Fresh-faced Cal Ripken, Jr., began his Rookie-of-the-Year campaign for the Orioles on Opening Day at Memorial Stadium against the Kansas City Royals, April 5, 1982. With his cleats dug into the dirt of the batters box, Ripken swung and made great contact on the first pitch that crossed the plate. The ball was hit high into the Baltimore sky and landed as the first homerun of his eventual 431 (career). That same year, the newly-formed Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) scored on its first at-bat with the creation of Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA), which allowed MLSC to conduct its legal services to the indigent Maryland residents.
Over the next quarter-century, both Ripken and MLSC would doggedly work to
become stalwarts in their respective fields, for which both were recognized
in 2007; Ripken was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29,
while MLSC celebrated its 25th year of promoting access to civil justice on
December 10, at the Tremont Grand in downtown Baltimore. And like the famous
Oriole shortstop, MLSC has compiled many accomplishments and milestones over
its still-youthful existence.
“Access to civil justice largely has depended on every man’s ability to pay
for legal representation,” said Baltimore City Circuit Court Administrative
Judge Pamela J. White during the MLSC symposium held on October 11, 2007, at
the University of Maryland-Baltimore’s Thurgood Marshall Law Library. “In
this new century, the success of IOLTA and MLSC grants to legal service
providers is worth celebrating and renewing.”
Though the creation of IOLTA was MLSC’s first success, it was not until
1988, when Congressman Benjamin Cardin – then chair of the legal
organization and now U.S. Senator for Maryland – released “The Cardin
Report”, that the achievements began to snowball.
Upon realization that over 80 percent of Maryland’s poor were not receiving
legal assistance, the Report suggested 41 measures be taken, including
mandatory IOLTA participation by lawyers, civil filing fee surcharges, and
encouraging the creation of pro bono and reduced-fee programs to serve the
“The intent of [The Cardin Report] is to ‘allocate the responsibility fairly
among all involved groups, to help secure equal access to justice for all
citizens,’” wrote Janet Stidman Eveleth in the February 1988 edition of the
The following year saw the enactment of the IOLTA requirement for lawyers,
the funds of which contributed to adding legal service programs.
Furthermore, the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland was created through a
grant from MLSC in hopes of linking volunteer attorneys with impoverished
Maryland residents. In 1998, required legal surcharges for case filings
Two more milestones came during MLSC’s twenty-aught years. In 2001, an
“Honor Roll” of banks was created to improve IOLTA interest rates. Then, in
2005, after a Model Child Custody Representation Project in Anne Arundel,
Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties showed excellent results, a
statewide reduced-fee representation in child-custody cases took affect.
These milestones are implicitly tied to the five men who have helmed MLSC
during its existence. Former Attorney General for the U.S. Benjamin
Civiletti was chair from 1982-86; Past MSBA President Herbert Belgrad served
from 1986-88; the aforementioned Senator Cardin guided MLSC till 1995,
whereupon Herbert Garten (another Past MSBA President) took over until 2003.
Former State Senator Vernon Boozer currently chairs MLSC.
According to a letter from Cardin, read to the audience at this past
October’s symposium, he plans to introduce legislation based on providing
legal assistance to low-income Americans across the nation.
“The creation of MLSC and innovation of IOLTA [has opened] the courthouse
doors to those historically without access to justice or to a consistent
quality of justice,” said Judge White.
The Ironman of Major League Baseball recently returned from a 10-day trip to
China as a part of a State Department-envoy aimed at spreading the game that
he cherishes to 1.3 billion people. Baseball is not extremely popular in the
Far East and, in an effort of diplomacy, Ripken – accompanied by a small
entourage – traversed the countryside hosting clinics and teaching the
fundamentals to the Chinese youth who lack the proper instructors. Back in
the Old Line State, MLSC has been aiding those without proper assistance in
the legal arena for the last 25 years. To date, 1.4 million legal matters
have been served in the state with over $100 million in grants.
“MLSC has exceeded our hopes and expectations,” said Judge White, brainchild
of the Ripken/MLSC coupling. “It is, indeed, a hall of fame year for both
MLSC and Cal, [though] MLSC is still on the playing field.”