The September/October Issue
In this month’s A2J Dispatch, we highlight A2JC’s groundbreaking partnership with the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence (MSCFV), which aims to enhance legal service accessibility through GIS-mapping technology, we highlight the launch of A2JC’s Delivery of Legal Services Committee and we report on the Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force’s commendable work, we celebrate the National Celebration Of Pro Bono and we explore the role of civil legal aid in disaster recovery as well as the importance of domestic violence-related legal services.
A2J Commission News
- A2JC Approves Partnership with MSCFV on A2JC Data Dashboard. At the September 20th A2J Commission meeting, the Commissioners heard from and approved a partnership with the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence (MSCFV). MSCFV has generously offered to partner with A2JC to build out an A2J extension to their existing dashboard that uses GIS-mapping technology. A2JC’s Data and Legal Technology Committee will coordinate other A2J stakeholders and work with MSCFV to build out this exciting new extension that will help map out available legal services, court locations, and hot spots for civil court cases and more.
- A2JC’s New DLS Committee Holds Kickoff Event! On October 4, 2023, A2JC’s new Delivery of Legal Services Committee held a successful Kickoff Event. DLS Committee members met in Annapolis to have a visioning session to reinvigorate the work of the Committee and discuss its action plan for the year ahead. The Committee will have three subcommittees: Advocacy, Education, and Public Interest Community. The Committee welcomes all MSBA members, whether in private practice, judiciary, government, corporate counsel, or a civil legal aid organization, who are passionate about public interest law and an accessible, equitable, and just legal system to join the Committee. Join here.
- Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force Holds 6 Hearings. The Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force is a legislatively mandated body that was created with the same legislation that created the Access to Counsel in Evictions law. The ACE law is only the second of its kind in the country, which provides for all income-qualified Marylanders to have a right to access counsel in eviction cases. The ACE TF is charged with monitoring the implementation of the law, seeking funding for its implementation, and recommending policy changes to ensure successful implementation. The ACE TF is currently being chaired by the ED of A2JC, Reena Shah. Starting on October 2, the TF held 6 hearings, where it heard from all different stakeholders involved in the implementation of the law, including MLSC, the legal services providers, the judiciary, DHCD, and more. The TF has collected information and will deliver a report to the Maryland General Assembly and the Governor with its recommendations by January 1, 2024. To learn more, go to: Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force.
- MSBA Calls for Proposals for 2024 Legal Summit. The MSBA has opened its call for proposals for the 2024 Legal Summit that will take place in Ocean City from June 5 – 7, 2024. The Legal Summit offers a “Justice Track” and seeks program proposals from the A2J and DLS communities. Priority deadline is Monday, December 4, 2023. Final deadline is Monday, January 8, 2024. See here to learn more: https://www.msba.org/2024-summit-general-program-proposals/.
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.
- MD CourtTV. Ever wonder what those monitors are that display video content in court locations? Through its CourtTV initiative, the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice team streams video content to monitors located in all court locations. The monitors display videos from the Maryland Court Help Video Library as well as promotional spots about court-based programs and short features about the courts. When possible, CourtTV units are mounted in waiting areas. Customized playlists allow courts to show specific content at specific times. For example, the court may choose to run a playlist focused on Rent Court and Rent Escrow during a Failure to Pay Rent docket. QR codes allow viewers to find and watch the video on their own device.
Local A2J News
- Pro Bono Celebration (Oct 22-28): The 2023 National Celebration Of Pro Bono will take place from October 22 to 28, 2023. Initiated by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, the National Celebration of Pro Bono highlights the increasing need for pro bono services across the nation. To view current pro bono case opportunities, events, and trainings happening during October in Maryland, visit Pro Bono Resource Center’s Statewide Opportunities website.
- PJC’s Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline (Oct 25): Last year, Maryland schools suspended students over 54,000 times. Research shows that suspension has been proven ineffective and has been shown to increase a child’s risk of encountering the criminal legal system. This week, join the Public Justice Center’s virtual discussion on October 25th about Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Maryland. Discover how advocates are working to keep kids in school and ensure that disciplinary actions are carried out fairly, equitably, and in a way that promotes a positive and safe learning environment. RSVP here: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline.
- Appellate Court Commission Appointments: Governor Wes Moore has made historic appointments to the Appellate Courts Judicial Nominating Commission in Maryland with 57% women and 53% people of color among all commission members. The move emphasizes the importance of equity and access in enhancing the justice system and its role in the lives of Marylanders that become involved in the courts. The Commission’s role includes advertising vacancies, seeking recommendations for judicial candidates, setting application deadlines, and evaluating applicants based on various criteria – all in pursuit of a more just and equitable legal system.
- REDEEM Act and Expungement: For individuals with prior criminal records, civil legal issues can feel all but impossible to overcome. For many, expungement means clearing the way for a fresh start, including fair treatment, new opportunities, and a chance to rebuild. A recent article by Natasha Dartigue and Jeff Waldstreicher details how the REDEEM Act, which went into effect this month, helps people with past criminal records move forward by making it easier for them to find jobs and housing. The Act reduces the waiting time to clear records and helps individuals with past criminal records move forward by making it easier for them to find jobs and housing.
