Monthly Archives: June 2011

Building a human rights framework

Legal Aid Chief Counsel Shawn Boehringer

Maryland Legal Aid Chief Council Shawn Boehringer has an article in the summer edition of the MIE Journal, “Building the Momentum for a Human Rights Framework in Legal Services Programs.” “[T]he human rights framework provides meaningful leadership development for newer staff, can energize their work, and give them a sense of purpose in their day-to-day advocacy,” Boehringer wrote. “These factors will hopefully lead to greater retention of talent and can build on the emerging presence of human rights curricula and programs at U.S. law schools.” Maryland Legal Aid recently adopted a human rights framework for its advocacy.

MSBA puts its money where its mouth is

A June 16 Daily Record editorial:

Gifts are out. Donations are in.

That was the message the Maryland State Bar Association gave its members as they arrived at the registration desk for the organization’s annual convention in Ocean City last week.

Instead of being welcomed with gifts — tote bags, mugs, beach mats — from their own professional organization, about 700 members of the state’s legal community were greeted with the knowledge that $5,000 usually spent on gifts for them was being donated instead to the Maryland Legal Services Corp. The MLSC provides funding for more than two dozen groups offering civil legal assistance to low-income Marylanders.

The faltering economy has been especially hard on the MLSC, which has seen its largest revenue source — interest on lawyer trust accounts — shrink drastically as interest rates have remained at historically low levels.

Let’s see now — legal services for the poor or tchotchkes for lawyers. Good call, MSBA.

(Maryland Legal Aid is the MLSC’s largest grantee.)

Barbara Coleman named Employee of the Year

Senior paralegal Barbara Coleman

Maryland Legal Aid senior paralegal Barbara Coleman was named the Employee of the Year for the prestigious Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Awards in Howard County.

From the Association of Community Services of Howard Co. website:  “She is the person who keeps people from getting evicted, who fights with Social Security to ensure her clients get their benefits.  As her boss and nominator Blake Fetrow noted, ‘Barbara is able to get results for clients that even the most gifted attorney within our organization could not hope to achieve.  She has built relationships, knows the resources available, and knows how to get things done in Howard County. Time and again, she has prevented homelessness, sometimes by convincing the most jaded landlord attorneys to give tenants a second chance.’ She is, he noted, almost a social worker, since she will then work with the client to keep them from repeating actions that led to an eviction effort.”

For more information, click here.

MSBA panelists tout social media in litigation

Katherine Jones, Maryland Legal Aid’s assistant director of IT for law practice, was in a Daily Record photo earlier this week. The article, “MSBA panelists tout the use of social media in litigation,” was about a standing-room-only panel at the Maryland State Bar Association’s convention in Ocean City last week. Jones was a presenter on the panel, which pointed out, among other things, there’s a “treasure trove of information to be found just by typing a potential juror’s name into a search engine.”

Md. Access to Justice Commission supports “civil Gideon”

The Maryland Judiciary announces in a press release: “A ‘civil right to counsel,’ also referred to as Civil Gideon, extends the right to be represented by a lawyer in civil cases that deal with the most basic of human needs, such as shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody.

In a new report, the Maryland Access to Justice Commission notes that only about 22 percent of the civil legal needs of poor and low-income Maryland residents are being met. The Commission estimates that each year in Maryland, nearly 350,000 people appear in court proceedings involving basic human needs cases. These Marylanders, mostly individuals and families with low incomes, come to court without the benefit of counsel and usually without help from the existing voluntary legal services system. . . . The estimated cost for a program that assures lawyers for critical civil cases is $106.6 million, the Commission notes in the report.

The Commission also urges that the creation of a right to counsel initiative should not divert existing funding away from the current civil legal services delivery system, which includes approximately 35 organizations in Maryland providing some legal services in civil matters. The report tries to envision the amount of additional funding required to fulfill the mandate of a civil right to counsel in these critical types of cases. ‘Implementing a Civil Right to Counsel in Maryland,’ is part of the Commission’s latest annual report, which was published this month. It’s available online through the Commission’s website.