As the Maryland Access to Justice Commission gears up for the work ahead in 2022, we’d like to reflect on our accomplishments over the past year to improve the civil justice system so that it is more accessible, equitable and fair for all Marylanders. We thank our partners, supporters, funders, collaborators and volunteers who inspire and humble us and push the work forward.
A2JC started 2021 by delivering the final report of the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force, which we helped co-lead. Immediately thereafter, we dove into the legislative session, convening and coordinating to help pass reforms recommended in the final report. Of the 59 substantive recommendations in the final report, 41 were transformed into bills during the 2021 legislative session and 19 are now law, including a $9M increase in civil legal aid funding (in addition to the $11.7M which we successfully advocated for while the work of Task Force was ongoing) and the passage of an Access to Counsel in Evictions law. Since then, we have focused on few core issues, including:
Funding the Access to Counsel in Evictions Law. We convened key stakeholders and advocated with Governor Hogan to fund the access to counsel in evictions law so that it can have its intended effect. Many members of the Commission have also served as leaders on the legislatively mandated Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force, which will deliver its final report on January 3, 2022. We expect to be supporting and pushing the legislative reforms recommended in this report during the 2022 legislative session.
Civil Justice Data. We delved deep into civil justice data, understanding that the lack of it was in itself a barrier to justice. We delivered incomparable data tools for our community, like version 2.0 of the Civil Justice Data Dashboard and the Civil Justice for All Story Map, that for the first time bring together civil justice data in one centralized place and boast cool interactive features that allow for county-by-county comparisons.
Pro Bono Call to Action. We helped herald a Pro Bono Call to Action, bringing together the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, the Attorney General of Maryland, the President of the Maryland State Bar Association and the Chair of the Access to Justice Commission to urge all Maryland attorneys to take at least one case or dedicate some pro bono hours to help with the spiking demand for civil legal aid.
Maryland Voices for Justice. As part of a larger long-term effort to increase awareness about the civil justice system within the MSBA and beyond, we launched a curated monthly called the A2J Dispatch that is filled with A2JC updates, a featured client story from a civil legal aid organization, and local and national A2J news.
Affordable Law Task Force. We partnered with the MSBA to launch an Affordable Law Task Force in November, 2021 to study and report on how to meet the civil legal needs of Marylanders with modest means. The report of this Task Force is expected out in June, 2022.
While we are proud of our accomplishments, we know there is so much more left to do. We can’t wait to get started in 2022.
Until then, Cheers & Happy New Year!