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november 2013

In this issue:

Advocacy for Human Trafficking Victims

Pro Bono Resource Center presents 2014 Guide to Legal Services in Maryland

A different kind of pro bono: building Maryland’s legal information infrastructure

Message From the Chair

Greetings to Section Members!

I’m pleased to share that the Delivery of Legal Services section is restarting this newsletter, for the first time in several years.  I hope this brief periodic update on activities, events, and volunteer opportunities will be helpful, and I encourage you to submit your own ideas for stories and announcements for future editions.  Submissions may be made by emailing Dave Pantzer.

Bonnie Sullivan, Chair

Advocacy for Human Trafficking Victims

New Project Launched

The Women’s Law Center is excited to launch a new project that provides legal services to survivors of human trafficking. The innovative Trafficking Victims Post-Conviction Advocacy Project (TVPCAP) will implement a 2011 Maryland law that allows survivors of sex trafficking to set aside, or vacate, their prostitution convictions. These free legal services will reduce barriers to self-sufficiency and support survivors’ recovery from trauma.

Despite the heightened interest in the crime of human trafficking throughout the country, legal representation meeting the unique needs of trafficking victims remains sparse. The law in Maryland remains particularly underutilized, with only one motion granted since the law’s enactment two years ago. The Trafficking Victims Post-Conviction Advocacy Project will help fill this gap.

Victims of human trafficking who are exploited through commercialized sex are commonly arrested for the crime of prostitution. While a criminal record of any kind can impact access to housing, education, employment and government benefits, a conviction for prostitution involves added societal stigma. Forced to endure both the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction as well as the shame that so often accompanies a prostitution conviction, victims of sex trafficking remain extremely vulnerable to further exploitation and have limited options for safe living and gainful employment.

The Trafficking Victims Post-Conviction Advocacy Project will file motions to vacate convictions on behalf of individual survivors. In addition, the Project will contribute to this emerging field of law by developing model pleadings and identifying best practices. Pro bono lawyers will be trained to handle cases, expanding the impact and sustainability of the project.

Pro Bono Resource Center presents 2014 Guide to Legal Services in Maryland

The Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland recently presented the newly revised Guide to Legal Services in Maryland.  First published in 2001, the Guide was immediately embraced by the legal services community as a valuable tool and statewide resource in efforts to promote equal access to justice throughout Maryland.  The 2014 edition has been updated and expanded to meet continuing needs, and is now available online.

The Guide can be downloaded from http://www.probonomd.org/guide/ and is also available through the People’s Law Library at:  www.peoples-law.org

A different kind of pro bono: building Maryland’s legal information infrastructure

The People’s Law Library Write-In event yields new content, relationships

The People’s Law Library (PLL) is a legal information and self-help website maintained by the Maryland State Law Library, with help from many Maryland attorneys and legal professionals.  PLL also provides contact information for organizations and lawyers that give free or reduced-cost legal help.  (www.peoples-law.org)

On October 24th, attorneys and pro bono leaders gathered in Annapolis for a brief training and a chance to contribute their writing to PLL. The Maryland State Law Library provided breakfast, a conference room, and its extensive digital and print collection. The event was co-sponsored by the Pro Bono Resource Center and the Anne Arundel Bar Association.  PLL web content coordinator Dave Pantzer presented information about the site and about principles of writing clearly for self-represented litigants. Then volunteers chose from a list of hot topics to research and write about. Several volunteer attorneys, including attorneys from offices and departments of Maryland state government, showed up to contribute and to explore the unique kind of pro bono opportunity that PLL provides.

Specifically, government attorneys who are conflicted out of most pro bono representation can still serve Maryland’s low- and moderate- income population by simply providing clearly written explanations of various legal topics. For some attorneys, the option to serve the public interest through informative legal research and writing is attractive. For others, the convenience of performing pro bono activities from home or the office, and during the day or the evening, is the draw. The attorneys who came to the Write-In tackled a variety of legal topics, both procedural and substantive. Some of the new content is already on the site, and more is still in development.

The Write-In was a successful test of a new idea in PLL’s ongoing effort to engage with members of Maryland’s legal community. In response to requests, the Pro Bono Resource Center and PLL will consider additional venues for similar events in the future, including the possibility of providing the training in a web conference. PLL is grateful for the support of the Pro Bono Resource Center and the Anne Arundel Bar Association, and especially for new relationships with volunteers. Following the event, one attorney commented, “It is a worthwhile project and one that will work well with my schedule.”

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