Monthly Archives: January 2012

Staff reductions hit legal aid programs nationally

The nonprofit programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to deliver civil legal assistance to low-income Americans are implementing layoffs and staff reductions because of budget constraints, a survey conducted by LSC found.

According to the survey, LSC-funded programs anticipate laying off 393 employees, including 163 attorneys, in 2012.  The reductions continue a staffing downturn that began about a year ago. In December 2010, LSC-funded programs employed 4,351 attorneys, 1,614 paralegals and 3,094 support staff. During 2011, LSC programs reduced their staffing by 833 positions through layoffs and attrition. They now anticipate a new round of layoffs this year, bringing the staffing loss to 1,226 full-time personnel.

The survey was conducted in late December and early January, and 132 of the 135 nonprofit legal aid programs funded by LSC responded.

Maryland Legal Aid, one of those LSC-funded programs, has not implemented layoffs or closed offices.

To read the entire press release, click here.

Hundreds line up for free civil legal help in Frederick

Pro Bono Day in Frederick attracted hundreds of people for help with their civil legal problems, the Frederick News-Post reported last week.

“The Frederick County Legal Aid Bureau recently offered free legal advice to anyone in need” the article said. “It was standing-room-only when the event kicked off Thursday afternoon.

“More than 40 lawyers and legal assistants offered 20-minute sessions to those looking for legal advice,” the article continued.

“Scheduling short sessions allows more people to receive services, but if a person requires more attention, Legal Aid finds a way to meet the need, said Nina Shore, Maryland Legal Aid’s chief attorney.

“Advice about foreclosures, bankruptcy and housing topped this year’s lists of legal counsel requests, according to Shore, who said the event would not be possible without volunteers.”

To read the entire article, click here.

Joseph tapped by The Daily Record as an Influential Marylander

Legal Aid Executive Director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr.

Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. was selected as an “Influential Marylander” by the Daily Record and will be honored March 29 at an event in Hunt Valley.

Joseph, who has led Legal Aid since 1997 and grown it into one of the largest legal services programs in the U.S., also received the award in 2008.

For a complete list of this year’s honorees, click here.

Revised and updated guardianship handbook now available

What do you do if your grandfather, who lives alone and can no longer cook for himself, won’t leave his home for a nursing home or assisted living facility?
What do you do if your aunt can no longer manage her finances but seems capable of caring for herself in her small apartment?

These questions and others are answered in the new edition of the Guardianship Handbook .

The Law & Health Care Program at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the Delivery of Legal Services Section Council of the Maryland State Bar Assoc. have published a guide to help both laypeople and attorneys navigate adult guardianship in Maryland. Guardianship and Its Alternatives: A Handbook on Maryland Law was originally written by UM Carey Law Professor Joan O’Sullivan, a champion for the legal rights of the elderly, who passed away in 2007.

The 2011 Edition was revised and updated by Virginia Rowthorn, managing director of the Law & Health Care Program, and Ellen Callegary, a prominent elder law and disability lawyer in Maryland.

Callegary, a 1978 graduate of UM Carey Law and a member of the Alumni Board, is a founding partner of the Baltimore law firm of Callegary & Steedman, P.A and has a long history of involvement in disability and elderly issues. During her ten years as an assistant attorney general for Maryland, she worked directly with two attorneys general advising state agencies on matters related to the rights of persons with disabilities and serving as principal counsel for the Department of Juvenile Services. She also serves as an adjunct professor of law at UM Carey Law, where she most recently taught the Civil Right of Persons with Disabilities Seminar.

Rowthorn, who has worked for DLA Piper and the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and served as a Legislative Assistant on the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, teaches the Health Law Workshop and directs the Health Law Externship Program.

The impetus for the updated handbook was various changes in guardianship law over the last two decades and a realization by elder law and disability lawyers on the Delivery of Legal Services Section Council that there is a great need for practical, easy-to-read advice regarding guardianship for elderly and disabled Maryland residents.

Suzanne Sangree, chief solicitor at the Baltimore City Department of Law, and past chair of the Delivery of Legal Services Section Council, and Yoanna Moisides, Assistant Director of Advocacy for Training and Pro Bono at Maryland Legal Aid and current chair of the section council, also wanted a handbook that set forth a comprehensive list of alternatives to the formal guardianship process, a time-consuming and sweeping process that may not always be necessary to address a number of problems associated with lack of decision-making capacity.

