Tag Archives: University of Maryland School of Law

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.

Landing the legal job: Legal Aid staff attorney interviewed by the BBJ

Emily Jaskot, a Maryland Legal Aid staff attorney in the Long Term Care Assistance Project, was interviewed last month by the Baltimore Business Journal for an article, “Landing the legal job.”

From the article: “Emily Jaskot didn’t care about those six-figure salaries. She always knew that she wanted to work for a nonprofit helping those who might not be able to afford legal representation.

“She jumped right into public-interest law as a student at the University of Maryland School of Law. During school, she was hired as a law clerk at the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau. She never really left, thinking that keeping her face around the building was solid proof she wanted to work there. ‘It’s an organization where I really believe in the mission,’ she said. ‘All the people here are passionate and creative.’

“Jaskot achieved that leadership experience law firms seek by becoming president of the Maryland Public Interest Law Project, a student-run group that provides grants to students who work in unpaid legal internships.”

Human rights symposium kicks off Legal Aid centenary

Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (left), was the keynote speaker at last week’s joint University of Maryland/University of Baltimore law schools human rights symposium celebrating Legal Aid’s 100th anniversary.

“I’m impressed by Legal Aid’s visionary, out-of-the-box thinking to use a human rights framework,” Henderson said. “You play an important role in the human rights movement by helping the poor by preventing illegal evictions and making sure that parents don’t lose custody. I salute Legal Aid’s efforts to build a broader understanding of human rights. Your work is vital.”

Other speakers included UM Law Dean Phoebe Haddon, UB Law Dean Phillip Closius, Howard University law professor Lisa Crooms, University of Indiana law professor Florence Roisman, ACLU executive director Susan Goering, University of the District of Columbia law professor Edgar Cahn, and UM law professor Michael Millemann. Also in the picture: Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr.

Human rights symposium to celebrate 100 years of Legal Aid

From today’s “Of Service” column in The Daily Record:

In 1911, the Legal Aid Bureau was founded in Baltimore by the Federated Charities as part of a trend to form societies to help immigrants and the poor with their legal problems.

Fast-forward a century, and Legal Aid is inventing itself again — this time, by focusing its mission to find legal solutions for poor, elderly and disadvantaged people through a human rights lens.

To kick off a year of celebration of Legal Aid’s century of service, the University of Baltimore School of Law and the University of Maryland School of Law are sponsoring a symposium, “Advancing Human Rights and Justice for All,” April 28 at Westminster Hall on the UM Law campus. . . .

How, exactly, do human rights principles apply to practicing lawyers?

“The challenge is to get by the human rights rhetoric to something tangible,” said UM law professor Michael Millemann, a Legal Aid alum and symposium moderator. “I started thinking about it and talked to some of the folks here who teach international law.”

His solution is to organize human rights principles in three ways; first, by looking to see what provisions of international treaties are enforceable and mandatory as U.S. law.

“For example, kidnapping kids,” Millemann said. “An unhappy husband grabs the kids and flies to a foreign country. In family law, you’ve got international rules derived from treaties that are enforceable in, say, Baltimore City Circuit Court.”

Second: In interpreting statutes, judges sometimes use legal rules and practices used in other countries to interpret ambiguous provisions of U.S. and state constitutions.

“An example is international rules and principles that courts use to interpret the cruel-and-unusual punishment clause in the Eighth Amendment,” he said. “In deciding that it’s unconstitutional to execute juveniles and the mentally retarded, the Supreme Court cited rules and practices around the world that prohibit such executions. You’ve got very general provisions about cruel-and-unusual punishment. Why not look abroad to interpret them?”

The third category is to look at the use of international rules and principles as “best practices.”

“Laws in other countries can be better models for decision-makers, Congress, state assemblies, even a court,” Millemann said. “They can say, ‘Here’s a better way.’”

Initially, the law professor was skeptical about incorporating human rights principles into legal services work.

“What was missing was an established set of categories, so we had to construct them — a tangible, real-world component,” Millemann said. “Now I see the symposium as an important and useful conference for legal services people and law faculty. Human rights is a terrific theme. I fully embrace it.”

To read the entire column, click here.

Human rights symposium to celebrate Maryland Legal Aid’s centennial

Maryland Legal Aid will present an in-depth presentation and panel discussions on human rights advocacy and its application locally, nationally and internationally at an April 28 symposium hosted in partnership with the University of Baltimore and University of Maryland law schools.

Panelists and speakers include experts in the fields of human rights and legal services, including Wade Henderson, Florence Roisman, Steve Sachs, Edgar Cahn, and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell. While open to the public, this free event is targeted to attorneys, law students, law professors, legal and human services providers, and college and high school students. The symposium will conclude with a cocktail reception.

Click here for additional details and registration. Advance registration is required.

Where are the lawyers?

After Katrina, almost 9,000 prisoners — mostly pretrial detainees awaiting trial on non-violent charges — languished nearly nine months before their day in court. The reasons: the destruction of justice system’s infrastructure, the evacuation of the detainees from flooded New Orleans, and the decimation of the public defender’s office.

After 9/11, more than 100,000 New Yorkers lost their jobs, and between 3,000 and 6,000 individuals and families were displaced by the destruction of the Twin Towers.

The survivors of the nearly 3,000 who died, in addition to facing the trauma, required emergency legal assistance such as obtaining death certificates, applying for emergency funds, probating wills, and seeking answers to legal and tax questions.

Yet the response by the private bar to these crises belied the profession’s ethical responsibility to meeting social responsibilities, argues University of Maryland law professor Douglas L. Colbert.

“Many volunteer lawyers came forward and helped with free legal assistance,” Colbert said. “They don’t see themselves as superheroes, only regular attorneys meeting their ethical duty in a time of crisis. Yet, why so few? Lawyers are aware of their ethical responsibility as public citizens to meeting social responsibilities.”

Colbert researched the legal profession’s responses to the two crises in a Howard Law Review article, “Professional Responsibility in Crisis.”

Louisiana’s bar revealed only “a small cadre of [about 100] heroic attorneys . . . gave generously of their time to people who were in dire need of legal representation,” Colbert wrote.

Even as more lawyers volunteered, most of “Louisiana’s [16,000] lawyers continued to remain on the sidelines and had not sufficiently replenished the ranks of this exhausted group of volunteers,” he wrote.

Ultimately, “hundreds more of Louisiana’s bar members contributed some pro bono, mostly on the civil side,” Colbert said.

In New York, the bar’s response to 9/11 was similar — in the low-single-digits.

While 3,000 lawyers volunteered their help, “the profession’s response … offers no grounds for complacency,” write Stanford Law professor Deborah Rhode in a critique referenced by Colbert.

About 95 percent of New York’s bar members “declined to participate and contribute any time to 9/11 victims’ needs” — and many who did, volunteered “relatively modestly.”

Colbert’s question: “In a profession as proud as ours, what can be done to enlist more volunteers acting as moral agents for the public community?”

And mine: With local civil legal aid and public defender offices swamped — and not just with the “historically” poor, but with formerly middle-class people capsized by the recession — isn’t Maryland facing its own Katrina?

To read the rest of this Daily Record “Of Service” column, click here.