Monthly Archives: May 2011

Baltimore, Memphis mayors speak at Equal Justice Council recognition breakfast

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton were the featured guests at Wednesday’s 14th Annual Equal Justice Council Recognition Breakfast at Camden Yards. Rawlings-Blake said she was “excited to celebrate Legal Aid’s centenary. I began my career at Legal Aid, where I worked with the city’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Wharton, who has also served at the head of civil and public defender programs in the Memphis area, said “I can’t believe  the Maryland private bar’s  support for legal services. It’s amazing!”

Pointing out that at the end of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt established a “second” Bill of rights that included a right to housing, health care and employment, Wharton called them “the little things you take for granted. But they’re not protected by the Constitution–and that’s where lawyers come in. . . . The purpose of the law is to protect the powerless from the powerful. . . . As FDR observed in the waning days of the war, there is no security anywhere, no peace anywhere, if a third, or a fifth or a tenth of those here at home are ill-fed, ill-clothed, not housed, not educated. Who does that responsibility fall to? A lawyer you can go to. . . . There will be no security, no peace unless we breath life into the slogan ‘equal justice under law.’ And that requires a passion. . . . Remember this: a profession without passion brings nothing but pain.”

The awardees: Paul D. Bekman of Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins and Scott A. Livingston of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver (Champions of Justice awards). The Equal Justice Associates’ Leadership award went to Lisa Hall Johnson of Dickstein Shapiro and the Pacesetter awards  to Ober Kaler and Whiteford, Taylor & Preston. This year’s Trailblazers are DLA Piper, Miles & Stockbridge and Venable. The Executive Director Awards were given to EJC co-chairs Andrew Jay Graham and Benjamin Rosenberg.

Foreclosure activity at a low point

Maryland Legal Aid’s Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project director Vicki Taitano was quoted in the Washington Post May 13 about the falling rate of foreclosure activity in the D.C. area. “For some troubled borrowers, the delays [in the foreclosure process] have given [borrowers] hope of hanging onto their homes,” Taitano told the Post. “Those who fell behind on their mortgages because they lost their jobs, for instance, have more time to look for work.” To read the article, click here.

Equal Justice Council celebrates 14 years of helping the underrepresented

Founded in 1997 as the fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid, the Equal Justice Council has raised more than $11 million from the private bar to help balance the scales of justice for disadvantaged Marylanders in family, housing, public benefits and other critical areas of civil law.

Who are these people? And why do they take time to raise money for Legal Aid (which is celebrating its centennial)?

“I view supporting Legal Aid and its efforts as a professional responsibility,” said Andrew Jay Graham, a founding partner of Kramon & Graham and an EJC co-chair.

To read the rest of this “Of Service” column in The Daily Record, click here.

First Pro Bono Day in Bel Air helps nearly 50 people

Fifteen volunteer lawyers helped 46 people with their civil legal problems in Harford Co.’s first Pro Bono Day, held Saturday at Maryland Legal Aid’s Northeastern Maryland office in Bel Air.

“Given that this was the first time we held a Pro Bono Day clinic in Harford County, I think we had a successful event which we can build on for the future,” said Gwendolyn S.Tate, director of legal services at SARC, one of the event’s sponsors. ” And we could not have done it without all of [the] hard work leading up to and on the day of the event.”

People got help in legal areas such as family law (23 percent), wills, estates and powers of attorney (11 percent), employment (11 percent), bankruptcy (9 percent), and foreclosure (7 percent). In the picture: Legal Aid paralegal Lynda Baldwin helping a visitor to the clinic.

The clinic was also sponsored by Legal Aid and the Harford Bar Foundation.

Woman homeless after Section 8 wants her to move into condemned house

Vanessa Davis had to sleep in a park for a few nights while waiting for repairs to an apartment that Baltimore City’s Section 8 had not approved for occupancy. Meanwhile, the housing department made rental payments to the landlord for a year on the unoccupied Reservoir Hill apartment, WBAL-TV reported last week.

Davis, who is disabled and is staying with relatives, had been dropped by Section 8 after it discovered she hadn’t moved in to the condemned house, but was reinstated last week after investigative reporter Barry Simms called.

“Someone dropped the ball,” Maryland Legal Aid staff attorney Kay Harding told Simms. “Someone approved this house without verifying the use and occupancy permit was there. This property should never have been rented, but they were trying to penalize my client because she didn’t move in.”

To see the report, click here.

More consumers pay credit cards before mortgages

A growing trend in today’s down economy is cash-strapped consumers paying credit card bills before mortgage payments–in part, because the consequences of skipping a mortgage payment seems far off, as legal wrangling over foreclosure can go on for months, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

Maryland Legal Aid’s Blake Fetrow, chief attorney of the Metropolitan Maryland office in suburban D.C., said he regularly counsels families to take care of bills first and creditors second.

“That’s a very personal thing,” Fetrow told the Post. “Is it going to be the heat? Is it going to be the water? What do I have to leave off to make i through this month?”

To read the article, click here.

Frederick Co. couple victims of foreclosure scams

A Frederick County couple thought they had saved their home from foreclosure, but they’re living in a garage, WBAL-TV investigative reporter Barry Simms reported last night. Their lender is the target of a nationwide federal investigation, and as if that weren’t enough, the couple says things got worse when they hired an attorney, who they paid $15,000. Finally, they went to Maryland Legal Aid, which helped them win a judgment of $355,000–money that they’ll probably never collect.

“The real crime is someone stole their house, stole all their assets, and there’s no way to get it back,” Legal Aid staff attorney Kathleen Hughes, who handled the couples’ case. To see the report, click here.