We share a common belief that change is necessary. In addition to calling out injustice, Appleseed actively works to find local solutions to national issues and make change happen at the state and local level through our 16 Centers across the country. Our Centers work tirelessly to fight racial injustice and transform our system into one that eliminates structural inequality in our society. We work to integrate schools, improve prison conditions, reduce jail populations, expand social safety net programs, increase access to basic services regardless of one’s country of origin, equalize access to healthcare, increase affordable housing, afford all people the training and education they need to compete for better jobs, fight unfair policing, and change unfair laws.  
For example, here are some of the projects our Centers are working on to improve the lives of people in historically marginalized communities:

This is only a small selection of the broad array of projects our Network works on every day. Please see below for a list of our affiliate Appleseed Centers with links to their websites, social media, and their latest work, press statements, or publications.
Additionally, we support those who are exercising their right to protest against racism and we strongly condemn the use of needless force by law enforcement against peaceful protesters. We encourage our supporters to check out the following resources on anti-racism shared by our Kansas Appleseed Center:

“Resources and Tools Regarding Racism & Anti/Blackness (& How To Be a Better Ally)”
“Anti-Racism Resource for White People”

    Appleseed Centers:

Alabama Appleseed – Twitter: @AlaAppleseed | Facebook: @AlaAppleseed

Chicago Appleseed – Twitter: @ChiAppleseed | Facebook: @ChicagoAppleseed

DC Appleseed – Twitter: @DC_Appleseed | Facebook: @DCAppleseed

Georgia Appleseed – Twitter: @GaAppleseed | Facebook: @GeorgiaAppleseed

Hawai’i Appleseed – Twitter: @HIAppleseed | Facebook: @Hawaii.Appleseed

Kansas Appleseed – Twitter: @KansasApple | Facebook: @KansasAppleseed

Louisiana Appleseed – Twitter: @La_Appleseed | Facebook: @ LouisianaAppleseed

Massachusetts Appleseed – Twitter: @MassAppleseed | Facebook: @MassAppleseed

Mexico Appleseed – Twitter: @AppleseedMexico | Facebook: @mexicoappleseed

Missouri Appleseed – Twitter: @MissouriApples1 | Facebook: Missouri Appleseed

Nebraska Appleseed – Twitter:  @neappleseed | Facebook: @neappleseed

New Jersey Appleseed – Twitter: @NJ_Appleseed | Facebook: NJ Appleseed Public Interest Law Center

New Mexico Appleseed – Twitter: @NMAppleseed | Facebook: @new.appleseed

New York Appleseed – Twitter: @AppleseedNY | Facebook: @NYAppleseed

South Carolina Appleseed – Twitter: @AppleseedSC | Facebook: @AppleseedSC

Texas Appleseed – Twitter: @TexasAppleseed | Facebook: @TexasAppleseed

In solidarity, and on behalf of the Appleseed Network,
Sarah Pacilio
Network Manager
Appleseed Network


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for our mailing list.

Here we are again, joining others throughout the world in grief, outrage, and, perhaps most perniciously, recognition over the tragic extrajudicial killing of yet another Black person, George Floyd. This, as we continue to mourn for the unjust losses of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people who have died needlessly at the hands of law enforcement in this country. We stand in solidarity with those engaged in protest. And as these protests increase in their intensity, it is crucial to refocus our attention to the violence that is wielded against Black communities every day.

The callous violence exhibited by those officers in the videoed moments of George Floyd’s murder is haunting and shocking. Yet, these officers’ actions fit comfortably within this country’s long-existing history of racial injustice. Their actions are rooted in the same myth of Black inferiority that justified slavery and thrived in the wake of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynching, redlining and segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline, the war on drugs, and countless other anti-Black policies – the presumption that Black people are untrustworthy and dangerous, that Black people as a whole are not equal, less capable, less deserving, less good, less human. It is no wonder that these deaths continue to occur.

