Monthly Archives: July 2011

A push for more proof in debt-collection lawsuits

A Maryland Legal Aid staff attorney was quoted in today’s Baltimore Sun lead story, “A push for more proof in debt-collection lawsuits/Consumer advocates cheer as Maryland’s highest court considers a change in rules.”

The issue is debt buyers who get judgments against no-show defendants without presenting enough proof–to the detriment of many poor and elderly defendants who often aren’t given notice of the lawsuits.

Lindsay Warnes, a staff attorney for Maryland Legal Aid, suspects lack of information helps explain why she’s seen a lot of lawsuits filed more than three years past the point of default, which makes them too late for court action,” wrote the Sun‘s Jamie Smith Hopkins.

“‘They may not know the date of default — they might have no idea,’ she said. “So they just file it and hope nobody notices.'”

To read the article, click here.

Legal Aid experts quoted in MSNBC special report on mediation and foreclosure

“Mediation is a joke,” said a Maryland Legal Aid client interviewed for a special investigative report on a new mediation law meant to forestall foreclosure in Maryland. A year after the law went into effect, fewer than 1,000 borrowers had applied for mediation, and just 56 borrowers had received a loan modification as of the end of May, said the report, “Mediation efforts fail to stem foreclosure tide.”

The report focused on Prince George’s County, where the market flew high in the boom years:  “It’s where movers and shakers were going,” said Vicki Taitano, director of Maryland Legal Aid’s Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project. “People (were) really thinking like they were getting the American dream, establishing themselves.”

But the “combination of predatory loans and a weak economy have had a ‘rather lethal effect’ in Prince George’s County,” the report said, quoting the manager of systemic investigations for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

To read the report, click here.

Legal Aid featured on Insight on Disability

Two Maryland Legal Aid lawyers were guests Sunday on WCBM-AM’s Insight on Disability talk radio show hosted by Mike Gerlach. The topic: Children with disabilities in the foster care system. Assistant Director of Advocacy for Children’s Rights Janet Hartge and Northeastern Maryland office staff attorney Nicole Jassie talked about their clients in foster care. “For children with severe disabilities, it’s easier for foster parents when the children are young,” Hartge said. “As they age, it gets more difficult for the parents. For example, they may not be able to lift them any more once they get to 70 or 80 pounds.

To download and listen to the show, click here. The interview starts around minute 18.

Legal Aid executive director interviewed by Daily Record

Legal Aid Executive Director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr.

Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr., Maryland Legal Aid’s executive director, is featured in a print and video interview in today’s Daily Record.

“My dream is to have access to justice as available as milk and bread at the 7-Eleven,” [Joseph]  said during a conversation last week with Daily Record reporters and editors.

Using Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” as a guideline (all people are entitled to freedom of speech and of worship and freedom from want and from fear), Legal Aid is trying to attack the roots of its clients’ problems, making its advocacy more broad-based.

“It’s really about creating a society where we are more conscious about justice, where we behave in a way that is more respectful to people and inequities,” Joseph said.

To read the interview and see the video, click here.

Maryland Legal Aid to hold street fair to celebrate 100 years

Maryland Legal Aid’s Community Birthday Party, a free celebration of Legal Aid’s 100 years of service to individuals and families in Maryland, is on Saturday, Sept.  10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Clients, former clients, community partners and the general public are invited to join us at the War Memorial Plaza (in front of City Hall at the corner of Lexington and Gay streets in downtown Baltimore).

There will be live entertainment, food and craft vendors, representatives from community organizations, health and human services providers, children’s activities, and giveaways.  The event will be held rain or shine.

For more information, call (410) 951-7649.

House proposal would cut civil legal aid by $104 million

Funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) would be cut by 26 percent in Fiscal Year 2012 under a proposal announced by the House Appropriations Committee today. The Committee bill proposes a $300 million budget for LSC—rolling back LSC funding to a level not seen since 1999.

Basic field grants, which are currently provided to 136 nonprofit civil legal aid programs across the nation, would be cut to $274.4 million, a 27.5 percent reduction from current funding of $378.6 million.

LSC’s preliminary estimates show that about 235,000 low-income Americans eligible for civil legal assistance at LSC-funded programs would be turned away if the Committee proposal were enacted.

“The proposed cut would prove to be especially damaging to low-income persons whose health and safety are at risk—the elderly, the victims of domestic violence, the disabled, children, veterans and others—by denying them access to justice,” LSC President James J. Sandman said.

“At LSC programs, requests for assistance are increasing. The poverty population eligible for civil legal assistance has grown by 17 percent since 2008, to an all-time high of 63 million Americans. And funding from non-federal sources is decreasing. This is not the time to undercut the fundamental American commitment to equal justice for all,”  Sandman said.

To read the entire press release, click here.

Maryland Legal Aid is a grantee of LSC.

Foreclosure prevention program not up to speed

While Maryland Legal Aid attorney Gretchen Reimert has helped some clients avoid foreclosure in a new mediation program that went into effect a year ago, the program is off to a slow start, the Washington Post reported today.

“It’s a program that is still new, but it also can use some improving,” Reimert told the Post. Reimert is a staff attorney in Legal Aid’s Foreclosure Legal Assistance Project.

“She and other attorneys are hoping that state lawmakers revisit the legislation to make it more beneficial to homeowners,” the article said. “The state, meanwhile, is holding workshops to let homeowners know about the program. The foreclosure mediation program is also mentioned in promotional mailings, and homeowners who call a state housing hotline are told about it.”

To read the article, click here.