The June/July Issue
In this issue, explore A2JC’s new Housing Data Dashboard, learn about how a local civil legal aid organization improves the lives of its LGBTQ+ clients, access to justice and reproductive rights and how legal technology companies are clamoring to fill the justice gap.
A2J Commission News
A2J launches new Housing Data Dashboard!
The lack of civil justice data is a barrier to access to justice. For too long, data related to one of the most voluminous types of cases in the civil justice system – eviction – has not been publicly available in a meaningful way for communities, advocates and leaders to use for policy decisions. The Maryland Access to Justice Commission has worked to improve access to civil justice data. In addition to the Civil Justice Data Dashboard and Story Map, it has now developed this Housing Data Dashboard so that existing data related to a legal case and eviction can be at our fingertips in real-time. This Housing Data Dashboard visualizes data compiled by the Maryland Judiciary to make it easy to see monthly and year over year trends and makes it possible to compare the data across counties and against statewide numbers. This Dashboard will also be useful in evaluating the new Access to Counsel in Eviction Law, which makes it possible for all income-qualified persons facing an eviction to have access to an attorney.
A2JC at BNIA’s Data Week
The Maryland Access to Justice Commission will be presenting a session at this year’s Data Week put on by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA). On Thursday, July 21, 2022, A2JC will conduct a session to overview the features of the Housing Data Dashboard. Also, A2JC applied to conduct a discussion on Civil Justice Data & Social Justice at BNIA’s in-person Data Day “Unconference” on Friday, July 22.
Please join us in welcoming five new A2J Commissioners! As the new fiscal year started on July 1, 2022, A2JC is proud to welcome a slate of new Commissioners to the Commission!
Jason DeLoach, MSBA President-Elect
Jeniece Jones, Public Justice Center
Renee Hutchins, UMD Carey Law School
Shuaa Tajammul, MSBA BoG
Lauren Lake, MSBA YLS Chair-Elect
Local A2J News
- A2Counsel and Eviction Assistance. “While the state of emergency is officially over . . . the truth is that the destabilizing impact of COVID-19 is still very much with us . . . especially true for those individuals who find themselves behind on rent and in danger of losing their housing due to illness, job loss, struggles with childcare, or other COVID-19 related issues,” says Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. Baltimore County is also expected to receive $17 million in federal funds to help families avoid eviction and the county has also invested almost $650,000 in free access to legal counsel for tenants. Residents who need housing-related legal services can contact 410-260-1392.
- A2J and Reproductive Rights. Though the Abortion Care Access Act became law in Maryland earlier this year and went into effect earlier this month, the law is currently unfunded and advocates are calling for itsimmediate fundings in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case. Advocates point out that the law would expand access to abortion care by providing training and increasing the pool of medical professionals that can perform the procedure and requiring most insurance to cover the procedure. Other reproductive rights laws also went into effect this month in Maryland, for example, starting July 1, undocumented immigrants who are pregnant or have just given birth in Maryland will be eligible for Medicaid. As these new moms gain new legal protections, access to legal help will be all the more important.
- A2Counsel in Evictions Program Training. Last month, lawyers and judges rallied together in a panel discussion on impending changes to landlord-tenant laws and the access to counsel in evictions program at this year’s MSBA Legal Summit. Now, Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC), which is tasked with administering the program is set to hold a Training Symposium for lawyers who are interested in providing legal help through the program on Sept. 30.
- A2J for Children. Access to justice means ensuring that adolescents have meaningful access to the legal system, including by ensuring youths caught in the court system have an advocate. This month the Lower Shore CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program announced it will expand its services into Worcester and Somerset counties. The program works to train volunteers to become court appointed special advocates for children in the court system. Volunteers are tasked with advocating for the child’s best interests.
- Community Partnership for Legal Assistance. Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), recently announced a new community partnership with the Baltimore County Public Library to provide civil legal resources to those who need pro bono legal assistance for housing, family and employment challenges at this summers BCPL Bockmobile Roadshow.
National A2J News
- A2J & Justice Tech. A handful of states are starting to tinker with regulation to allow for stratification of the legal profession to increase access to justice. Technology companies are not waiting, however. According to a 2022 report entitled “Justice Tech for All: How Technology Can Ethically Disrupt the U.S. Justice System,” investors have poured nearly $80 million into more than 100 early stage justice tech startups in about the last 10 years. But without a regulatory framework, states and tech companies are clashing in courts.
- Reproductive Rights and Access to Justice. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, where the court overturned Roe v. Wade, state laws and protections around abortion access continue to change across the nation. In the wake of the ruling, many states moved to ban abortion, while other states looked to find ways to expand and ensure access to abortion care while also anticipating an influx of out of state patients seeking the procedure.
- Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation. According to data, the average victim of elder financial abuse loses upwards of $120,000. In June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office partnered with Project SAFE and the PROTECT Week Coalition to help seniors in Maryland avoid falling victim to financial exploitation and to offer opportunities to learn about the many forms of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of older Marylanders. https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/pr/maryland-us-attorney-s-office-joins-state-and-non-profits-combat-elder-financial-abuse-0 To view the panel discussion from Project Week on world elder fraud abuse awareness visit: https://cccsmd.org/about-protect-week/#events
- A2J Expansion Efforts. In a recent episode of the ABA’s LegalRebels Podcast, Rebecca L. Sandefur, a professor and director at Arizona State University discusses the recent ruling in the Upsolve lawsuit which touched on nonlawyer legal assistance, justice tech tools, and their role in the fight for access to justice. The full episode is available via LSC’s Legal Talk Network.
- A2J and Immigration. The majority of those facing immigration court cases do not have access to lawyers and must navigate the complex immigration system with no legal help. Recently, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has held that individuals “facing removal proceedings, although entitled to due process under the Constitution, are not entitled to the same process as citizens.”
- Medical Debt and A2J. Medical debt can be crushing to families struggling to make ends meet. Now, new research shows that in the past 5 years, over half of U.S. adults report that they have gone into debt due to medical or dental bills. For many, this means having less money for food and basic necessities and, all too often, it also means dealing with a host of civil legal issues while being unable to afford a lawyer.
- Evictions in the Post-pandemic Era. In a recent episode of Axios’ podcast listeners heard from Carl Gershenson, project director at The Eviction Lab at Princeton University and others about how Philadelphia is lowering its high rate of evictions by requiring landlords and tenants to sit down and come to an agreement before ever entering a courtroom.
- Mobile Clinics and A2J. A court-sponsored program providing legal aid to Tennessee residents is launching a mobile legal clinic (The Justice Bus) that brings in-person services directly to residents with an emphasis on providing access to people in the most underserved areas of the state.