The September/October Issue
In this month’s issue of the A2J Dispatch, we 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.The survey will collect information on the status of affordable law in Maryland and help find solutions for the 30% of Marylanders who need legal help, but do not qualify for free legal services and cannot afford market rate. We also begin early in recognizing the National Celebration of Pro Bono, which takes Oct. 23 – 29, by sharing some pro bono stories and announcing our plans to launch a social media campaign to encourage MSBA members to #answerthecall to the Pro Bono Call to Action.
A2J Commission News
A2JC and MSBA have partnered on the Affordable Law Task Force to create an anonymous. If you can set your own fees, or work with an organization that lets you, please take this Affordable Law survey. 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. Take Survey
A2JC Executive Director, Reena Shah, will be a panelist on The Daily Record’s Legal Trends webinar on October 19, 2022 at 10am. Other panelists include Natasha Dartigue, Maryland Public Defender and Doyle Niemann, Chief of Operations, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office. The webinar will explore the variety of measures designed to reform the criminal and civil justice systems, including new bail policies, juvenile justice reforms, access to counsel and measures to strengthen police accountability and the impact of those measures. Register Here: https://thedailyrecord.com/webinars/legal-trends-are-justice-reforms-in-maryland-working/
A2JC ED, Reena Shah, is serving as chair of the legislatively mandated Access to Counsel in Evictions (ACE) Task Force, which is tasked with monitoring implementation of the new ACE law. The Task Force is holding meetings with relevant stakeholders to deliver a report to the Governor and legislature by January 1, 2023. Thus far, the Task Force has heard from civil legal aid organizations who have been awarded grants to implement the law, including the United Way, which is helping to build a coordinated intake system for the program; from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation; and Equal Justice Works. We expect to also hear from the Maryland Judiciary and the Department of Housing and Community Development. To learn more: https://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/A2C/index.aspx
The lack of readily available civil justicedata is a barrier to access to justice. A2JC is continuing to promote its newest data tool, the Housing Data Dashboard, which for the first time makes eviction data readily available and visualizes it for maximum impact. Most recently, Reena Shah presented the Dashboard to the Community Development Network’s (CDN) Covid-19 Housing Preservation Coalition meeting. A2JC worked with CDN to successfully pass a law that requires more robust reporting and analysis of eviction data.
To take part in the national Celebration of Pro Bono, A2JC will be launching a social media campaign, in coordination with civil legal aid providers and the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) to highlight pro bono triumphs and encourage MSBA members to answer the Pro Bono Call to Action. Here’s a great video on why YOU should #answerthecall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZlA85zP1EM
This month’s A2J Story segment comes from Disability Rights Maryland, Maryland’s designated Protection and Advocacy Agency. Each year thousands of individuals with disabilities contact DRM seeking legal assistance. Through their Pro Bono Program and partnership with the private bar, volunteer attorneys bring much needed legal advocacy services to children, low-income individuals, and veterans with disabilities across the state.
Devon’s parents spent countless hours trying to negotiate with their son’s school district for support and services so Devon, who has multiple disabilities and complex learning issues, would be able to succeed in school. Devon’s parents were on the verge of giving up when they were put in contact with a pro bono attorney who took the matter and began negotiations with the school district. Unable to resolve the case through negotiation the attorney suggested that Devon’s parents request a due process hearing before an administrative hearing officer, and they agreed. As a result, the case resulted in a successful settlement whereby the school district finally agreed to a non-public placement with the support and services Devon needed to be successful.
For many years Carl struggled to make any progress in school, at just 11 years old Carl was having trouble in all of his classes and his behavioral issues were not addressed. Hoping to help their son, Carl’s parents advocated for a more appropriate placement with the school district but their efforts were unsuccessful. Specifically, Carl’s parents had requested that Carl be placed somewhere where the school could provide the support and services to meet Carl’s needs. Carl’s parents new such a placement would help Carl make progress in school. After enlisting the help of an attorney, Carl’s parents, through mediation, successfully negotiated an agreement with the school district to allow Carl to attend a non-public placement where the school could provide the support and services to meet Carl’s needs.
