The August/September Issue
In this month’s issue of the A2J Dispatch, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by sharing a story from CASA highlighting the important work the organization is doing for Latinos and other immigrants communities, we learn about recent developments in the eviction crisis including new housing assistance initiatives in Maryland, and we explore the implications of the tech divide on the justice gap.
This month’s A2J Story segment comes from CASA. With more than 122,000 lifetime Latino, immigrant, and working-class members across 46 US states, CASA is a national leader in supporting immigrant families and one of the foremost immigrant organizations in the mid-Atlantic region. Among other things, CASA provides advocacy and other critical services to immigrant and working-class families, including Latinos and Francophone immigrants from West African countries like Cameroon and the Caribbean.
The Story of Ruth. “Dans les pays étrangers, il faut avoir la foi et l’espoir. Tout a changé pour moi à cause du CASA,” (When moving to a foreign country, one must have faith and hope. Everything changed for me because of CASA.).
When I immigrated here from Cameroon 8 years ago, I had secured a job here, but soon after I lost my work authorization and with it, my hope. Joining CASA changed my life. They helped me secure work authorization, find another job, and gain access to medical insurance. But most of all, CASA’s winning Temporary Protected Status for Cameroon has given me security because it means I am protected from being deported back to the civil war in Cameroon.
Longstanding socio-political tensions and armed conflicts in Cameroon have left thousands dead and millions displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance. Notably, this past April, advocates secured a major victory when Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas announced Temporary Protected Status (TPS) eligibility for Cameroonian nationals residing in the U.S. as of April 15, 2022.
A2J Commission News
- Join us in person or via webcast for the third installment of the MSBA’s Spark Series Initiative featuring a discussion with Grace E. Speights, Partner at Morgan Lewis. Among other things, Speights handles high profile and high stakes workplace matters and provides crisis management assistance to clientele on a number of issues in the racial equality and social justice space. The event will take place at the Center Club on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 at 5 p.m.
Local A2J News
- Housing Counseling. Pro Bono Research Center (PBRC) recently secured an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant award from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Program. Funds will be used to expand the provision of PBRC’s Housing Counseling services, which include hosting estate planning, foreclosure prevention, and tax sale prevention clinics. Meanwhile, Mid-Shore Pro Bono recently received funding from two grants to help provide access to pro-bono legal services for tenants facing eviction. The initiative comes after the organization received grant funding from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation and Equal Justice Works.
- Evictions. According to state data, Maryland’s landlords filed an average of about 23,000 evictions a month for nonpayment in the first half of 2022. With a base filing fee of just $15, advocates note that Maryland’s tenants are on the losing end of the system and too often eviction can cost tenants extra fees and hours spent in court, potential harm to their credit and rental histories, and threaten their housing security. (pay wall).
- Non-lawyer Professionals and Legal Services. Oregon became the latest state to allow legal paraprofessionals to provide limited services in landlord and tenant cases and family law matters, which are two areas with the greatest unmet need in Oregon. But, some are raising concerns that legal paraprofessionals lack the training of actual attorneys, potentially negatively impacting victims.
- Medical Debt. A 2020 report from the state Health Services Cost Review Commission found that 1% (nearly $120 million) of total hospital charges were paid by individuals and families that likely qualified for free medical care in 2017 and 2018. Now new safeguards in Maryland and other states look to help those who are drowning in medical debt and repay money to indigent hospital patients who paid for medical care that should have been provided for free from 2017 to 2021.
National A2J News
- Medical-Legal Partnerships. On a recent episode of Legal Services Corporation’s podcast, Talk Justice, Dr. Ana Caskin, Professor Vicki Girard, and Dr. Eileen Moore from Georgetown University’s Health Justice Alliance discuss how the medical-legal partnership (MLP) benefits both law and medical students.
- Justice Gap and the Tech Divide. State courts around the country continue to see the benefits of remote proceedings, which became more common during the pandemic. But, real hurdles exist for those trying to use remote court services with limited internet and technology. Now advocates are pointing to innovations like technology kiosks, loaner tablets, and “Justice Buses” to help patch the justice gap and technology divide.
- Evictions. “Evictions,” a new exhibit at The Armory in Somerville, MA depicts the harsh reality of the longstanding eviction crisis. . . on one wall, a map of the United States made up of cardboard moving boxes shows the number of evictions per state in 2016 . . . the biggest box goes to Maryland, with 628,873 evictions thanks to a state law that allows landlords to file for eviction with no prior notice.
- A2J and the Courts. Ensuring court users have access to legal information is an essential function of the civil courts. California’s recently redesigned online legal assistance portal highlights the importance of offering litigants resources that can improve court efficiency and help those involved in lawsuits better understand their options and possible next steps.
- Pandemic Impacts on A2J. Elon University’s 2022 Law Review Symposium takes place virtually on September 23 where legal leaders, scholars, and advocates will explore and discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the courts and administration of justice. Click here to register.
- Litigation Funding. Litigation finance is now a multibillion-dollar global industry . . . critics say this secretive, largely unregulated practice is tipping the scales of justice by showering money on litigants. As a result, The US and European Union are looking to tighten rules around disclosure of third-party litigation funding.
- A2J and Immigration. On September 8, 2022 DHS finalized a new “public charge” immigration rule that adds critical protections and, among other things, confirms that eligible immigrant families can use health care, nutrition, and housing programs without public charge concerns.