- A2J and Affordable Housing: Housing security is a critical link in the fight to access to justice as Marylanders, especially those with lower incomes, face limited options when it comes to affordable housing. Advocates in Baltimore continue to push for improved affordable housing and are asking local lawmakers to support a new bill that seeks to address the city’s housing crisis and make affordable housing accessible to those earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income.
- New Center for Race and the Law: The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law has launched the Gibson-Banks Center for Race and the Law, named after professors Larry Gibson and Taunya Lovell Banks. The center is dedicated to advancing racial justice through education, advocacy, and research, collaborating with impacted communities and organizations. It will address inequalities in the legal system, employment, education, housing, and health. The center’s activities will include courses, workshops, advocacy work, legal scholarship, and examining the school’s legacy as a formerly segregated institution.
- Civil Legal Aid in Disaster Recovery: For vulnerable individuals and communities that experience natural disasters, recovery can seem almost insurmountable. In a recent episode of LSC’s “Talk Justice” podcast, a panel of experts discussed the critical role of civil legal aid in disaster preparedness and recovery, while also highlighting access to justice concerns. Among other things, the group emphasized the need for proactive legal preparedness to expedite recovery, raising awareness of local legal resources, educating individuals about their rights, and addressing long-lasting legal barriers.
- Non-Lawyer Legal Help: Shoshana Weissmann of the R Street Institute, Braden Boucek of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, and Dan Greenberg of CEI argue that reforms in lawyer licensing and the expansion of non-lawyer practice can improve access to the legal system. To address the legal profession’s challenges in terms of accessibility and cost, they propose modest reforms like, reconsidering the necessity of traditional bar exams, enabling lawyers to practice across state lines without redundant exams, allowing non-lawyers to provide specific legal services, and revising requirements like mandatory continuing legal education.
- LSC’s “By the Numbers” Data: LSC’s latest edition of “By the Numbers: The Data Underlying Legal Aid Programs” quantifies the work done by LSC-funded legal aid organizations around the country.
- Data on Forced Moves and Evictions: From June to August 2023, around 44.4% of U.S. renters felt pressure to move within the past six months. Forced moves, actions by landlords to evict tenants outside the court system, are challenging to measure due to their informal nature. Now, new questions on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey are providing researchers and advocates with real-time data on forced moves for the first time.
- Children and Evictions: Millions of American households are threatened with eviction every year. But a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that “Children under 5 make up the largest group by age of those whose households have had an eviction filed against them… In a given year, about a quarter of Black children under 5 in rental homes live in a household facing an eviction filing.” Read the report here: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Report.
- A2J and Discriminatory Redlining: Washington Trust Bank, the largest community bank in the U.S., will pay $9 million to settle civil rights charges alleging discrimination against primarily Black and Hispanic mortgage applicants in Rhode Island. The U.S. Justice Department’s complaint accuses the bank of redlining practices from 2016 to 2021 by not providing lending services to residents in primarily Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the state.
- DV Awareness Month: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and there’s been a “9% surge in domestic violence cases between 2021 and 2022,” according to LSC’s recent “By the Numbers” report. Legal aid lawyers discuss the challenges to meeting clients’ needs for domestic violence-related legal services as cases rise on a recent episode of the LSC “Talk Justice” podcast.
- Legal Deserts in North Carolina: While North Carolina’s population has grown by almost a million residents between 2010 and 2020, 48 counties remain legal deserts due to urban population concentration. The latest episode of All Things Judicial delves into the issue of legal deserts – counties with fewer than one attorney for every 1,000 residents. In the episode, Co-Executive Director Jimbo Perry of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism (CJCP) discusses the legal desert problem and CJCP’s efforts to recruit attorneys and enhance access to justice in rural areas.
- ABA Giving Day (Oct 22-28): In its fourth year, ABA Giving Day offers ABA members a chance to support over 50 programs addressing pressing social and legal issues, including access to justice, diversity, and upholding the rule of law. The goal this year is to raise $350,000, a 25% increase from the previous year, with a focus on inspiring more than 1,000 donors to participate. Past ABA Giving Days have successfully raised funds for important causes, and this year’s event aligns with the National Celebration of Pro Bono, which runs from October 22 to 28. To contribute or learn more, visit the ABA Giving Day website.
- Debt-Collection Lawsuits in Minnesota: A recent report by the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee reveals the challenges faced by individuals dealing with debt-collection lawsuits in the state. Many Minnesotans find the legal process confusing and burdensome, with most consumers lacking legal representation while creditors often have lawyers. The report also highlights the disproportionate impact on people with lower incomes and racial minorities. The committee recommends improving resources for self-represented litigants, expanding services for those with lower incomes, and streamlining the debt collection process to create a more accessible and equitable justice system.