Monthly Archives: October 2010

After Disney dumps workers during record unemployment, ESPN Zone workers move forward with class-action lawsuit

Inner Harbor workers and allies are staging an action Monday, October 25, starting at 11 AM at the Power Plant and ending at the Garmatz Federal Courthouse at 12:30 PM, to highlight the filing of a class-action lawsuit against Disney’s ESPN Zone for failing to give workers adequate notice before suddenly shutting down in June, in violation of the federal WARN Act.

When the ESPN Zone failed to respond to workers’ request in June to meet face-to-face to resolve this blatant violation of worker rights, a committee of ESPN Zone workers decided to pursue legal action. “We are sending a message to Disney, ESPN Zone and Inner Harbor developers that private gain should not take precedence over human life. Corporate executives think they can break the law and just get away with it, because harbor developers do not enforce any human rights standards, but we are human beings and we have the right to dignity and respect,” says Debra Harris, a former ESPN Zone cook.

Maryland Legal Aid represents United Workers, a human rights organization led by low-wage workers that is organizing the ESPN Zone workers. Because Legal Aid is prohibited from filing class-action lawsuits by Congress, the Baltimore firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy represents the workers in the class-action lawsuit.

For more, click here.

U.S. lags in access to civil justice

A new world-wide look at the rule of law ranks the United States in last place among similar countries in the category of access to civil justice.

The report, the Rule of Law Index 2010, examines 35 countries according to 10 dimensions of the rule of law, including absence of corruption, order and security, fundamental rights and open government.

For one of those dimensions—access to civil justice—the U.S. is ranked last when compared with other “high-income” countries, including Canada, Singapore, France and South Korea, and when compared with other countries in North America and Western Europe.

The report lists eight sub-factors which make up the dimension of access to civil justice, including whether people can access and afford legal counsel in civil disputes and whether civil courts are accessible and affordable.

The report was released on October 14 by the World Justice Project, which is sponsored by a variety of groups from around the world, including the American Bar Association. William H. Neukom, president of the ABA from 2008-2009, is president and CEO of the World Justice Project.

Download the report. (  4mb)

City revokes license of Madison Park North Apartments

Baltimore’s housing department revoked the license of the publicly subsidized Madison Park North Apartments in Reservoir Hill, a move that could force out residents of 200 units.

And those residents haven’t been told what will happen next, the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this week.

“We need the Baltimore City housing department to sit down with us and tell us how this is going to work,” said Legal Aid staff attorney Tabinda Riaz, who represents the tenants’ association.

To read the article, click here.

Foreclosure mess affects local firms

Vicki King Taitano, director of Maryland Legal Aid’s Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project, was quoted in The Daily Record today.

The topic: “Robo-signing” of documents where attorneys have not reviewed or read the foreclosure documents they signed (or, in some cases, didn’t sign).

“In some of the robo-signer cases there’s a potential that there are things wrong,” Taitano said. “We’re not supposed to be quickly signing these documents and getting it done, we’re supposed to be giving people the opportunity to have modifications and a chance to stay in their homes.”

To read the article, click here.

Legal Aid director Wilhelm Joseph to receive Cardin Award

Legal Aid Executive Director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr.

Executive Director Wilhelm Joseph will receive the Maryland Legal Services Corporation’s Benjamin L. Cardin Distinguished Service Award, awarded each December to an outstanding public interest law attorney. “Mr. Joseph, who has led the Legal Aid Bureau for 14 years, has advocated for the poor through his long civil rights career, his efforts with the filing fee initiatives in the Maryland General Assembly and many other accomplishments,” MLSC’s press release said. The awards reception is Monday, December 6, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Pro Bono Day slated for Oct. 30 in Baltimore

The Bar Association of Baltimore City (BABC) will host its third Pro Bono Day on Saturday, October 30, from 10 am to 2 pm at Maryland Legal Aid’s downtown Baltimore office, 500 East Lexington Street.

The last two Pro Bono Days, held in October 2009 and May, 2010, each served more than 200 people with more than 140 legal issues.  Organizers of this event, which also include Maryland Legal Aid, Legal Services for the Elderly, the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, and the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, expect more people to take advantage of the free legal help. The event is free and open to the public.

“The economic downturn has had and will continue to have a significant impact on the residents of Baltimore City and beyond, particularly those in low-income communities,” said BABC Executive Director Kathy Sanzone. “As a result, legal providers statewide have experienced a dramatic increase in the demand for legal assistance in a variety of areas.  The Baltimore City Bar Association is proud to partner with local legal services organizations to help meet this growing demand.”

Participants with specific legal problems can discuss their options one-on-one with volunteer lawyers on a wide range of subjects including divorce, child support, and custody; housing and landlord/tenant issues; government benefits, wills and advance directives; consumer debt and bankruptcy, foreclosure prevention, and veterans issues.  While registration is not required, it is strongly encouraged.

For more information, call the BABC at 410-539-5936, ext. 102.

Chief judge urges managing partners at top firms to support Legal Aid


Maryland District Court Judge Ben C. Clyburn


Maryland District Court Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn told 30 managing partners of the state’s top law firms that the legal system is “facing a crisis.” He spoke at Wednesday’s 4th annual Managing Partners Breakfast, sponsored by the Equal Justice Council, the fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid. The meeting was hosted by Miles & Stockbridge.

Referring to the recession and decreases in funding for civil legal services, the chief judge added, “In 30 years I’ve not seen a situation like this. We’re facing the perfect storm. At district court,  70 to 80 percent of litigants appear without legal representation. We really have a gap in justice. That’s why I’m asking you to support Legal Aid.”

Clyburn said the judicial system faces “irreparable harm.”

“The confidence and trust of the people will be impacted and we won’t be able to meet our core mission, the fair administration of justice,” Clyburn said. “As a profession, you must stand up and do your fair share by helping Marylanders who can’t help themselves.”

Managing partners and firm representatives at the meeting: EJC co-chair Philip M. Andrews (Kramon & Graham), Rignal W. Baldwin, Jr. (Baldwin, Kagan & Gormley, LLC), James Bartlett III (Semmes, Bowen & Semmes), Michael Baxter (Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones, P.A.), C. Christopher Brown ( Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP), William E. Carlson ( Shapiro, Sher, Guinot & Sandler, P.A.),
Darlene Davis (Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver), Jessica duHoffmann (Miles & Stockbridge, P.C.), Robert Ferguson (Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew, P.A.),
John B. Frisch (Miles & Stockbridge, P.C.), Alan F. M. Garten (Fedder & Garten, P.A.), Yale Ginsburg (Adelberg, Rudow, Dorf & Hendler, LLC), EJC co-chair Andrew Jay Graham (Kramon & Graham, P.A.), Barry Greenberg (Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP), Kelly Tubman Hardy (DLA Piper US LLP), Peter Keith (Gallagher, Evelius & Jones, LLP), Kevin Kelehan (Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr), Albert Mezzanotte, Jr. (Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, L.L.P.), Charles O. Monk II (Saul Ewing LLP), William H. Murphy, Jr. (The Murphy Firm), EJC co-chair Benjamin Rosenberg (Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP), Sanford Schreiber (Blades & Rosenfeld, P.A.), Steven Silverman (Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White), Howard Stevens (Wright, Constable & Skeen, L.L.P.), Steven Thomas (Thomas & Libowitz, P.A.), Raymond Truitt (Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP), Thomas J.S. Waxter, III (Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann, LLP), Jeffrey Wothers (Niles, Barton & Wilmer, LLP), and Jefferson V. Wright (Miles & Stockbridge, P.C.).