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The November/December Issue

In this month’s issue of the A2J Dispatch, we invite you to participate in the A2JC and its DLS Committee’s inaugural legislative preview and highlight the A2JC’s Race Equity Retreat and the MLSC 2023 Awards. We also share reports from the Affordable Law Task Force and the Justice Department’s Office for Access to Justice and welcome Former Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh as a Strategic Advisor to the Maryland State Bar Association. Additionally, we share local and national access to justice news. You can find all this and more in this month’s issue.

A2J Commission News                                                                                                                    

  • Join the Access to Justice Commission and its Delivery of Legal Services Committee for the Inaugural A2J Legislative Preview Please join the Access to Justice Commission and its Delivery of Legal Services Committee for the inaugural A2J Legislative Preview. DLS Committee members expressed an interest in learning more about the legislative priorities of civil legal aid organizations to help inform the Committee’s work. We will be inviting different civil legal aid organizations to share their priorities in specific areas, including housing, consumer law, abuse of vulnerable populations, expungement, public benefits and more. The event will take place on January 4 from 3:30 – 5pm via Zoom. It is free and open to all A2JC supporters and DLS Committee members. Register today!
  •  The Maryland State Bar Association Welcomes Brian Frosh as Strategic Advisor  The Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) and the Access to Justice Commission (A2JC) are pleased to announce Brian Frosh, former Maryland Attorney General, joined the MSBA and A2JC team as Strategic Advisor. A lifelong steward for civil justice, Frosh will advise MSBA and A2JC on a variety of advocacy and government relations matters including improving community access to the promises and protections of our legal systems and government – continuing his legacy of safeguarding the rights of Marylanders and ensuring justice is equitable across all races, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • A2JC Holds Race Equity Retreat  One of A2JC’s Strategic Priorities for the next 3 years is to dismantle structural and institutional racism and other inequities in the civil justice system. That works starts first with the Commission understanding the disproportionate impact of the civil justice system based on race and other identities. The Commission held a Race Equity Retreat to educate and inform Commissioners about the research, statistics and stories related to this issue. Special guests and experts included Prof. Colin Starger from the University of Baltimore who talked about race inequities in the pre-trial detention system; Aja’ Mallory and Margaret Henn from MVLS, who shared inequities in different types of civil legal issues, including housing, consumer, family law and more; and Nikole Nelson from Frontline Justice, who shared about their community-building work in Alaska and the success of the new community justice worker program.
  • Catherine McGuire, Co-Founder of Law on Frontlines Project, Receives MLSC William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award The Law on the Frontlines Project is a partnership between the A2JC and the Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, the Conference of State Law Librarians, and the State Public Library System. Catherine McGuire, one of the co-founders of the Project, which has trained over 1200 public librarians in legal reference, won this year’s MLSC William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award! Congratulations, Catherine!
  • Affordable Law Task Force Report Modest means Maryland households fall into a unique access to justice predicament: they exceed the income threshold to qualify for free civil legal aid, yet they do not make enough to be able to pay market rate for a lawyer. The result is a modest means access to justice gap. After 18 months of study and analysis, the Affordable Law Task Force created this report to deliver their findings and recommendations on how to bridge this gap.

Tips from Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department                         

We are pleased to offer recurring content from the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department as part of the A2J Dispatch.

  • Language Services The Maryland Judiciary provides court services for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP), including language assistance. Court interpreters are available for civil, criminal, and juvenile proceedings, with the cost covered by the Judiciary. Interpreters can be assigned for court-related events and video-remote hearings on platforms like Zoom. Telephonic interpretation services are also available for LEP individuals to have meaningful access to court services outside the courtroom. To facilitate an LEP’s interaction with court services, each courthouse has an interpreter coordinator. Additionally, the Maryland Judiciary’s website offers welcome pages in various languages and a drop-down menu to translate MDCourts.gov into the language of your choice. See more at https://www.mdcourts.gov/courts/courtlanguageservices

Local A2J News                               

  • MLSC 2023 Awards Each year, Maryland Legal Services Corporation brings together Maryland’s legal services community to recognize people and organizations that have contributed significantly to the provision of legal services and access to justice for low-income Marylanders.
  • Expungement Clinic Offers Free Legal Counsel in East Baltimore Johns Hopkins co-hosted its seventh expungement clinic and resource fair on Sunday in the Turner Concourse on the East Baltimore campus. Held in partnership with Maryland Legal Aid, this biannual event gives individuals the opportunity to receive free legal counsel and potentially remove certain criminal charges and other offenses from their public records.
  • Guns And Domestic Abusers: Protective Orders and Gun Removal in Montgomery County, Maryland Recognizing the threat posed by United States v. Rahimi to the lives of domestic violence victims, and to raise awareness at a time when critical protections for survivors may be in jeopardy, Court Watch Montgomery is releasing a new report on the protective order process and restrictions on abusers’ access to firearms in Maryland and Montgomery County.
  • LSC Holds Annual Veterans Day Event On Monday, November 13, 2023, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) held its annual Veterans Day Event via Zoom. This year’s program highlighted the legal needs of Veterans who are unhoused or at risk for homelessness. A recording of the program is available on the LSC YouTube channel.
  • UMD-Led Research Powers Montgomery County’s New Prosecution Data Dashboard A research team led by a University of Maryland professor helped the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office (MCSAO) launch the state’s first Prosecution Data Dashboard to provide a clearer window into how it handles cases, from charging to resolution.