This long-standing racial fiction has resulted in institutionalized racism and racial injustice in policies that impact every facet of life – social welfare, education, housing, employment, transportation, and city planning. If Black children are undeserving, then why invest in their education instead of handcuffing them for meaningless infractions? If Black families are untrustworthy, then why ensure that they do not experience homelessness and food insecurity at such disproportionate rates? If Black people are unequal, then why guarantee that the outcome of legal cases that threaten eviction, heavy fines, or imprisonment are based on merit, and not resources? These myths make it easier to look the other way. But, make no mistake, discriminatory policies that exclude Black students and families from educational opportunities, justice in the courts, and critical resources are violent. The chronic underfunding and devaluing of communities of color is violent. The disparate impact COVID-19 has had on Black communities is violent. Looking the other way does not make the destruction go away.

Massachusetts Appleseed’s work to change policies that marginalize, impoverish, and punish communities of color exists within the context of racism’s long, violent legacy; our commitment to promoting access to justice and opportunity is also a commitment to identifying and rooting out the destructive myths that perpetuate these policies. In this charged moment, we urge our lawmakers, policymakers, and leaders to turn away from a return to business as usual. It is clear that talking is not enough. Acknowledging is not enough. Instead, take this time to reimagine our future – one in which our systems support and protect the full humanity of every person, and in which our policies and institutions fulfill America’s most foundational ideals of fairness, justice, and equity.

In solidarity,

Deborah Silva
Executive Director
Massachusetts Appleseed

Melanie L. Todman
Chair of the Board of Directors
Massachusetts Appleseed


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for our mailing list.

Logo for Liberty Mutual InsuranceWhen Kathy McGrath, the pro bono manager for Liberty Mutual’s legal department, heard about the Homeless Youth Handbook project, she immediately knew she would easily find willing volunteers. And she soon had 25 people signed up to help make a Massachusetts version of the Homeless Youth Handbook that the Baker McKenzie law firm had spearheaded in 10 places already.

“Liberty has a robust pro bono program,” she said, “and many of our lawyers and paralegals already had experience on key legal issues such as obtaining domestic violence restraining orders, finding housing, and accessing education.”

What subjects the volunteers didn’t already know, they were willing to learn about to make the handbook comprehensive and useful. 

Another motivation for Liberty getting involved with the handbook was the valuable organizational support from MA Appleseed. The staff at Appleseed greatly assisted the drafters from Liberty and Boston Scientific by compiling a thorough list of online research sources for Massachusetts law. Then the staff assembled a network of local subject matter experts, who they have been working with to review and edit the drafts volunteers submit to ensure the finalized handbook is thorough and accurate.                        

Participating in the handbook was a great fit for the Liberty legal department because one of the primary goals of the company’s charitable foundation is addressing homelessness, with a special emphasis on preventing youth homelessness. For example, in 2018, Liberty Mutual funded the purchase of Liberty House, a transitional residence for young people experiencing homelessness managed by Bridge Over Troubled Waters. The staff at Bridge Over Troubled Waters were excited when Attorney McGrath told them about the handbook, seeing it as providing legal information to supplement Bridge’s own app that helps young people experiencing homelessness navigate resources for shelter, meals, mental health, and more. In fact, Bridge agreed that it would have the final draft of the handbook reviewed by teenagers experiencing homelessness to confirm it was written and organized in an understandable way.     

“MA Appleseed has done a wonderful job coordinating the handbook project,” McGrath said. “With so many authors collaborating and experts reviewing the handbook sections, something this complex needed the structure that Appleseed provides. I think the handbook is going to be truly useful to homeless young people and the network of providers who guide them.”

“Not only has Liberty consistently been a champion of our most vulnerable youth over the years,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of MA Appleseed, “but we have been amazed by their tireless dedication to this project, especially during such a difficult time. As the world has shut down around us, the Liberty team and all our volunteers continue to write and turn in handbook chapters, which will enable us to get the finished resource into the hands of the young people who need it as soon as possible. We rely on pro bono assistance at MA Appleseed, and partners like Liberty are an extraordinary gift. I couldn’t be more grateful for their hard work and the time and energy they have donated to make this know-your-rights resource a reality.”


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for our mailing list.

Thank You, Jennifer Sunderland: Board Member, Boston Attorney, and Generous Monthly Donor!


Image of Jennifer Sunderland, Member of Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice's Board of Directors

Jennifer Sunderland, Board Member

Jennifer is a Massachusetts native who attended college and law school here and clerked for judges in the Massachusetts Trial Court and Supreme Judicial Court. As a public defender for four years, Jennifer witnessed the importance of expanding access to justice within our legal system firsthand. After working for three boutique law firms doing civil litigation, she started her own law firm with a former colleague this past January. They focus on criminal defense and business and employment litigation.

