Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : February 2007

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  SECTION SPOTLIGHT  

Getting Help to Those Who Need It

MSBA Section of
Delivery of Legal Service

No. of Members
 
423

Founded
  October 1, 1978

Officers
Chair:
  Tracy Brown
Vice-Chair:
  Suzanne Sangree
Secretary/Treasurer:
  John H. Price, Jr.

 

Public law-related organizations like the Pro Bono Resource Center, Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service, Legal Aid Bureau and the Women's Law Center have exhausted countless hours assisting people who are in need of legal services but cannot afford them. Nevertheless, unbeknownst to the public at-large, there is no rest for these organizations and their tireless members, and it is these efforts and the never-ending goal to improve upon them that drives the MSBA Delivery of Legal Services Section.

As outlined in its bylaws, this Section was created to provide an encouraging atmosphere in which various legal professionals provide representation in areas not routinely available through the normal fee-for-services private law practice. With representatives of the aforemetioned public law-related organizations and agencies serving as the Section Council, the Section has engulfed itself with experts; however, the theory of "too many chefs in the kitchen" has never become an issue as, according to Section Chair Tracy Brown, the objective of this collection is to create new programs without simply duplicating actions taken by these organizations.

"Most Section Councils are [devoted to] one area of law," says Brown, who is also the Executive Director of the Women's Law Center. "The thing that sets us apart is [the] goal of providing those pro bono or reduced-fee services to poor people. It's advocacy work beyond the lawyers themselves – it's for supporting the citizens."

One fresh matter the Section is currently undertaking deals with finding an interpreter for court proceedings, should one be necessary. In a country where immigration is as prevalent as it is in America, certain aspects can become lost in translation due to language barriers, which is why the court system long ago implemented the allowance of an interpreter during court proceedings – though many who would benefit from an interpreter were not informed of the courtesy. Therefore, the Section has developed A Guide to Finding a Court Interpreter, an informative pamphlet outlining the necessary requirements and steps in obtaining an interpreter.

"In the continuing evolution of providing legal services," remarks Brown, "this would be another tool."

With a targeted release in the spring of 2007, the pamphlet – with versions in English, Spanish and other languages – will meticulously outline how to find an interpreter, when the court will appoint an interpreter, how the court decides an interpreter is necessary and suggestions for the client when working with the interpreter. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Audrey J. S. Carrion is the Chair of the Judiciary Interpreter's Committee and advised the Section in assembling the information.

"Having an interpreter at a court proceeding – there is no better example of delivery of legal services than that," says Carrion. "It is important to let the public know of the Interpreter Rule – it all goes towards the axis of justice."

The second project the Section has tackled is revamping a Reduced Fee for Legal Services Model. This program, in one form or another, has been practiced by the Section for many years and focuses on the fees private attorneys receive for their "low bono" work with impoverished clients. Previously, the program offered $50 per hour of work (with a cap at $1,000) as compensation, but the investigation is now mulling over many different options to increase participation from attorneys; a sub-committee, led by Mike Millemann, is trying to find "the right balance," notes Brown. The committee's first two steps are to identify the existing programs and the attorneys that currently provide legal services to Maryland residents while also noting the various gaps in legal services (i.e. unmet legal needs, types of needed service and geographical distribution of people). After that, a committee will analyze similar systems that previously operated nationally and within the state; such operations include low bono, reduced-fee and "judicare" programs. A draft of the proposed program, its implementation, funding requirements, procedures and structure will be prepared in time for the Joint Bar/Bench Meeting in June in Ocean City, Maryland.

"Like any program, it won't meet all needs," Brown admits, "but, it's another great continuum for providing for poor people. We need to keep exploring interesting ways to do that."

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: February 2007