BALTIMORE (WJZ) — On Thursday, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh urged lawyers across the state to offer pro bono assistance to those in need of civil legal counsel as many begin to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that so many of our neighbors are facing the prospect of losing their homes,” said Frosh. “We know that many Marylanders, due to the loss of a job and income, have been unable to pay their bills, unable to pay their rent.”READ MORE: Bodies Of 5-Year-Old Boy, 6-Year-Old Girl Discovered During Essex Traffic Stop, Police Say
Before the pandemic, almost 80% of Marylanders with civil justice problems weren’t able to get legal help. Frosh says navigating the civil justice system on your own is “like playing in a high stakes poker where you don’t know the rules and you don’t even speak the language” @wjz pic.twitter.com/ua2UX7acJx
— Stetson Miller (@stetsonmreports) July 2, 2021
Frosh and other legal leaders and organizations are now urging every attorney in Maryland to take on at least one pro bono case or devote a certain number of pro bono hours to help out residents.
“We can be the difference between whether a person keeps their home or gets evicted, retains custody of their children, or loses it. We can be the difference in ensuring that this pandemic recovery does not disproportionately harm the most vulnerable among us,” said Natalie McSherry, President of Maryland State Bar Association.
McSherry along with Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera of the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Maryland Access to Justice Commission also joined in the call to action.READ MORE: Unemployment Workers Union Hold Rally Thursday Night In Baltimore Over Flagged Claims, Unavailability
Before the pandemic, nearly 80 percent of Marylanders had to navigate the civil justice system alone because they could not get legal assistance. As restrictions ease, Frosh said that many residents will continue to face challenges like landlord and tenant issues, debtor issues, and family law that can only be resolved by the civil justice system.
“The privilege of our professional, legal expertise comes with responsibility. A responsibility to give back to the community and a responsibility to make justice and the legal system accessible to all,” Frosh said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes. The need for legal assistance is urgent.”
Executive Director of the Maryland Access to Civil Justice Commission, Reena K. Shah, said the pro bono help is necessary to face a civil justice crisis.
“COVID-19 created an overwhelming civil justice crisis, which requires us to employ every tool in our access to justice toolbox to abate,” said Shah. “Pro bono service is one of those tried and proven tools that get results. Right now, many people are losing their David and Goliath battles against a hospital or with the agency that administers Medicaid because they are trying to navigate complex federal, state, and local laws and regulations on their own, without legal help. An attorney by your side is proven to be the most critical factor in the success of a case. If every attorney commits to doing pro bono service this year, that would help over 40,000 Marylanders.”
Almost 40 percent of lawyers in the state already perform pro bono legal services but Frosh and others say that the need for legal help is even greater now which is why they are hoping that more attorneys will help out now.
“I’m confident that lawyers will step up to answer this call to action because we must,” said McSherry.
The Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland is matching attorneys with pro bono organizations acrossMORE NEWS: Baltimore County Schools Will Require ‘Universal Masking,’ Maryland Ranks Third Nationally In Vaccinations Among Ages 12-17
Attorneys interested in participating can visit: https://www.msba.org/pro-bono-call-to-action