Access to Justice, 072021 MEBJ, 36 MEBJ, Pg. 89

PositionVol. 36 2 Pg. 89


No. Vol. 36 No. 2 Pg. 89

Maine Bar Journal

July, 2021


MICHELLE GIARD DRAEGER is the Executive Director of the Maine Justice Foundation as of May 2020. A native of Maine, much of Michelle’s career has been spent in public service including Pine Tree Legal Assistance, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington DC and Boston, and serving as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maine.

MATHEW SCEASE is Development Director at the Maine Justice Foundation. He can be reached at mscease@

For Legal Aid Providers, It Is a Time of Challenge and Change 2020 was a time of immense challenge. Yet, disruption can often produce opportunities for progress and chances to shine. Among Maine’s many bright lights is a constellation of organizations providing legal aid to Maine’s most vulnerable citizens, helping them access and navigate our system of justice. The Maine Justice Foundation supports the tremendous advocacy of these six civil legal aid groups: Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Legal Services for the Elderly, Maine Equal Justice, Pine Tree Legal Assistance and Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Since 2004, these six non-profit providers have collaborated on an annual fundraising appeal to the Maine Bar. Over the years, the Campaign for Justice has raised over $8 million and allowed them to advocate for countless Maine people during times of their greatest need. With staggering unemployment numbers and entire industries shuttered at times, the last twelve months have thrown tens of thousands of Mainers into poverty and increased the acute need for legal services among the low-income populations that these agencies serve.

With the 2021 Campaign for Justice now underway, it is incumbent upon us to look closely at what the year of economic turmoil and lockdowns has meant for low-income Maine people with unmet legal needs.

“There are more people who are facing hunger, homelessness, eviction and job loss,” says Robyn Merrill, Executive Director of Maine Equal Justice, which provides systemic advocacy at the Legislature and other venues. “We’re hearing from more people who haven’t sought public assistance in the past.”

“The pandemic is impacting all of our client population, but especially low-wage workers and minorities,” says Helen Meyer, Development...

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