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A2J Dispatch

The September Issue

September is Hunger Action Month. This month we work to increase awareness around food insecurity and the fight against hunger in Maryland and across the United States – and what an attorney has to do with it. We also explore a national study that reveals that two-thirds of Americans across all income levels experienced at least one legal problem in the past four years and the latest on the eviction crisis, the fight for unemployment benefits and more.

A2J Commission News

One of the key recommendations coming out of The COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force Report was to have a “coordinated call to action to increase pro bono services to respond to the spike in the need for civil legal aid services (e.g., civil legal assistance with food, unemployment and veterans benefits) arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.” To answer the call and learn about training and service opportunities, click here.

Victoria Schultz, Associate Dean for Administration at the University of Baltimore School of Law, who serves as an A2J Commissioner, was named as Chair of the Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force. The Task Force will commence its work on October 1, 2021. A2J Commissioner Erek Barron, who currently serves in Maryland House of Delegates and is an attorney at Whiteford, Taylor and Preston, was nominated by President Biden and approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to become the next U.S. Attorney from Maryland. A2J Commissioner, Donald B. Tobin, announced his decision to step down at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year as the Dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and return to full-time teaching as a faculty member of law school.

Governor Larry Hogan has named Joseph M. Getty to succeed Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, who reached mandatory retirement age on September 10. Judge Getty’s tenure will last until he reaches the mandatory age of retirement in April 2022. The A2J Commission looks forward to continuing its longstanding work of engaging with the judiciary to increase access to justice in Maryland. We welcome Chief Judge Getty to his new post and look forward to a strong partnership to move critical access to justice issues forward.

A2J Stories

This month, we explore what civil legal aid has to do with ensuring that our neighbors do not go hungry. We meet Jane and Patricia (names edited to protect privacy), both of whom became ensnared in the civil justice system while attempting to get SNAP food benefits to feed their families.  They did not have access to food for months and tried to navigate federal and local laws to receive benefits to which they were entitled to within the span of 30 days. Their resilience led them to a civil legal aid organization, HPRP, that was able to appeal their wrongful denials and get them on a path to have a means to feed their family.  Read the full story here: https://www.msba.org/preventing-hunger-civil-legal-aid/.

Local A2J News

 

 

 

 

 

  • Mobile Civil Legal Services. Baltimore County Public Library’s Mobile Library Law Center, serves as a mobile legal office made up of lawyers from Maryland Legal Aid. The program, which bridges the justice gap between the civil legal needs of low-income individuals and the resources to meet those needs, provides free civil legal services in areas like bankruptcy, expungements, government benefits, housing, landlord/tenant, veterans’ benefits, and unemployment benefits. 

 

  • Attorneys Fees and Access to Courts. Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General recently released an invoice for attorneys fees owed to the attorneys that defended Gov. Hogan’s unsuccessful attempt to put an early end to the federal unemployment benefits program for Marylanders. The move exposes the imbalance between who can afford justice and who cannot, as plaintiffs trying to keep their unemployment benefits relied on pro bono and low bono legal aid attorneys.  

 

National A2J News

  • Nationwide A2J Study. Two-thirds of Americans across all income levels experienced at least one legal problem in the past four years, according to a new nationwide justice needs study. The study provides detailed information about the extent of the country’s access to justice crisis and provides important insights into the problems that people experience. The study’s findings stem from an online survey of 10,058 Americans conducted last year. 

 

 

 

 

  • Opioid Crisis and Medical-Legal Partnerships during the Pandemic. Legal Services Corporation (LSC) President, Ron Flagg discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the opioid crisis with a panel of experts guests on this episode of Talk Justice, an LSC podcast. Together the panel, discuss the particular vulnerabilities of people with opioid use disorder and how the COVID-19 pandemic led to increases in drug overdose deaths and a decrease in individuals’ ability to access vital medical services and medical-legal partnerships, which are crucial community-based referral systems that connect lawyers with people in recovery that need legal aid. 

 

  • A2J and Education. Education experts across the country have said that it may take months or years to fully grasp the learning loss that children have suffered from remote schooling during the pandemic. Although some complaints and lawsuits against state and city education departments have been filed across the country, “many families across the country — especially lower-income ones — may give up or may not fight schools for more services, even if students need them,” says Leslie Margolis, an attorney with Disability Rights Maryland who has worked on compensatory education cases.