Monthly Archives: March 2010

Multi-service center for poor to expand in Howard

A center for helping low-income residents of Howard County will expand this summer, the Howard County Times reported yesterday. The North Laurel-Savage Multi-Service Center, which provides a wide range of human service programs, will nearly double the number of clients served when it relocates in July. Maryland Legal Aid is one of the programs that helped about 1,900 families and individuals at the center last year.  “The idea is ‘one-stop shopping’ to streamline services to reduce the number of contacts and visits to various service providers,” said Denise McCain, Legal Aid’s director of program development and compliance.  “The average client has more than one issue and generally needs a multitude of services.” To read the article, click here.

After the fall

Yesterday’s Baltimore Sun article about the demise of Mann Bracken, a large debt-collection law firm, included a quote from a former Maryland Legal Aid attorney. The firm’s aggressive–and allegedly ruthless and illegal practices–victimized many low-income Marylanders, including some retirees who had “their Social Security payments wrongfully garnished, according to Cora Ganzglass, who worked with those seniors when she was an elder-law attorney for Maryland Legal Aid,” the article said. “Ganzglass, now legislative director at the National Association of Consumer Advocates, said Social Security benefits are exempt from garnishment under law. ‘These people didn’t have access to food, they couldn’t pay rent,’ she said.”

To read the article, click here.

House passes court filing-fee surcharge bill

Today the Maryland House of Delegates passed HB 106 by a vote of 93 to 45. The bill would increase civil court filing fees to fund legal service programs . To become law, it will go to a conference committee to be reconciled with SB 248, the Senate version that was passed earlier this month.

New wave of foreclosures on the way

Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project staff attorney Kathleen Skullney

Maryland Legal Aid Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project staff attorney Kathleen Skullney (left) appeared on Fox45 TV News last night in a segment warning that another wave of foreclosures could hit soon. To see the clip, click here.

Small fee, huge help

Today’s Washington Post urges the Maryland General Assembly to pass a court filing-fee surcharge increase to fund civil legal services, including Maryland Legal Aid. “These relatively small increases could bring in as much as $9 million per year for legal aid and could make a world of difference to struggling families throughout the state,” the editorial said. To read it, click here.

On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee passed its version of the filing-fee surcharge bill. A full House vote is expected tomorrow. The Senate voted overwhelming to support its bill earlier this month.

Sun: Funding fee increases “eminently sensible measure”

Today’s Baltimore Sun features two items on civil legal services: a front-page story (with a picture of Maryland Legal Aid staff attorney Christina Sawyer) about the funding-fee surcharge bills working their way through the General Assembly and the lead editorial endorsing the bills.

“Funding for legal services to the poor has plummeted as a result of the recession” the editorial said. “Unless something is done, thousands of families and individuals will lose their ability to challenge the decisions of mortgage companies, landlords, employers and health care providers in court. . . . Lawmakers should act to keep the gap in justice between haves and have-nots from growing even wider by passing this eminently sensible measure that will allow the [Maryland] Legal Services Corp. to continue to do the job . . .”

An advocate for equal justice

Today’s New York Times editorializes on the importance of legal services to the poor . . . and not just criminal defendants. “The civil legal aid system is no less challenged,” the editorial said about funding problems that threaten the country’s commitment to equal justice under law. “Short on resources, local offices supported by the Legal Services Corporation, the federal agency that provides legal assistance for low-income Americans in civil cases, must turn away about half the eligible individuals who contact them for help with life-altering issues such as child custody or saving their homes from foreclosure.”

To read the complete editorial, click here.