On July 2, 2013 Governor Martin O’Malley, former Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of the Maryland Court of Appeals, and U.S. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards of Maryland’s 4th Congressional District recognized and thanked nearly 800 attorneys who volunteered their time and expertise to distressed homeowners facing foreclosure through the Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project at a reception held in their honor at the State House in Annapolis.
Spearheaded by the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC), the Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project was established in response to the foreclosure crisis at the behest of then Chief Judge Bell as a collaboration of various legal services organizations, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and the MSBA to recruit and train lawyers and connect them to homeowners who need help.
Since July 2008, hundreds of volunteer attorneys have provided free, one-on-one legal advice to over 2,400 homeowners at over 110 Foreclosure Solutions Workshops across the state. Pro bono attorneys have provided over 5,500 hours of free legal advice at these workshops, which translates to over $1.2 million of donated legal service to the community. Moreover, Project partners have placed over 1,375 foreclosure cases with volunteer attorneys who provide direct representation to Marylanders in need.
“Maryland has a strong history of helping homeowners facing foreclosure access public and private assistance,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “By working together with our partners, including Chief Judge Bell and the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, we can continue to expand our nation-leading reforms that are keeping families in their homes.”
For his part, Judge Bell is appreciative of the response to his call to action. “This effort is the single most successful pro bono initiative in our state’s history,” said Bell. “We far exceeded our expectations in engaging the bar with the goal of both preventing the loss of homes where possible and helping homeowners transition from homes they can no longer afford. The project has become a model nationwide.”
Judge Bell’s presence at the reception was particularly poignant to attendees, as it was one of his last official appearances before his retirement on July 6.
By no means does this celebratory event signify the end of the Project. Conversely, PBRC Executive Director, Sharon E. Goldsmith, underscores the work yet to be done stating, “The dedication of the volunteers has been remarkable. We are both proud of and extremely grateful to our partners and the volunteers for such an amazing and effective collaboration. However, the state’s most recent foreclosure statistics prove that there is still a great need for the continuance of the Project and a revitalization of pro bono attorneys to help Marylanders facing extreme financial stress.”
For more information on the Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project or to volunteer, contact Margaret Henn at: 443-703-3051 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carey Moore is the Marketing and Communications Manager of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.