Tag Archives: access to justice

New York’s judiciary seeking big expansion of civil legal aid

New York’s chief judge will propose a $100 million increase in state financing for lawyers who represent the poor in civil cases that deal with “the essentials of life” like eviction and child support, the New York Times reported.

“The proposal by the chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, is to be released on Wednesday,” the report said. “If approved by the Legislature, it would provide a major source of financing for lawyers for the poor and be a striking acknowledgment that the state’s court system is being overwhelmed by some 2.3 million people a year who cannot afford representation. While criminal defendants are guaranteed a lawyer, people fighting civil cases are not.”

“This would be by several measures the most significant commitment to civil justice any state legislature has made in the country,” said Don Saunders, a vice president of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the largest national group of lawyers for the poor. “There is nothing even close to that.”

To read the entire article, click here.

Demand for volunteer lawyers on the rise

The need for pro bono attorneys to help low-income Marylanders with their civil legal problems is on the rise, the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this week (“Need for pro bono legal services rises as economy sags,” Nov. 17).

The article cited a recent pro bono event at Maryland Legal Aid, where private lawyers provided free legal consultations to more than 150 people.

“The event highlighted the tremendous need for access to justice,” said Legal Aid’s Yoanna Moisides. “People began lining up at 8 a.m.”

To read the article, click here.

Chief judge urges managing partners at top firms to support Legal Aid


Maryland District Court Judge Ben C. Clyburn


Maryland District Court Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn told 30 managing partners of the state’s top law firms that the legal system is “facing a crisis.” He spoke at Wednesday’s 4th annual Managing Partners Breakfast, sponsored by the Equal Justice Council, the fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid. The meeting was hosted by Miles & Stockbridge.

Referring to the recession and decreases in funding for civil legal services, the chief judge added, “In 30 years I’ve not seen a situation like this. We’re facing the perfect storm. At district court,  70 to 80 percent of litigants appear without legal representation. We really have a gap in justice. That’s why I’m asking you to support Legal Aid.”

Clyburn said the judicial system faces “irreparable harm.”

“The confidence and trust of the people will be impacted and we won’t be able to meet our core mission, the fair administration of justice,” Clyburn said. “As a profession, you must stand up and do your fair share by helping Marylanders who can’t help themselves.”

Managing partners and firm representatives at the meeting: EJC co-chair Philip M. Andrews (Kramon & Graham), Rignal W. Baldwin, Jr. (Baldwin, Kagan & Gormley, LLC), James Bartlett III (Semmes, Bowen & Semmes), Michael Baxter (Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones, P.A.), C. Christopher Brown ( Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP), William E. Carlson ( Shapiro, Sher, Guinot & Sandler, P.A.),
Darlene Davis (Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver), Jessica duHoffmann (Miles & Stockbridge, P.C.), Robert Ferguson (Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew, P.A.),
John B. Frisch (Miles & Stockbridge, P.C.), Alan F. M. Garten (Fedder & Garten, P.A.), Yale Ginsburg (Adelberg, Rudow, Dorf & Hendler, LLC), EJC co-chair Andrew Jay Graham (Kramon & Graham, P.A.), Barry Greenberg (Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP), Kelly Tubman Hardy (DLA Piper US LLP), Peter Keith (Gallagher, Evelius & Jones, LLP), Kevin Kelehan (Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr), Albert Mezzanotte, Jr. (Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, L.L.P.), Charles O. Monk II (Saul Ewing LLP), William H. Murphy, Jr. (The Murphy Firm), EJC co-chair Benjamin Rosenberg (Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP), Sanford Schreiber (Blades & Rosenfeld, P.A.), Steven Silverman (Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White), Howard Stevens (Wright, Constable & Skeen, L.L.P.), Steven Thomas (Thomas & Libowitz, P.A.), Raymond Truitt (Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP), Thomas J.S. Waxter, III (Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann, LLP), Jeffrey Wothers (Niles, Barton & Wilmer, LLP), and Jefferson V. Wright (Miles & Stockbridge, P.C.).

Top New York judge calls for ‘civil Gideon’

New York’s chief judge called on Monday for a new guarantee of a lawyer for poor people in civil cases, like suits over eviction and other disputes where basic needs are at stake, pushing the state to the forefront of a national effort to expand the right to representation for the indigent, the New York Times reported. To read the article, click here.

Obama to Congress: Lift three LSC restrictions and increase LSC’s funding

The Obama Administration, in its budget released yesterday, called for the removal of select draconian restrictions on civil legal aid for the poor that are depriving countless families of equal access to justice.  The President’s Budget recommends that Congress remove three of the 13 -year-old funding restrictions imposed on independent legal aid organizations that receive part of their funding from the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC), including Maryland Legal Aid.

Specifically, the President’s Budget proposes that Congress permit states, local governments and private donors to decide how their contributions to LSC recipient organizations will be spent.  Currently, LSC recipients are subjected to a uniquely harsh “poison pill restriction” that ties up all the funds of an organization once it receives its first dollar of LSC funds.  Nationally, this poison pill restriction ties up as much as $490 million in state, local, private and other non-LSC funds.

The President also proposes that Congress put legal aid attorneys on equal footing with all other attorneys by permitting them to seek attorneys’ fee awards when they have proven their case and when an underlying consumer protection, civil rights or other law authorizes the award.  Any fees collected from a wrongdoer in the litigation would, in turn, fund the representation of more individuals in need.

Lastly, the budget also proposes that legal aid attorneys be permitted to participate in class actions on behalf of their clients.  Class actions are sometimes the most efficient way to help groups of individuals, for example, those victimized by predatory lenders, foreclosure rescue scams, or other fraudulent activities.

In addition to lifting these three restrictions, the President’s budget seeks a $45 million increase in funding for LSC for FY 2010, which, if implemented, would bring the total funding level to $435 million, up from $390 million in FY 2009.

For more information on the restrictions and the changes that have been requested by access to justice leaders, click here.

Chief Judge urges managing partners to support Legal Aid

Andrew J. Graham (left), Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Philip M. Andrews

Andrew J. Graham (left), Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Philip M. Andrews

The second annual Managing Partners Breakfast brought together more than 20 managing partners of major Baltimore firms to hear from Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell (center) about why they should continue to support Legal Aid. “We are dealing with a justice system with many components,” Bell said. “If one doesn’t work, the whole system won’t work in providing fair access to justice. Those who can’t pay for a lawyer need the services of Legal Aid so they can get access to justice. When the system doesn’t deliver justice, it has a negative impact on the public. Without the trust and confidence of the citizens we serve, the court can exert very little power.” Andrew J. Graham (left) and Philip M. Andrews (right) of Kramon & Graham, co-chairs of the Equal Justice Council (the private-bar fundraising arm of Legal Aid) also addressed the group. The event was hosted by Ober Kaler at its downtown Baltimore office. Also on hand for the Oct. 8 event: Rignal Baldwin (Brassel, Baldwin, Kagan & May, P.A.), Herbert Better (Zuckerman Spaeder LLP), C. Christopher Brown (Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP), Jessica duHoffman (Miles & Stockbridge P.C.), Julie Dymowski (Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP), Jervis Finney (Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver), Andrew Freeman (Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP), John Frisch (Miles & Stockbridge P.C.), Michael Hendler (Adelberg, Rudow, Dorf & Hendler, LLC), Decatur Miller (DLA Piper LLP), Benjamin Rosenberg (Rosenberg Martin Greenberg), Sanford Schreiber (Blades & Rosenfeld, P.A.), Steven Silverman (Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White), Raymond Truitt (Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP), John Wolf (Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver), and Linda Woolf (Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann, LLP).