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The Federal Government has statutory authority to make arrangements for the provision of legal services to victims of major disasters. See 42 U.S.C. § 5121. Thus, upon a declaration by the President or other designated official, Maryland attorneys may be called upon to provide free emergency legal services to low-income Marylanders through the Disaster Legal Services (DLS) Program. Two weeks ago, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado, along with other representatives, introduced the Pandemic Response and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to help prepare communities for the economic impacts of the coronavirus, which could potentially trigger the implementation of the DLS program throughout the entire country.

The DLS program, which allows low-income Marylanders to request the assistance of a lawyer, is in partnership between the Maryland State Bar Association, the Maryland State Bar Association Young Lawyers’ Section, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

While the DLS program has not been enacted for the present COVID-19 pandemic yet, the MSBA YLS Disaster Relief Committee is being proactive in expanding its list of potential volunteer attorneys. A volunteer attorney could be needed to assist with accepting phone calls, placing callers/clients with pro bono attorneys, or providing pro bono representation (if desired). Please share this request widely throughout your firms, organizations and legal networks.

If you are willing to assist, please provide your name, email address, phone number, and mailing address to Sean O’Keefe (; 301.473.1842), of the MSBA YLS Disaster Relief Committee, and Kerri Smith (, of the ABA YLD District 8 Representative.