Monthly Archives: April 2010

D.C.’s imperiled safety net: legal aid groups

Today’s Washington Post ran an editorial urging the D.C. government to reconsider a 40-percent reduction in funding to legal aid programs. “Such groups help represent the homeowner who is on the brink of losing a house or the tenant who may be days away from living on the streets,” the editorial said. “They also, in many instances, serve as liaisons for people in need of food stamps, unemployment benefits or temporary shelter. They find help for the battered woman and the sick child. They are, in short, gateways to a number of services already provided by government but which many residents would not know existed or would have no clear idea how to obtain.” To read the entire editorial, click here.

DLA Piper’s Dickinson tapped for Champion of Justice Award

DLA Piper announced today that Michelle Dickinson will receive a Champion of Justice Award from the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau’s Equal Justice Council (EJC). The award will be presented at the EJC’s 13th annual awards and recognition breakfast on May 20 at the Camden Yards in Baltimore. Dickinson is a partner in DLA Piper’s Litigation practice in the Baltimore office. Dickinson was recognized for her outstanding leadership and sustaining efforts in support of Legal Aid. Working with several attorneys in DLA Piper’s Baltimore office, she has served as the firm’s representative to EJC for the past two years. Kelly Tubman Hardy, partner in DLA Piper’s Corporate practice, and Deke Miller, Partner Emeritus, are also active members of the Equal Justice Council. To read the entire press release, click here.

General Assembly passes filing-fee surcharge increase

A compromise was reached on SB 248 and HB 106 during the waning hours of the last day of the legislative session–and by a significant majority in both the Senate and the House, the legislature approved a bill to increase the surcharge on civil court filing fees to address the funding crisis caused by historically low interest rates on IOLTA.

Projections indicate that the bill as adopted, which contains a three-year sunset provision, would generate approximately $6.1 million annually to address the shortfall in IOLTA revenue and help fund civil legal aid to low-income Marylanders.

“Although short of our original goal, this is a tremendous success by any measure,” said Maryland Legal Services Corp. executive director Susan Erlichman. “This was a tough session and a hard-fought victory.”

Added Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm Joseph:  “Justice-loving members of the bar, bench and the public joined with like-minded legislators in a remarkable full-court press to prevent any diminution in resources to the growing ranks of those in need of civil legal assistance.” Maryland Legal Aid receives more than half of the funding distributed by MLSC.

Planning for incapacity

Planning for Incapacity/A Self-Help Guide, a new publication to help Marylanders navigate the intricacies of advance directives, is hot off the press. The 36-page booklet targeted to seniors brings together a wealth of information, including the attorney general’s forms, how to get forms in six foreign languages, information on alternative forms for free (such as the popular “Five Wishes” advance directive form published by Aging with Dignity), how to get forms for other states, how to get advance directives for mental health treatment, a glossary of terms, and more.

“It’s a valuable tool to outline the considerations and practicalities that people need to weigh in planning for their own incapacity and death,” said Maryland Legal Aid Senior Helpline chief attorney Pete Stokes. The booklet was produced as part of the Helpline’s Administration on Aging grant, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Aging and AARP. Click here to download a PDF version of the booklet (and here for attorney general’s forms, and here for a checklist and wallet card).