“When I first became involved in MA Appleseed, I particularly appreciated the organization’s approach of engaging stakeholders in order to develop evidence-based solutions,” Jennifer said. “It has a unique mission and approach, and I think its work fills a gap in finding solutions to systemic access to justice problems.”

Jennifer is a champion of MA Appleseed’s Board of Directors. She has spearheaded multiple events like last September’s Trivia Night during which her team, the Lady Killers, came close to winning the ultimate prize! A committed donor, she recently began giving on a monthly basis last November.

“By giving monthly, I can do my part to help ensure MA Appleseed has consistent and regular support,” Jennifer said. “Also, it’s easier because I can give a smaller amount over time rather than a larger amount at one time. Now that donating monthly is an option, I cannot see a downside to doing it. It also saves me from having to think about it because my donation is automatically processed every month – one less task to worry about!”

“Because MA Appleseed is a small organization, it has the ability to be nimble and flexible where other nonprofits might be burdened and slowed by bureaucracy,” she added. “However, because it is smaller, every bit of support counts!”

To join Jennifer and become a monthly donor, click here and sustain MA Appleseed’s work all year with a gift of $15 a month.

Jennifer Sunderland has been a member of Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice’s Board of Directors since 2016.  


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for our mailing list.

By Jake Hofstetter | Research and Policy Associate

The coronavirus crisis has impacted every part of society, and even public institutions are having to be flexible and creative to respond to the pandemic. Schools are using remote learning, governments are offering unemployment applications online, and libraries are lending e-books. The court system is no different. With social distancing in place and public gatherings prohibited, courts in Massachusetts have mostly closed and moved many of their hearings and services to remote formats. Although tragic, the COVID-19 pandemic creates an opportunity for us to experiment with new ways of delivering justice and to determine how well remote services and courts hearings work once the coronavirus emergency has subsided. The question will be not only how well these measures have functioned in a crisis, but what we can learn from remote services to potentially make our legal system work more fairly after the pandemic ends.

Massachusetts’ legal system has responded quickly to combat the spread of coronavirus. The Trial Court has closed all the Commonwealth’s courthouses and postponed all proceedings except for emergency matters related to criminal activities, child welfare, domestic violence, and other urgent concerns. According to the courts’ order, these hearings should be held remotely (if possible), using technological tools such as telephones or video conferencing. All non-emergency concerns have been delayed until at least May, and indigent litigants now are able to file their forms electronically (e-file) free of charge in cases where e-filing is available. Legal aid organizations have also begun to offer more remote services, and the six Court Service Centers, court-run centers that provide self-help assistance to litigants, have started limited remote services for cases that the courts are still handling.

What is happening in Massachusetts mirrors what is happening nationally. At least three quarters of states have restricted entry to their courthouses while every state has generally suspended proceedings or allowed local entities (like counties or cities) to suspend proceedings. Three states have mandated the use of remote/virtual hearings while many more, including Massachusetts, have partially required or urged the use of virtual hearings. These steps have led some states to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, and other software to hold virtual hearings. All of these moves indicate that remote court proceedings and legal services are having a moment, the scale of which wouldn’t have been possible to imagine only a few months ago.

Remote services are not just convenient workarounds for our current crisis – they also represent powerful tools for increasing access to justice for everyone. Even when there are not travel restrictions or social distancing regulations, the act of coming to court can create a serious barrier for many working and low-income people. It requires taking a day off work, finding childcare, coordinating transportation, and other practical challenges for many litigants. Plus, most cases don’t require only coming to court once, they require multiple appearances that create an even larger burden, especially for court users without lawyers (self-represented litigants, or SRLs for short). On top of that, many litigants who seek to take advantage of free self-help services have to return to courts and wait in line for long periods due to limited capacity at Court Service Centers. Court buildings themselves are also intimidating for many people. Legal jargon, high-priced lawyers, and complicated forms can make anyone nervous, especially those without legal representation.

