The October/November Issue
In this month’s issue of the A2J Dispatch, we continue to celebrate pro bono with more stories that show the impact and importance of providing pro bono legal services. We welcome members of the former DLS Section to the A2JC DLS Committee, we learn about the different efforts to get legal legal help to our veterans and we again request attorneys who have the flexibility to set their rates to take the anonymous Affordable Law Task Force survey re: Legal Services to Modest Means Marylanders.
A2J Commission News
- Affordable Law Task Force Survey. If you can set your own fees, or work with an organization that lets you, please take this survey from the Affordable Law Task Force. 30% of Marylanders can’t pay market rate but need legal help. This survey will help us find solutions to serving clients of modest means. The survey closes on November 18. Take the Survey Now!
- A2JC welcomes members of the former DLS Section to the A2JC DLS Committee! Initiated by the MSBA BoG as part of a larger realignment effort last year, the DLS transition presents opportunities for growth and elevation of the mission of both entities. We look forward to the DLS Committee seamlessly continuing to be a home for attorneys in the public interest; planning events and CLEs; and conducting advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable Marylanders.
- The Daily Record Webinar. A2JC Executive Director, Reena Shah, along with Maryland Public Defender, Natasha Dartigue, and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Office’s Chief of Operations, Doyle Niemann, discussed the state of criminal and civil justice reforms in Maryland and the impact of those reforms at a webinar hosted by The Daily Record on October 19, 2022. In the webinar, Shah highlighted the intersections between the civil and criminal justice systems and the both systems work to compound harms on the most vulnerable and the need for more funding to sustain reform efforts.
- Law on the Frontlines Fall Trainings. Now in its 5th year, A2JC is proud of the partnership with the state librarians and the Maryland public library to offer training to public library staff in legal reference. Access to quality legal information is access to justice. Public libraries are anchor institutions in a community and public librarians are information experts. By training public librarians to do legal reference, we are increasing our capacity to meet the demand for quality legal information. For more information, go here.
- Recurring Maryland Judiciary Content in A2J Dispatch. We are pleased to offer recurring content from the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department as part of the A2J Dispatch.
- Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County (CLS). In December 2020, Sandy came to CLS looking for help to obtain a final protective order against her husband, whom she feared due to emotional and financial abuse. With the help of an attorney from CLS, not only was Sandy able to find a safe apartment to move to, CLS also helped provide the client with information about the Safe at Home program which allows her new address to be confidential. To volunteer, fill out CLS’s volunteer attorney intake form.
- Harford County Bar Foundation (HCBF). In May 2020, Clinton, a Marylander from Cecil County, submitted an application for the Harford County Bar Foundation’s Judicare Program seeking legal counsel for a custody case. Clinton had previously been in an abusive relationship with the mother of his five-year-old son for several years and he was worried for his son’s safety if his mother was given primary custody. To Clinton’s relief, the case was placed with an attorney and Clinton was awarded sole legal and primary physical custody of his son, with supervised visitation given to the child’s mother. For more information on how to participate in HCBF’s legal referral programming, visit http://www.harfordcountybarfoundation.org.
- Maryland Pro Bono Resource Center (PBRC). Cathy, a 77-year-old resident of Baltimore City, needed to have her will and advance medical directive drafted. She had spoken to her doctor about the advance medical directive, received the form, and wanted to think about her choices before memorializing them on paper. After giving it some thought, Cathy remembered that PBRC held an Estate Planning Clinic where volunteer attorneys helped Baltimore City residents prepare wills, advance medical directives, and financial powers of attorney. Cathy decided to attend the clinic, among other things, she wanted to make sure each of her grandchildren received a monetary gift from her after her passing, that a nonprofit hospital that provided her with a life-saving surgery would receive a monetary gift from her as well, and that her body would be donated to science. At the clinic Cathy worked with a volunteer attorney, the attorney was able to find appropriate language to make Cathy’s wishes clear in her will and Cathy walked away with fully executed copies of her will and financial power of attorney. To volunteer for one of PBRC’s day-long estate planning clinics email https://probonomd.org.
Local A2J News
- Maryland Judiciary Access to Justice Department. The Maryland Judiciary provides interpreters for all court proceedings and for many court-ordered or court-referred services. Visit the Judiciary’s Language Services for information on the Court Interpreter Program and related services. Language Portals in Spanish, French, Russian, Korean, and Chinese provide an introductory video and links to translated content. All public-facing court forms are translated into those five priority languages. Look for links on the portal pages to family law forms and to other civil forms to find translated forms. A two-part video series available in six languages helps court visitors learn how to request and work with an interpreter.
