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Introducing the A2J Dispatch

The Maryland Access to Justice Commission is proud to announce its newest project, Maryland Voices for Justice, of which this A2JC Dispatch is a part. Personal stories and news reports from the civil justice system are neither well-known, publicly told, or understood. Marylanders are thus often left in the dark regarding what civil justice means, the access to justice barriers many of their neighbors face and solutions to break down those barriers. We created The A2J Dispatch to change that. A curated collection, The A2JC Dispatch will deliver both local and national access to justice stories and news to your inbox on a monthly basis.

The July Issue

This month we honor the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and explore how one local legal services agency is ensuring justice is accessible for all. We also take a look at the commission’s growth and development, the unemployment benefits lawsuit against Governor Hogan, and more.

A2J Commission News

In response to a looming civil justice crisis wrought by the pandemic, A2JC Executive Director Reena Shah joined Maryland’s top judge and lawyers in issuing a Pro Bono Call To Action, asking the state’s 40,000 lawyers to each take at least one pro bono case in the following year.

To answer the call and learn about training and service opportunities, click here.

Five new voices joined the Access to Justice Commission in July, further diversifying the organization which advocates for expanded and improved access to justice for all Marylanders. Learn more about the newest commissioners here.

A2JC launched version 2.0 of its Civil Justice Data Dashboard. The first version was launched last October as part of the AG’s COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force, in recognition of the fact that the lack of civil justice data in itself was a barrier to justice. Version 2.0 adds more data sources and provides year over year comparisons. This is part of a larger A2JC civil justice data effort that includes the Civil Justice for All Story Map.

A2J Stories

The “small but mighty staff” at Disability Rights Maryland take on complex cases across a variety of issues from education to police reform, with an eye toward intersections of disability, race, and poverty, and opportunities to impact areas in need of systemic change. Learn more about this legal services organization and the inspired professionals behind it in this month’s feature story. 

Local A2J News

  • The Fight for Unemployment Benefits:. Unemployed Marylanders successfully won an injunction against Governor Hogan, forcing his administration to continue paying out additional federal unemployment benefits for the duration of their availability. The governor had sought to cease distribution of the federal funds more than two months early.
  • Eviction Crisis: At a public hearing held in Baltimore City this month, representatives from the Public Justice Center and other housing advocates spoke out about the pending “eviction tsunami.” Landlord representatives also shared their views on the issue.
  • Immigration: After a federal judge declared DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) illegal, representatives from CASA, the region’s largest immigration advocacy group, are speaking out. Read more here.
  • Fair – and Safe – Housing: CASA also assisted tenants of a Langley Park apartment complex in filing a class action lawsuit against their landlord, asserting that minority residents are subjected to unacceptably poor living conditions.
  • Access to Counsel: In a spirited rebuttal to a recent US News article about Maryland’s new access to counsel provision for tenants facing eviction, the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel took to Twitter to address misunderstandings and misinformation.

National A2J News

  • Technology: Legal services organizations have new opportunities to better understand their population’s needs, online service options, and improve services overall, thanks to strategies compiled by Michigan Advocacy Program. Read more here
  • Eviction Crisis: The United States Supreme Court extended the eviction ban imposed by the Centers for Disease Control another month, rejecting a request to lift it earlier. The moratorium now ends July 31st. 
  • Civil right to counsel: Tenants facing eviction discuss the difference the presence of an attorney made in their cases. But access to counsel isn’t just about the immediate case – it’s about confronting disparate impacts on women and minorities. Read more here.