From an op-ed in today’s Baltimore Sun by Maryland Legal Aid board member Erek Barron:
This just in: Maryland civil legal service programs not only benefit the poor but also save the state millions per year. Legal assistance to low-income Marylanders is a significant economic boost to the state and benefits more than just those receiving aid, according to a report just released by the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Commission.
Legal services mean a lot more than just helping people without means get access to the courts. For example, these services help low-income residents receive the government benefits to which they are entitled; prevent homelessness by avoiding eviction; and help protect against domestic violence.
In 2012, Maryland legal service programs preserved or found housing for almost 1,000 individuals and helped obtain 2,825 civil protective orders for clients. But the economic impact of legal services for the poor went far beyond the families helped, creating $190 million in total economic impact, including $12.6 million in economic stimulus to the state, $3.7 million in state expenditures saved, and $882,096 in tax revenue.
Economic impact studies in a number of other states have reported similar results, potentially changing the way these services will be viewed going forward. For example, a 2011 study of Virginia legal aid programs found a $5.27 return for every dollar invested. Another study, released last month, found that legal aid programs in Ohio netted a $109 million total economic impact to the state. The provision of civil legal services for the indigent can no longer be seen simply as a “feel good” initiative but also as an important economic tool.
To read the entire column, click here (behind a pay wall).
Entertainer and human rights activist Harry Belafonte
From Maryland Legal Aid board member Erek Barron, Esq., in the Daily Record:
“The Maryland Legal Aid Bureau celebrated its centennial anniversary Saturday night in Baltimore and keynote speaker Harry Belafonte struck a beautiful chord. Both Belafonte and Legal Aid Executive Director Wilhelm Joseph actually sang together on stage,” Barron wrote in the “Generation J.D.” blog.
“Belafonte entertained the crowd but also offered serious sentiments stemming from his experience as an international human rights activist,” Barron continued. “The message was right on time for an organization reenergized around a human rights framework.
“Belafonte acknowledged that he was ‘preaching to the choir.’ But he quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, saying, “it’s important that you preach to the choir because if you don’t they could stop singing,” Barron wrote.
To read the entire post, click here.
(From left to right, Pamela and Harry Belafonte, Taria and Erek Barron.)
Tony West, assistant attorney general of the civil division in the U.S. Dept. of Justice (left, with Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm Joseph), spoke at the 13th Annual Equal Justice Council Awards & Recognition Breakfast at Camden Yards May 20. “I’m especially glad to join you in honoring the important work of the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau and Equal Justice Council this morning,” West told 175 judges, lawyers, law professors, political leaders and other legal professionals. “You provide this community with needed legal services, you secure access to justice by facilitating access to our courts, you provide hope to many who have lost it. In short, you make real the promise Adlai Stevenson spoke of when he observed that ‘the essence of democracy is the dignity of [the individual].’”
West also spoke about the “courage to care.”
“It’s the courage of Odella Oliver, a senior paralegal here at the Bureau, whose persistence in demonstrating that the Social Security Administration had been wrong in terminating a client’s benefits ensured that a 10-year-old child suffering from severe mental disability would continue to receive her childhood SSI disability benefits,” West said. “Or staff attorney Melissa Kilmer who helped protect an elderly client from falling victim to a simple mortgage fraud scheme that could have resulted in foreclosure of the woman’s home. Or any of the award recipients we honor this morning whose examples are inviting all of us to be our best selves.”
Others on hand at the annual event included Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Baltimore City Circuit Court judges Pamela J. White (the event’s emcee) and Robert B. Kershaw, Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. This year’s award recipients: F. Paul Bland, Michelle J. Dickenson, Neil E. Duke, and Goldman & Minton P.C. (Champion of Justice awards); Erek Barron (Equal Justice Associates’ Leadership Award); Quinn, Gordon & Wolf (Pacesetter Award); DLA Piper US LLP and Venable LLP (Trailblazer awards); and George W. McManus Jr. (Executive Director’s Award).
The Equal Justice Council, co-chaired by Andrew Jay Graham and Benjamin Rosenberg, is the private-bar fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid. Photo: Eric Stocklin.
Posted in access to justice, awards, Equal Justice Council, fundraising
Tagged Benjamin Rosenberg, Douglas F. Gansler, Equal Justice Council, Erek Barron, F. Paul Bland, George W. McManus Jr. Andrew Jay Graham, John P. Sarbanes, Maryland Legal Aid, Michelle J. Dickenson, Neil E. Duke, Pamela J. White, Robert B. Kershaw, Robert M. Bell, Tony West, Wilhelm Joseph