- Access to Counsel in Evictions. With new funding from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation and from Equal Justice Works, Mid-Shore Pro Bono “is now able to provide in-court services for income-qualified tenants in eight counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” said Mid-Shore Pro Bono Legal Director, Laura Chafey. The funding is set to bring new staff and two attorney-organizer teams to support the organization’s housing initiative. Also, United Way of Central Maryland recently partnered with Civil Justice Inc. to bring access to legal representation to Baltimore area residents over the course of the next four years (pay wall). Civil Justice Inc., United Way of Central Maryland and A2J Tech will develop a referral system to quickly and efficiently process program referrals and applications and match tenants with legal service providers.
- A2J and Veterans. Charles County Military Alliance Council pushes for a future resource center for military veterans to ease the transition for soldiers returning to civilian life. With over 12% of the Charles County community being veterans, advocates say having a center would help with services like filling out benefit claims, transitioning to civilian life, getting help for post-traumatic stress disorder and getting legal assistance.
- A2J and Jury Trials. Marylanders voted in the recent election to approve a constitutional amendment raising the amount in controversy that entitles civil litigants to a jury trial from more than $15,000 to more than $25,000. Some say that raising the jury trial threshold is “unfair to noncorporate defendants for whom a judgment over $15,000 could be financially devastating” and “defendants of “modest means” would rather have “a jury of their peers” determine their liability . . . rather than have their financial fate decided by a single judge.” said Sen. Robert Cassilly, R-Harford, said last year in opposition to the measure (pay wall).
- Courts and Technology. Last month Prince George’s County switched over to the Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC) case management system. “With the addition of Prince George’s County to the Maryland Electronic Courts platform, the Maryland Judiciary has migrated and modernized 23 of the 24 jurisdictions in the state to e-filing,” said Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader, Court of Appeals of Maryland. “This technology infrastructure improvement for one of the largest jurisdictions in the state greatly improves the Judiciary’s ability to provide access to justice and service to the public. I thank all the judges, court staff, and Judicial Information Systems (JIS) for their hard work and dedication to this effort.”
- A2J and Elder Fraud. Access to justice for elders that have been abused and defrauded is as important as ever. This month, a guilty plea was announced by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland in an elder fraud case. Among other things, the fraudster is said to have traveled to the metro area posing as a bail bondsman to collect money from victims in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and other states. The victims tended to be elderly and were convinced they were sending money for the purported legal expenses of a loved one who had been involved in a crime.
National A2J News
- A2J and Language Access. North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) resolve Justice Department investigation with a commitment to improve access to state court for people with limited English proficiency (LEP). The department initially found that NCAOC had failed to provide LEP court users with meaningful language access to court proceedings and that lack of language services resulted in, among other things, longer incarcerations and barriers to civil protections in domestic violence and child custody proceedings.
- Veterans Rights and Pro Bono. Students in Berkeley Law’s Veterans Law Practicum spend scores of pro bono hours helping former service members solve a wide range of problems including, among other things, ensuring deported veterans have access to the lifesaving U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and disability benefits to which they remain entitled by law — but which are largely out of reach overseas.
- Eviction Data. Researchers note that eviction filings have been on the rise and data shows that evictions in half of the 1,059 counties tracked by Legal Services Corporation were above their historical averages. Now, housing advocates, government officials and industry experts say the eviction problem is expected to get worse in the coming months as federal rental assistance money runs out and people are unable to keep pace with rising rents and decades-high inflation.
- A2J and Medicaid Law. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Health and Hospital Corporation v. Talevski. The case raises the question of whether a patient who believes their rights under federal Medicaid law have been violated can sue the alleged violator. Advocates point out that SCOTUS’s decision could leave vulnerable Americans without recourse against health providers or state health officials that violate their rights or fail to provide entitled services.
- Traveling Legal Services. North Florida residents that evacuated due to Hurricane Ian continue to take refuge at local hotels and shelters, and many senior citizens still have questions about their futures. In response Legal Services of North Florida brought their Legal Aid RV to help those residents of the senior living community. “The only way we could help people was to bring our offices to them through a mobile unit,” said Charlotte Waters with Legal Services of North Florida.
- Equal Access and Disparities. In a recent episode of LSC’s Legal Talk Podcast, Why Civil Justice Matters, Harvard Law School’s Martha Minow discusses the disparities of equal access to justice in the US legal system, especially when it comes to our civil justice system. Listen Here
- Evictions Data. New Pew Report sheds light on data collected via a joint project between the Georgetown Law Center and the Massive Data Institute at the McCourt School of Public Policy. Using high-quality civil court data, researchers analyzed Philadelphia Municipal Court eviction data to explore whether the type of landlord affected case outcomes, regardless of the original filing reason. The analysis shows that case dispositions do vary according to landlord type—typically individual, corporate, or government.
- Pro Bono Innovations. Bloomberg publishes inaugural Pro Bono Innovators Report for 2022. The report compiles a list of “legal leaders” that have taken innovative approaches to pro bono client service and the legal issues pro bono clients face across the country and the globe.