Supported by funds from the Law & Health Care Program, the Rueben Shiling Mental Health Law Fund, the Dr. Richard H. Heller Fund, and the Maryland Bar Foundation, the handbook is available free of charge to attorneys and laypeople throughout the state. All or portions of the handbook can be duplicated and distributed without charge with proper attribution to the UM Carey Law’s Law & Health Care Program and the Maryland State Bar Association.

Talk to an attorney for free

Marylanders can talk to an attorney for free on Thursday in Frederick – no charge, no registration and no strings attached – and a packed house is expected, the Public News Service reported.

Katie Cox, a Maryland Legal Aid paralegal who is coordinating the event, says demand for help is often a reflection of the economy.

“I’d say the thing we see most often is family law cases – people going through divorces or custody. We also see now an increase in unemployment cases.”

Volunteer attorneys will deal with questions about landlord/tenant issues, wills and advance directives, bankruptcy, workers’ compensation, immigration, Social Security disability and serious traffic offenses, Cox says. Many problems, she adds, can be resolved outside the courtroom.

“When someone comes in, they might not necessarily need a lawyer. It might not be a legal problem, but they’re still not sure about what to do. We can refer them to the proper agencies.”

Those who attend, Cox says, should bring documents related to their questions.

Maryland Legal Aid and the Bar Association of Frederick County’s Pro Bono and Access to Legal Services Committee are sponsoring the clinic. More than 100 people showed up at a similar event in July.

The clinic will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. at Maryland Legal Aid, 22 S. Market St.

To hear an audio version, click here.

New report from Mass. on economic benefits of legal aid

BOSTON, January 18, 2012 – Massachusetts civil aid programs generated an estimated $53.2 million in new revenue and cost savings to the Commonwealth last year, according to a new report issued today by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC).

Of this amount, $27.7 million was in the form of new federal revenue, the report found. The state appropriation for MLAC in FY11 was $9.5 million.

“This report provides proof that civil legal aid is a sound investment of the Commonwealth’s resources, especially during these difficult economic times,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC, the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth. “In addition to being a last-resort for low-income people with critical legal problems, legal aid provides a significant economic boost that has a long-lasting, positive impact on society as a whole.”

In addition to new federal revenue, MLAC estimates the work of its grantees saved the Commonwealth millions in costly social services by keeping clients out of the emergency shelter system, courts and emergency rooms. The data was reported to MLAC by the 16 legal aid programs it funds in the Commonwealth.

Powers said the FY11 report, echoing findings of previous years’ reports, supports MLAC’s position that after several years of level funding from the state, it is time for a modest increase for civil legal aid in FY13. “We understand the budget crunch continues, but the data show that legal aid programs are worth an increased investment by the Commonwealth,” Powers said.

Among the key findings were:

•    New federal revenue brought to the Commonwealth included $8.7 million in retroactive payments to first-year SSI beneficiaries, more than $500,000 in Medicare appeals funding and $9.7 million in additional federal unemployment benefits.
•    Approximately $10.4 million in additional benefits were secured for low-income residents through unemployment insurance, housing stabilization, utility arrearage forgiveness and child support orders.
•    Legal aid programs generated savings of approximately $15.1 million for the Commonwealth in preventing homelessness and assistance to domestic violence victims.

The full report is available at http://www.mlac.org/research.html.

Pro Bono Day in Frederick

On Thursday, Jan. 26, the Bar Association of Frederick Co.’s Pro Bono  and Access To Legal Services Committee, in partnership with Maryland Legal Aid, is holding a free pro bono clinic from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Volunteer attorneys  will provide individual  free consultations in  the areas of family law, landlord/tenant, wills & advance directives, bankruptcy, workers’ compensation, foreclosure, business law, employment, real estate, Social Security disability, consumer, immigration, criminal expungements, government benefits, and serious traffic and MVA issues.

There is no charge to attend and registration is not required. Be sure to bring any relevant documents with you.  For more information, call 301-694-7414 or email nshore@mdlab.org.

Location:

Maryland Legal Aid,  Suite 11
22 South Market Street
Frederick , MD 21701