Monthly Archives: May 2012

Civil legal aids to bid for foreclosure settlement funds

The two Maryland jurisdictions hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis–Baltimore City and Prince George’s Co.–will each get $10 million out of Maryland’s $1 billion share of the multi-billion dollar nationwide settlement, The Daily Record reported. Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler made the announcement yesterday.

Nonprofit legal aid programs will bid for shares of $6.2 million earmarked for helping low-income people with their foreclosure problems.

“Legal Aid Bureau Inc., which provides free legal assistance, will seek a share of the $6.2 million through the RFP and would use its allotted money to help low-income homeowners facing foreclosure and related legal problems such as bankruptcy, said C. Shawn Boehringer, the group’s chief counsel,” the article said.

As seniors crumble under debt burden, Baltimore Sun goes to Legal Aid experts

In the lead business section article on Sunday, the Baltimore Sun looked at the economic crisis many seniors face because of debt (“Seniors crumple under debt burden,” May 27).  The Sun went to two Legal Aid experts.

From the article:

Louise Carwell, a lawyer who works with low-income seniors at the Maryland Legal Aid’s consumer law unit in Baltimore, said her clients are dealing with a wide range of debt, from credit cards to medical bills.

Many seniors in Baltimore also are behind on property taxes, which puts their homes at risk of going to a tax sale.

Carwell and other public-sector attorneys who work with the elderly say indebted seniors want relief, a trend that has increased in the last several years.

“The anxiety that they get or they create within themselves from debt collectors, that’s really punishing,” Carwell said. “That’s why a lot of my folks file for bankruptcy.”

Mary Aquino, a staff attorney with Legal Aid’s Baltimore County Elder Law Program, said she recalled a 75-year-old client who was nine months behind on her mortgage, with $10,000 in credit card debt and an additional $36,000 in student-loan debt. The woman’s sole income was a monthly $1,100 Social Security check.

“She’s hoping to file for bankruptcy and keep her home,” said Aquino, noting that student loans are usually not discharged in bankruptcy.

To read the article (behind a pay wall), click here.

 

Attorney Benjamin L. Crump speaks at annual Equal Justice Council Breakfast

Benjamin L. Crump

Benjamin Crump, a Tallahassee, Fla. attorney who has handled many high-profile cases—including representing the family in the Trayvon Martin murder case in Sanford, Fla.—was the featured speaker at the Equal Justice Council’s 15th Annual Awards and Recognition Breakfast yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium.

“Most of the cases my firm represents are for little people,” said Crump, who is chairman of the board of Legal Services of North Florida (a sister organization of Maryland Legal Aid) and donated $1 million to its capital campaign. “You don’t do things for the result, but because it’s the right thing to do. As lawyers, we need to take our educations out to benefit people who need help—or that education means nothing. Our finest hour is taking the call. It’s about answering the bell when it’s not a popular thing to do—not only for paying clients, but for people who don’t have money.” The EJC is the private-bar fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid.

Legal Aid chief counsel quoted in The Daily Record

Legal Aid Chief Counsel Shawn Boehringer

An article about FreeState Legal Project, a new legal service that provides help to members of the LGBT community, quoted Maryland Legal Aid’s chief counsel about the niche FreeState fills.

Shawn Boehringer, chief counsel at Maryland Legal Aid, said his organization deals with the LGBT community on a regular basis, especially through a federal grant targeting the legal problems of people with HIV/AIDS,” wrote reporter Kristi Tousignant. “It also handles a limited number of employment cases, Boehringer said, but it does not do any name-change work or estate planning for LGBT individuals, like FreeState.

“’There is a niche there they have identified,’ Boehringer said. ‘There is an unmet need there they are addressing through their work that we would probably not address at Legal Aid. . . . To have one group focus on those issues I think is entirely appropriate and needed. To have an organization that focuses on that issue, that puts some life into the protections that community now has.’”

To read the article (behind a pay wall), click here.

District Court Self-Help Center honored by Access to Justice Commission

The District Court Self-Help Center in Glen Burnie (operated by Maryland Legal Aid) was honored by the Access to Justice Commission at last week’s Judicial Conference in Annapolis.

The Program of the Year Award was presented to DCSHC supervising attorney Sarah Frush (center) by Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and retired Court of Appeals Judge Irma Raker, chair of the commission. “We have an incredibly hard-working staff that earned this award over the 29 months since the center opened,” Frush said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The center lets people who don’t have lawyers meet with attorneys about small claims, and landlord-tenant, protective order and debt-collection cases. People who can’t get to the center can call an attorney or chat with one online. The center opened in December 2009 and launched phone and online services last fall. By the end of 2011,  the center had helped more than 12,000 people and is now serving nearly 2,000 every month.

Civil Gideon: Legal dimensions of the civil right to counsel debate

A panel of legal experts will discuss the legal arguments surrounding the “Civil Gideon” debate as it has played out nationwide and at home in Maryland on Monday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland School of Law, 500 W. Baltimore St., Baltimore. To RSVP, go to http://www.acslaw.org/CivilGideonRSVP

The panelists are  Debra Gardner, legal director of the Public Justice Center, Wilhelm H. Joseph, Jr., executive director of Maryland Legal Aid and  Michael Millemann, the Jacob A. France Professor of Public Interest Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

One of the most fundamental rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution is the right to receive legal representation free of charge during a criminal proceeding. Indigent civil litigants, however, have no similar right even if they are facing a potential loss of housing, loss of child custody, or loss of their sole source of income – consequences that, for many, may be more dire than a prison sentence. Advocates for “Civil Gideon” rights from around the country have sought to persuade courts to recognize this right under the federal constitution, state constitutions, as well as federal and state statutory law.

The event is sponsored by the American Constitution Society Maryland Lawyer Chapter, the ACS University of Maryland School of Law Student Chapter, and the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys.

Venable honors Ben Civiletti with a $50,000 gift to Legal Aid

Wilhelm Joseph (left), Ben Civiletti

Maryland Legal Aid Executive Director Wilhelm Joseph was one of three guest speakers at a retirement dinner last week for Venable partner (and former U.S. attorney general) Ben Civiletti (right in photo with Joseph), a longtime friend of Legal Aid.

Civiletti is a former Legal Aid board member—and still ardent supporter of Legal Aid. “Apart from glowing tributes made about Ben by several speakers, including Wilhelm, the highlight for Legal Aid was Venable’s contribution of $50,000 in honor of Ben, to support Legal Aid’s continuing work,” said Legal Aid board president Warren Oliveri. “This is in addition to their normal, trendsetting annual contribution.”

Richard Wasserman, a Venable partner and Legal Aid board member, said the gift is a reflection of the firm’s long-standing and close relationship with Legal Aid. “And it’s in honor of Ben’s close relationship with Wilhelm and Legal Aid.”

Added Joseph: “Venable has raised the bar for private attorney support of legal assistance for low-income people in Maryland. It is a special honor that they have done this in the name of a remarkable private lawyer and public servant—Ben Civiletti.”