But it’s not just hearings and legal assistance that can go remote. Court systems can also use existing programs that allow litigants to fill out court forms online and then e-file their documents. Known as document assembly programs, this type of software guides users through an interview where they answer questions and enter information that pertains to their case. After the user completes the digital interview, the program takes the user’s information and automatically fills out the relevant legal form(s), similar to how Turbo Tax works. Document assembly programs not only make filling out confusing forms easier but also save litigants the time of having to come to court to file forms or get help filling them out. Efforts to use these programs to respond to the pandemic are already underway in Massachusetts. Suffolk Law School’s Legal Innovation & Technology Lab (LIT Lab) has already started an initiative, known as the Document Assembly Line Project, to take urgent forms from Massachusetts courts and “create mobile-friendly accessible versions of online court forms and pro se materials in multiple-languages.” In its finalized form, this program will let Massachusetts court users fill out documents online within the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Of course, remote services are not without drawbacks. Holding hearings over Zoom or a conference call presents the same challenges that normal staff meetings do: people talk over each other, internet connections go out, people get distracted. The same populations that already struggle with finding representation or navigating the legal system may not have access to strong enough internet connections or lack technological literacy to use software like Zoom or document assembly programs. For self-represented litigants, using a phone line may also increase confusion over what is going on in their cases. Regarding due process, advocates fear moving to entirely remote hearings may reduce the quality of representation and independent monitoring for defendants. For example, defendants can’t speak to their attorneys privately if they are participating in a conference call with a judge and prosecutor. Similarly, cases may not receive a full or fair hearing due to remote technology or the speed at which the court holds its Zoom call. Remote court hearings also mean a judge is only hearing a voice, not seeing a face, which can remove much of the humanity from what may be intensely personal cases. Any remote solutions will always have to balance these concerns with the convenience of taking court hearings and services online.

When this crisis is over and we are tempted to return everything to “normal,” it will be essential to take the time to look back, and evaluate whether remote services helped or, in some cases, hurt litigants’ efforts in court. This is a chance for us to see how well these tools can work, to test their capacity on a large scale, work out problems, and better understand how going remote can expand access to justice. Once the dust settles, we’ll also have a new trove of data, perspectives, and outcomes from which we will be able to analyze which emergency measures might be worth keeping around for the future. If court systems take advantage of those lessons learned, we’ll have the chance to lay the foundation for remote legal and court services that increase access to our courts and lead to a more welcoming system for all court users.


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for our mailing list.

Systemic injustice and legal crises don’t go away because of a virus. For those experiencing food insecurity, in need of medical support, and more, please check out the resources below provided by our friends at Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston: 

Need Legal Help or Support During COVID-19?

The public health crisis is unfolding rapidly so Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston created a landing page to share multilingual information. This information is accurate as of March 16.

The English version can be downloaded here. La información sobre sus derechos está disponible en español aquí.

Medical Support 

If you are undocumented and need healthcare, you may be eligible for MassHealth Limited, which provides care for medical emergencies, including visits to an emergency room. Public charge does not apply to MassHealth Limited. Visit the MA Connector or call 1-800-841-2900 for English and Spanish service.

All health insurance carriers are required to provide medically necessary telehealth, testing, counseling, treatment, and vaccination (once it’s developed and available) services without charging copays and coinsurance or applying a deductible.

Food Security

Many cities and towns will continue to provide free breakfast and lunch to students in their respective districts. Click on the city to see their meal schedules and locations: Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, ChelseaLawrence, and Lowell.

Unemployment Assistance

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are quarantined or if you left work due to risk of exposure or to care for a family member. You don’t have to provide medical documentation, but you must: (1) remain in contact with your employer, and; (2) be available for work your employer may have that you’re able to do. To apply, please visit the Unemployment Assistance website. The state is moving to waive the one week waiting period for benefits.

Undocumented residents are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston is advocating for the creation of a Fund for Affected Individuals and Families to support people who don’t qualify for Unemployment assistance.

Protecting Workers

The Massachusetts Attorney General is accepting online complaints related to minimum wage, overtime payment, sick time, meal breaks, and worker protections. You can file a complaint with the Fair Labor Division here or call the hotline at 617-727-3465.

