Getting Help to Those Who Need It
MSBA Section of
Delivery of Legal Service
No. of Members
October 1, 1978
John H. Price, Jr.
Public law-related organizations like the Pro Bono Resource Center, Maryland
Volunteer Lawyer Service, Legal Aid Bureau and the Women's Law Center have
exhausted countless hours assisting people who are in need of legal services
but cannot afford them. Nevertheless, unbeknownst to the public at-large, there
is no rest for these organizations and their tireless members, and it is these
efforts and the never-ending goal to improve upon them that drives the MSBA
Delivery of Legal Services Section.
As outlined in its bylaws, this Section was created to provide an encouraging
atmosphere in which various legal professionals provide representation in areas
not routinely available through the normal fee-for-services private law practice.
With representatives of the aforemetioned public law-related organizations
and agencies serving as the Section Council, the Section has engulfed itself
with experts; however, the theory of "too many chefs in the kitchen" has never
become an issue as, according to Section Chair Tracy Brown, the objective of
this collection is to create new programs without simply duplicating actions
taken by these organizations.
"Most Section Councils are [devoted to] one area of law," says Brown, who
is also the Executive Director of the Women's Law Center. "The thing that sets
us apart is [the] goal of providing those pro bono or reduced-fee services
to poor people. It's advocacy work beyond the lawyers themselves – it's
for supporting the citizens."
One fresh matter the Section is currently undertaking deals with finding
an interpreter for court proceedings, should one be necessary. In a country
where immigration is as prevalent as it is in America, certain aspects can
become lost in translation due to language barriers, which is why the court
system long ago implemented the allowance of an interpreter during court proceedings – though
many who would benefit from an interpreter were not informed of the courtesy.
Therefore, the Section has developed A Guide to Finding a Court Interpreter,
an informative pamphlet outlining the necessary requirements and steps in obtaining
"In the continuing evolution of providing legal services," remarks Brown, "this
would be another tool."
With a targeted release in the spring of 2007, the pamphlet – with
versions in English, Spanish and other languages – will meticulously
outline how to find an interpreter, when the court will appoint an interpreter,
how the court decides an interpreter is necessary and suggestions for the client
when working with the interpreter. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Audrey
J. S. Carrion is the Chair of the Judiciary Interpreter's Committee and advised
the Section in assembling the information.
"Having an interpreter at a court proceeding – there is no better example
of delivery of legal services than that," says Carrion. "It is important to
let the public know of the Interpreter Rule – it all goes towards the
axis of justice."
The second project the Section has tackled is revamping a Reduced Fee for
Legal Services Model. This program, in one form or another, has been practiced
by the Section for many years and focuses on the fees private attorneys receive
for their "low bono"
work with impoverished clients. Previously, the program offered $50 per hour
of work (with a cap at $1,000) as compensation, but the investigation is now
mulling over many different options to increase participation from attorneys;
a sub-committee, led by Mike Millemann, is trying to find "the right balance,"
notes Brown. The committee's first two steps are to identify the existing programs
and the attorneys that currently provide legal services to Maryland residents
while also noting the various gaps in legal services (i.e. unmet legal needs,
types of needed service and geographical distribution of people). After that,
a committee will analyze similar systems that previously operated nationally
and within the state; such operations include low bono, reduced-fee and "judicare" programs.
A draft of the proposed program, its implementation, funding requirements,
procedures and structure will be prepared in time for the Joint Bar/Bench Meeting
in June in Ocean City, Maryland.
"Like any program, it won't meet all needs," Brown admits, "but, it's another
great continuum for providing for poor people. We need to keep exploring interesting
ways to do that."