The March Issue
This month, we explore the federal government’s inspirational leadership on access to justice issues with Vanita Gupta, US Associate Attorney General for the Department of Justice during MSBA’s second Spark Series event. And in the last weeks of the 2022 legislative session, we ask for your help to move key A2JC legislative priorities to help advance access to justice for all in Maryland.
A2J Commission News
ACT NOW to help push A2JC Legislative Priorities!
- Eviction Funding. “Effective implementation of [the A2Councel in Evictions Program] will still require full funding” – Vanita Gupta, US Associate Attorney General for the Department of Justice. A2JC agrees! Funding the A2Counsel in Evictions Program continues to be a top A2JC priority. Last month, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the Department of Housing and Community Development would provide $5.4M to partially fund the Program. Now, we are urging lawmakers to finish the job by passing HB724/SB662 which would fully fund the A2Counsel in Eviction Program!
- Eviction Data. Equally important to the effective implementation of the A2Councel in Evictions Program is adequate eviction data -Maryland currently lacks reliable, localized, real-time data about the evictions taking place across the state. That is why A2JC is pushing for a real-time eviction data dashboard and urging the legislature to pass SB629/HB824 which would allow for identification of eviction hot spots; targeted outreach; and an equity analysis.
More A2J News
- Legal Reference for Public Libraries. Public Libraries can play an important role in increasing access to justice by providing patrons access to quality and trustworthy legal information. A2JC continues its 5-year Law on the Frontlines Project, with our partners, the Maryland State Law Library and the Maryland State Library, to hold a series of online trainings that engage and empower public library staff to provide quality legal reference in their local communities to ensure that the law is accessible to every Marylander who needs it. The next web event will be held April 5. Register Here
- Pro Bono Administrative Leave. This month, Attorney General Brian Frosh authorized the allocation and use of 8 hours of administrative leave per year toward pro bono services for his staff. Citing the Call to Action to increase pro bono services across the state AG Frosh encouraged employees to meet the moment and help those who face daunting legal challenges. A2JC strongly supports AG Frosh’s efforts to address the spike in civil legal needs of Marylanders across the state.
- Foreclosure Assistance and Property Tax Sales. Earlier this month more than 4,500 homeowners in the City of Baltimore, many still struggling to financially recover from the pandemic, were notified that their properties would be included in the city’s annual tax lien certificate sale, if their outstanding tax bills are not paid by April 29. Many lack the financial resources to pay back rent, let alone afford a lawyer and where possible legal aid providers like MVLS step in to help families keep their homes by providing legal assistance and connecting individuals with critical programs and resources.
- A2Counsel in Evictions Funding. The fight to ensure Marylanders have access to counsel when facing eviction continued this month as the state Senate unanimously passed one of several measures meant to fund A2Counsel program for low-income tenants facing evictions. With rent and evictions on the rise, some are forced to negotiate with new landlords or go to court. In Laurel, MD a group of senior residents banded together with the help of Trent Leon-Lierman, a housing advocate with CASA Maryland, to discuss their skyrocketing rent and see if there was anything that might keep them in their homes.
- MVLS and GBMC Partnership. Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service (MVLS) is partnering with Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) to offer legal services for older adults. The new services, made possible by a $25,000 grant from GBMC, include estate planning to keep home titles untangled, access to important tax credits and relief funds, among other things. “We are excited to partner with GBMC as we have a shared vision to help stabilize older adults, so they can age independently at home,” said Susan Francis, MVLS Executive Director.
- A2Counsel in Immigration. Advocates urge the General Assembly to pass HB114/SB129, Access to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings, which creates a legal representation program to provide state-funded legal representation to detained Marylanders facing deportation and note that “[h]undreds of Maryland residents are suffering in ICE detention across the country, forced to fight their immigration case alone, condemned to almost certain deportation — because they cannot afford a lawyer.”
- Legal Aid in Ukraine. In a recent episode of LexBlog This Week in Legal Blogging, Bob Ambrogi sat down with Yevgen Poltenko, executive director of the Legal Development Network (LDN), an association of community-based non-governmental organizations that promotes people-centered justice in Ukraine. Among other things, the conversation touched on the LDN’s efforts to assist Ukrainians with legal and humanitarian issues amid the Russian invasion of their country and what those outside of Ukraine can do to support the LDN’s work.
- Pro Bono Practice and the Pandemic. In a recent episode of the Legal Services Corporation’s podcast Talk Justice, featured guests discuss how the pandemic has changed the way pro bono legal services are delivered as well as recent developments and recommendations in pro bono included in a recent report by the Association of Pro Bono Counsel.
- Pro Bono Legal Aid for Inventors. The program will provide qualified inventors with free representation from volunteer patent practitioners in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings. The program will initially help under-resourced inventors navigate ex parte appeals before PTAB. The PTAB Bar Association intends to “ serve as a national clearing house” connecting volunteer attorneys with eligible inventors, and has announced it will start soliciting volunteer applications immediately.
- Minnesota Law School Launches Racial Justice Clinic. The University of Minnesota Law School has announced the formation of a racial justice clinic that is scheduled to open in the fall. Liliana Zaragoza, an assistant counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will be leading the Clinic. “Between the urgency of the movement and identifying the gap in racial justice legal services, I knew this was a gap that I would love to help fill,” says Zaragoza.
- Database Explores Pandemic-Related Court Changes. Courts nationwide responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by embracing and introducing new technology to bring their operations online, according to a recent Pew Report. To help draw broader lessons from the many technological and operational changes, researchers at Wesleyan University created a database that provides an opportunity to analyze court rules, identify trends, and develop universal policy solutions that advance access for people, especially the millions who navigate the legal system without a lawyer.