Victims and Witnesses of Crime

If you are the victim or witness of a crime, please file a report with the police or the District Attorney’s office. You have the right to report a crime even if you are undocumented. Immigration is prohibited from conducted arrests in Massachusetts state courthouses.

Driver’s Licenses (RMV)

The RMV will implement a 60-day extension to the current expiration date for Class D, Class DMs, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits within the RMV system. All individuals with expired/expiring credentials dated between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, will continue to have an active status until sixty (60) days after the expiration date printed on their credential. This does not apply to immigrants whose end of stay in the United States is the same as the expiration date on their driver’s license, ID card, or Learner’s Permit.

Public Charge and Immigration Issues

Seeking testing, treatment, or preventative care for coronavirus will not be used against anyone in any public charge analysis. Remember that using public benefits will not impact you if you are a green card holder, U.S. citizen, refugee, asylum seeker, VAWA recipient, TPS holder, or holder of a U or T visa. Many benefits, including CHIP, WIC, LiHEAP, SSDI, free school lunch, and disaster relief, are not included in public charge. You can always call LCR’s English-Spanish public charge hotline at 617-988-0609 with any questions.

For assistance, call Lawyers for Civil Rights at 617-981-4308 or email

This information is accurate as of 5 PM on Monday, March 16, 2020.

Visit lawyersforcivilrights/coronavirus for regular updates.

Esta información está disponible en español aquí y en nuestra página de recursos del Coronavirus.


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for future action alerts.

Action Alert

In 2018 alone, more than 40,000 households in Massachusetts were served with eviction papers, and over 92% of these tenants were unrepresented. Women, families of color, and households with children disproportionately face eviction, and are forced to fight it on their own. The stakes are high and without a lawyer, many tenants do not know how to protect themselves in and out of the courtroom. From uprooting neighborhoods, pushing families into homelessness, and more, the impact of eviction can be swift, traumatic, and devastating.

As a member of the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition, we believe that by establishing a right to counsel in eviction cases, we can ensure a fairer, more balanced process, prevent homelessness, displacement, unjust evictions, and create a path to housing stability.

Join the Coalition

Where Are We Now

In November, the Right to Counsel Coalition submitted a consolidated proposal, guided by these principles, that calls for:

  • providing an attorney for low-income tenants facing eviction in court and certain low-income owner-occupants of 1 or 2 -family homes seeking possession of their own and only home;
  • building the capacity of organizations to prevent evictions and homelessness, such as proactive education, housing stabilization assistance, and “upstream” support prior to court.

The Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing bills, including this consolidated bill. It must report all the bills out of the committee by next Wednesday, February 5th, or seek an extension of further time to consider the bill.

Read the Coalition’s Proposed Bill

Summary of the Coalition’s Proposed Bill

Section-by-Section Analysis of the Coalition’s Proposed Bill

What You Can Do

Please call, write, or email your Senator and Representative before February 5th and urge them to contact the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Claire Cronin, and urge them to give the right to counsel bill a favorable report.

Sample Language:

Dear Senator/Rep______: 

One of the most important ways to fight homelessness is to prevent evictions. Over 92% of tenants facing eviction in court have no representation. Housing stability is one of the most pressing issues that our Commonwealth is facing. Over 120 organizations are part of a broad-based Right to Counsel Coalition. Please urge Judiciary Chair Cronin and Chair Eldridge to report a right to counsel bill out of the Judiciary Committee favorably. Now is the time. We can prevent the trauma that eviction is causing people in our community. Thank you.

If your Senator or Representative co-sponsored one of the Right to Counsel bills, please thank them and let them know we need their help to advance this bill. You can see if they co-sponsored one of the bills here!

Thank you for supporting low-income and unrepresented tenants and taking vital action to expand access to justice!


Find Your Legislator

Did Your Legislator Co-Sponsor a Right to Counsel Bill?

Growing List of Supporters for Right to Counsel

Fact Sheet

Letter from the Metro Mayors Coalition

Recent Press

Lawyers Weekly

Brockton Enterprise

Our 2020 Legislative Agenda

From ending student hunger, to preventing the suspension and expulsion of preschoolers, to ensuring youth experiencing homelessness can access the services and resources they need – there’s work to be done. Check out what other bills we’re supporting this year!

Our 2020 Legislative Agenda


Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for future action alerts.