National A2J News  

  • DC Legal Services Providers Announce Relaunch of Housing Right to Counsel Project to Provide Free Lawyers to Residents Facing Eviction Legal Aid DC today announced the relaunch of the Housing Right to Counsel Project, together with a coalition of legal services providers and law firms, to provide free legal services for low-income residents with housing subsidies facing eviction across the District so residents can maintain safe, affordable housing.
  • Attorney General Schwalb Sues RealPage & Residential Landlords for Rental Price-Fixing, Illegally Raising Thousands of District Residents’ Rents  DC Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today announced a lawsuit against RealPage, Inc. (RealPage) and 14 of the largest residential landlords in the District for colluding to illegally raise rents for tens of thousands of DC residents by collectively delegating price-setting authority to RealPage, which used a centralized pricing algorithm to inflate prices, costing renters millions of dollars.
  • In Celebration of 2nd Anniversary, Justice Department’s Office for Access to Justice Publishes Report on Economic Justice Policies that Reduce Reliance on Fines and Fees Commemorating the 2nd anniversary of the reestablishment of the Office for Access to Justice (ATJ), the office today published Access to Justice Spotlight: Fines & Fees, a report that highlights the most common and innovative approaches taking place across the country to reduce reliance on criminal and civil fines and fees.
  • Gideon at 60 In 1963, the Supreme Court decided in Gideon v. Wainwright that, for criminal cases to be fair, defense lawyers are “necessities, not luxuries.” States must ensure that people who cannot afford defense lawyers are provided with them at government expense. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice, the National Institute of Justice sponsored this report on contemporary public defense system models in recognition of the 60th anniversary of Gideon.
  • Attorney Shortages in Indiana Create Access to Justice Problem  Indiana’s growing attorney shortage is creating an “access to justice problem.” That’s what state Supreme Court Chief Administrative Officer Justin Forkner told lawmakers at a recent study committee hearing.
  • Clio for Legal Aid We’re thrilled to announce that after a successful Technology Initiative Grant with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, Clio has launched Clio for Legal Aid. Thank you to all the legal services organizations that helped us by providing ideas & feedback.
  • Six Federal Cases of Self-Represented Litigants Citing Fake Cases in Briefs, Likely Because They Used AI Programs Unsurprisingly, lawyers aren’t the only ones to use AI programs (such as ChatGPT) to write portions of briefs, and thus end up filing briefs that contain AI-generated fake cases or fake quotations (cf. this federal case, and the state cases discussed here, here, and here).
  • Online Legal Aid Services Market Legal Assistance in the Digital Space 2023 to 2030  The Online Legal Aid Services Market  is projected to develop at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% from 2023 to 2030, when it is predicted to be valued at USD 12.3 billion. A multitude of reasons, such as the growing knowledge of legal rights, the popularity of internet platforms, and the expanding need for reasonably priced legal services, are driving this industry.
  • California Chief Justice: Remote Hearings Improve Access Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero said the remote hearings courts were forced to conduct during the pandemic turned out to be beneficial for many even when they were no longer needed to protect their health.
  • New York State Bar Association President Calls Removal of Notary Requirement in Civil Cases a Big Step Forward for Access to Justice A new law allowing litigants in a civil case to file affidavits and other sworn documents without getting them notarized will eliminate unnecessary delays and needless costs in civil lawsuits. “This law is a big step forward for access to justice,” said Richard Lewis, president of the New York State Bar Association.
  • U.S. Trustee Program Provides Nearly 10,000 Language Interpretation Sessions in Fiscal Year 2023 for Debtors with Limited English Proficiency Consistent with its commitment to access to justice for all, the U.S. Trustee Program provided 9,910 free telephone interpretation sessions for debtors with limited English proficiency in bankruptcy proceedings in Fiscal Year 2023, the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees announced today. “Language interpretation services are essential to fulfilling the bankruptcy system’s promise of a fresh start for consumer debtors,” said Director Tara Twomey of the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees. “The U.S. Trustee Program is committed to ensuring that promise is accessible to all debtors no matter their English language proficiency.”
  • Could a Solution to Provide Legal Care in Alaska Work in Rural Minnesota? Through a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers will expand Alaska’s ‘community justice worker’ model, allowing non-attorneys to represent people.