(ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, February 7, 2017) — The Maryland Judiciary’s network of programs for self-represented litigants has been selected by the American Bar Association (ABA) to receive the 2017 Louis M. Brown Meritorious Recognition. Three out of 36 award nominees received meritorious recognition at the ABA’s national Midyear Meeting on February 4, in Miami. Maryland Courts Self-Help Centers served more than 55,000 litigants via phone, live chat, email, and walk-in visits in 2016, an 86.5 percent increase over 2015.
“Self-help resources are an essential component of the Maryland Judiciary’s strategic plan to ensure access to justice,” said Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. “These services help Marylanders use a combination of modern technology and direct one-on-one legal services to obtain the information and assistance they need. We are grateful for this recognition by the American Bar Association and hope that it helps to encourage the advancement of self-help services in Maryland and beyond.”
The Maryland Courts Self-Help Centers provide free, limited legal help in civil cases for people who do not have a lawyer. Operated under contract with Maryland Legal Aid, attorneys are available from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, to answer questions via telephone, email, and live chat on a wide range of civil case types handled by Circuit Courts and the District Court, including:
- Landlord and tenant matters
- Family law matters such as divorce, custody, child support, and guardianship
- Small claims ($5,000 or less) and large claims (more than $5,000)
- Expungement and shielding of records
- Consumer matters such as car repossession, debt collection, and credit card cases
- Return of property
- Domestic violence/peace orders
Three District Court Walk-In Centers are open during regular courthouse hours to provide free limited legal services to people with civil cases in the District Court who are not represented by a lawyer. A network of Family Law Self-Help Centers are available in most Circuit Courts in the state.
William T. Hogan III, chair of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, which awarded the meritorious recognition, said that the committee “was impressed with the Maryland Courts’ robust programming and comprehensive assistance for self-represented litigants.” The ABA’s Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access recognizes programs and projects that enable affordable access to legal services for those of moderate income in ways that are exemplary and replicable. Founded in 1878, the American Bar Association is one of the world’s largest voluntary professional organizations with more than 400,000 members and more than 3,500 entities.
Maryland is a leader among states on access to justice, currently ranking fourth in the nation for overall performance, according to the Justice Index, an online resource that scores states based on the adoption of best practices furthering civil access to justice.