Disability Rights Maryland (DRM) is federally mandated to advance the civil rights of people with disabilities and it does so by, among other things, providing free legal services to Marylanders of any age with all types of disabilities (developmental, intellectual, psychiatric, physical, sensory, learning, traumatic brain injury), who live in facilities, in the community or who are homeless.
Local A2J News
- Last month, advocates sued to stop the government from continuing to block work authorization for asylum seekers waiting for their cases to be adjudicated. In the case, CASA de Maryland v. Mayorkas, advocates point out that these rules, implemented during the Trump Administration, make it difficult for asylum seekers to afford basic necessities or hire legal counsel to aid them in pursuing asylum.
- The Child Interrogation Protection Act went into effect this month. Children waive their rights 90 percent of the time when subject to interrogation by law enforcement. This shows that children oftentimes do not understand their rights and are vulnerable to rights violations. Maryland’s new law establishes a rebuttable presumption for a child’s statement provided during a custodial interrogation, it also requires parental notice and presence of counsel when a child is interrogated and/or taken into custody by law enforcement.
- Access to counsel continues to make a difference for tenants facing eviction and court action by landlords. Last month, at least 5 cases were dismissed by a judge in Worcester County after discussions between lawyers from Maryland Legal Aid and the landlord management company took place. The complaints involved late charges for rent being past due, but according to one resident the issue stemmed from the fact that despite providing a dated money order before the fifth of each month, management only processes those checks on the seventh of the month -by then late fees begin to accrue.
- Maryland Legal Services Corporation’s training symposium drew out over 100 attorneys last month for the state’s Access to Counsel in Evictions program. Many attorneys that attended the training have already been hired by legal service providers in Baltimore city and Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, as well as several others, including a number on the Eastern Shore.
- Landlord violations and abuse continue to be an issue for tenants. A property management company owned by the family of Jared Kushner agreed to settle and pay a $3.25 million civil penalty and restitution over a 2019 lawsuit in Maryland. The lawsuit involved reports that tenants were being charged illegal fees and reports of widespread maintenance issues in the company’s rental units in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County.
- New Housing Data Dashboard Provides Easy Access to Rent Court Cases and Evictions. The Dashboard is an online data tool that provides easy access to critical data related to “rent court cases” and evictions which are compiled by the Maryland Judiciary. Among other things, the Dashboard visualizes valuable data, offers interactive maps, trend lines, and bar charts that allow for comparisons across different counties, months and years—enabling communities, advocates, and elected officials to have the most real-time data at their fingertips to help inform policy decisions.
National A2J News
- U.S. Supreme Court Starts new term this month. Law360 has rounded up the most relevant cases that will touch on issues involving civil rights and access to justice. Among other things, upcoming cases will touch on LGBTQ rights and the First Amendment, voting rights and gerrymandering, affirmative action, indigenous rights and prisoners’ access to habeas corpus.
- Last month, Stanford Law School published its Report on Legal Innovation After Reform: Evidence from Regulatory Change. The report provides insight into how changing the rules governing legal practice in U.S. legal markets might impact consumers, lawyers, and access to justice. It is also the first comprehensive study of legal innovations that have emerged in Utah and Arizona in the two years since those states implemented significant reforms to the regulation of legal practice.
- October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. A recent article from Politico, demonstrates how civil legal issues can complicate an already dangerous situation. For some women, being undocumented and without health care can make it that much harder. For Ms. Wyatt, her multi-year path toward escape would mean leaving her husband to stay in a women’s shelter, before finally connecting with a lawyer who could address her immigration status, enabling her to work legally. The lawyer also connected her with a health care clinic that would change her life.
- Recent Episode of the Legal Services Corporation Podcast, Talk Justice explores the “massive disconnect between what courts were designed to do—solve legal disputes through lawyer-driven, adversarial litigation—and what these courts are asked to do today—help people without lawyers navigate complex social, economic and interpersonal challenges.”