Tag Archives: Chief Judge Robert M. Bell

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.

Managing Partners Breakfast kicks off Equal Justice Council fall campaign

Managing partners from leading Baltimore law firms met Thursday morning for the Equal Justice Council’s annual fundraising kick-off, held at the offices of Rosenberg│Martin│Greenberg.

EJC co-chairs John Wolf of  Ober│Kaler and Ben Rosenberg urged the 25 senior attorneys at the breakfast meeting to support Maryland Legal Aid. “In 2010, Legal Aid had 62,000 cases, representing people who had reached the end of their string—out of work and desperate,” Rosenberg said. “We’re asking you to remember that we all hold a privilege, a license to practice law that carries an obligation.  If we don’t help people who can’t access the justice system, we’ll have even worse problems.”

Added Chief Judge Robert M. Bell: “I urge you to assist Legal Aid, which will improve the legal system and help the courts, which are seeing a surge in unrepresented litigants. I thank the members of the Equal Justice Council for their good work to help ensure adequate representation in the courts.”

In the photo (left to right): Alan Garten of Fedder & Garten, Martin Fletcher of Whiteford Taylor & Preston  and Jon Laria of Ballard Spahr.

People’s Law Library launches redesigned website

The Maryland People’s Law Library today launched its newly redesigned website at www.peoples-law.org. The free legal information and self-help website now features expanded, updated and easy-to-find information about legal issues that are on people’s minds, issues such as housing and family law.

“The website helps to explain the law and legal issues in user-friendly terms that are easy to understand,” said Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The People’s Law Library began in 1996, and for the past three years, the website has been managed by the Maryland State Law Library.  More than two million visitors used the People’s Law Library last year.

“The People’s Law Library is a vital resource for all Marylanders,” said retired Court of Appeals Judge Irma S. Raker, chair of the Maryland Access to Justice Commission. “It is the place where so many people turn first for information about legal issues and to find links for legal help. It is critical that we provide information and resources for all, and perhaps especially for the most vulnerable, including low-income Marylanders and those who are representing themselves in our state’s courts.”

“The new design has the user in mind,” said Steve Anderson, director of the Maryland State Law Library. “It’s easier to use and navigate, and the most popular search terms are on the home page. Overall, the website is now both more accessible and more streamlined to help visitors find information and resources quickly.”

Throughout its history, the People’s Law Library has been supported by Maryland’s non-profit legal services providers. Several legal aid programs, public interest attorneys and community advocacy groups have provided information for the website.

Joseph honored by Maryland Legal Services Corp.

Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. was awarded the Benjamin Cardin Distinguished Service Award last night at an awards banquet sponsored by the Maryland Legal Services Corp.

The award was presented by Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, who noted that since arriving at Legal Aid in 1996, Joseph has nearly quadrupled its funding, raise salaries and enabled it to serve more than 50,000 Maryland families each year.

The Cardin Award is presented each year to an outstanding public interest attorney regularly involved in providing, promoting or managing civil legal services to the poor.

In the photo (left to right): MLSC president F. Vernon Boozer, Joseph, MLSC executive director Susan M. Erlichman and Bell.

More than 30 lawyers volunteer at Pro Bono Day


Executive Director Wilhelm Joseph

More than 30 lawyers participated at a free legal clinic hosted by Maryland Legal Aid on Saturday. “In this economic situation, the need for legal advice had increased tremendously,” Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm Joseph told WJZ-TV news. “Financial resources that support ongoing efforts at the Legal Aid Bureau have shrunk.” About 100 people attended the clinic, which featured informational seminars and one-on-one meetings with volunteer lawyers. “It’s an exciting day to see all these private lawyers come out here to give their services,” Joseph added. The read the article, click here.

In addition, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Pro Bono Week in Maryland in coordination with National Pro Bono Week, which promotes free services donated by lawyers nationwide.  O’Malley was joined by Chief Judge Robert Bell, officials from the Maryland Bar Association, the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, and homeowners who have benefited from the free counseling services when he made the declaration.

Managing partners to discuss legal needs of low-income Marylanders

The Equal Justice Council (the private bar fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid) will hold its third annual Managing Partners’ Meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 8 a.m. The event, hosted by Miles & Stockbridge, will focus on the challenges facing low-income Marylanders with civil legal problems and how the legal profession can meet the demand. Managing partners of the area’s 50 largest firms will join Court of Appeals Judge Robert M. Bell and EJC members for the discussion. For more information, email agilmore@mdlab.org or call 410/951-7759.

Chief judge reaches out to lawyers over legal services crisis

Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Robert M. Bell has sent a letter to all Maryland lawyers about the funding crisis facing legal services for low-income people, the Daily Record reported yesterday. The crisis stems for a 70-percent drop in interest on lawyer trust accounts, which are a major source of funding for legal services organizations around the state, including Maryland Legal Aid.

“The latest missive from [Bell] to the more than 30,000 lawyers in Maryland highlights a decrease in legal services funding at a time when the need for such services is increasing and points out that lawyers can respond with contributions of time or ‘financial resources,’” the article said.

‘“Whether you choose one means or both, your contribution will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Maryland residents and will help preserve our justice system,’ Bell wrote in the letter, dated July 20 but still in the mail to many lawyers,” the report said.

Quoted in the article was Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm Joseph, who praised praised Bell’s longstanding commitment to access to justice.

Joseph also corrected the letter’s characterization that a continuing funding shortage would “likely require” Legal Aid to close some offices was inaccurate.

“Any diminution of services is not an option, and we don’t plan on closing any offices,” said Joseph, whose organization is the  largest individual grantee of funding generated by interest on lawyer trust accounts. “We feel quite secure about our position for 2009, and with a little bit of luck we can make it through 2010.”