COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES OF PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, INC.
By Jessica A. Quincosa, Esq. Executive Director
Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County, Inc. (CLS) is proud to announce that our Deputy Director, Nora Eidelman, will be honored at the Maryland Legal Services Corporation Annual Dinner with the William L. Marbury award. The William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award is presented to someone who is not an attorney and has demonstrated outstanding service representing the civil legal needs of low-income Marylanders or expanding access to justice. Nora has been at CLS for over 20 years and has been instrumental in the expansion of our services. Nora also serves as the Chair of the Prince George’s county Human Rights Commission. We look forward to celebrating her much deserved award on Monday, December 9, 2019 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Additionally, CLS would like to congratulate the Hon. Cathy Hollenberg Serrette for being honored with the Arthur W. Machen, Jr. Award, which is presented to an attorney who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to increasing access to justice and improving the civil legal services delivery system for low-income Marylanders. Judge Serrette has been a longtime supporter and is also a former CLS board member. We are honored to be connected so closely to these two champions of Access to Justice in Prince George’s county.
I sat down and chatted with Nora:
1. Why did you decide to work at CLS?
I was interested in attending law school, but at the time I was working on my bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics, with a minor in paralegal studies at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). I figured a paralegal certificate would give me a good sense of whether I would truly be interested in law. I was. I received a 4.0 GPA in my paralegal studies classes. During that time I also had some inspiring teachers who inspired me to think that law school was something I wanted to pursue in the future, including my Paralegal Intro class, taught by Judge Teresa Nolan whom I looked up to as woman. If my memory doesn’t fail me, she had 14 children but by the age of 46 became a widow, and yet went on to work full time as a legal assistant, went to university at night to get her bachelor’s degree and ultimately her law degree. She was my role model. Another inspiring teacher was the Judge Julia Weatherly. She was in private practice at the time and taught family law. She was an empowering figure who made me believe in myself during a very hard episode in that semester. And finally, there was Judge Albert Northrop. I was taking his estates and probates class. I approached him to ask if he knew of any volunteer opportunities that he could refer me to so I could get some experience. He referred me to CLS, named The Law Foundation at the time, where I started as volunteer and soon after was hired by our first Executive Director, Connie Belfiore, Esq. I have not gone to law school yet, but it is still on my list of things to do. I just need to find the time or make the time.
2. What is the most challenging thing about CLS?
The most challenging aspect of my position is the need to focus on day to day administrative activities necessary for the operation of a successful organization, which tends to separate or disconnect us from the people “out there” whom we are trying to serve.
3. What keeps you passionate about this job?
People. People are important. I care about the people that I work with as well as the ‘stranger’ we serve, as I care about my family and my friends. It is perhaps the challenging experiences that I went through as a child at an early age in my native country of Paraguay, experiences which I would not change, that has given me the ability to care about the state of life of others. And this extends to our clients – we may or not always be able to give the answers they are seeking but how we treat them, with dignity, as putting ourselves in their place, deserving of respect, goes a long way. I truly believe that our daily journey is the destination. Every morning when we wake up, we are given yet another chance to choose the type of people we want to be and the impact we want to have on others. One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King, Jr. “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” We have to care about people understanding that we are all vulnerable.
4. What is the most rewarding part of this position?
The group-work effort that is involved in bringing resources together to help thousands of clients every year. It involves the dedicated work within our organization by our staff, as well as the work with the larger community composed of public and private funders, government, other non-profit service providers. The relationships with people that are formed along the way, some of which started as professional and are now friends for a lifetime.
5. How can legal services change the lives of our clients?
Legal services is providing housing stability for families and children by representing a grandparent, parent, guardian in court in an eviction or a foreclosure matter to avoid homelessness; it is helping the head of a household collect unpaid wages and child support so they can pay their bills and support their families; it is ending the cycle of violence for many victims of domestic violence; it is helping our immigrant clients no to fear to approach the court to seek protection and the exercise of legal rights because they trust our staff and volunteers. Legal services empower our clients to have access to justice regardless of income and immigration status.
Our Failure to Pay Rent Tenant Representation Program provided direct representation to over 250 clients in the first 6 months of the pilot. We thank our dedicated volunteer attorneys and our staff attorney Kayla Williams, Esq. for their hard work. Attorneys can sign up to help families avoid wrongful evictions in our Failure to Pay Rent Program. Training & Stipend is Available. Attorneys will provide same day representation to tenants in Prince George’s County Rent Court, located at Hyattsville District Court. CLS provides training, malpractice insurance coverage, mentoring, and support to our volunteers. Out-of-state attorneys are welcomed. Representing Tenants in Prince George’s County Rent Court training, in partnership with the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, is available on line at www.pbrc.org. The training includes Landlord/Tenant rules and perspectives, issue spotting in Failure to Pay Rent complaints, and practical advice for handling cases. If you wish to take this training or have questions about the program, please contact Kayla Williams, Esq. at email@example.com. Participating attorneys must commit to volunteer to staff two clinics or take two landlord/tenant cases within one year of completing the training. Beyond this volunteer
commitment, a stipend of $100* will be provided to attorneys in exchange for their representation. *per docket. Funding for this program is provided by Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC).
Our Monthly Foreclosure Prevention Training of the month. Our next monthly training will be held on MONDAY, October 28, 2019, at 2:00 PM. The training will focus on “Foreclosure from beginning to end. Options, points of intervention, and guidance.” Please RSVP to Nora Eidelman at 240-391-6532, ext. 5 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Trainings will be held at 6301 Ivy Lane, Suite 720, Greenbelt, MD 20770.
Funding Available for Representation in Foreclosure Prevention
CLS has funding for attorneys representing clients in Prince George’s County through our Foreclosure Prevention Program. CLS has expanded our Foreclosure Prevention project to provide paid hours to attorneys accepting cases for representation in foreclosure defense cases, post-foreclosure Motions for Surplus, tenants in foreclosures, as well foreclosure mediation. In foreclosure prevention cases, the funding provides attorneys $80.00 an hour and up to thirty hours of representation. Funds include representation at judicial proceedings, mediation preparation, representation at mediation, and negotiations. Additionally, funding is available for bankruptcy chapter 7, and other legal actions that may help the client save his home. If you are interested in being added to our foreclosure volunteer attorney pool, or require additional information, please contact Michael Udejiofor at 240-391-6532, ext. 1 or email@example.com. Training, mentoring and malpractice insurance is provided. Funding is available from a generous grant provided by MLSC.
Civil Cases Available for Attorneys and Other Volunteer Opportunities
Through our Lawyer Referral Program, we refer income eligible clients to attorneys for representation in their domestic cases. Judicare funding pays the attorneys’ fees. Attorneys receive $100.00 per hour with a cap of $3,000 per case. The billing process with CLS allows you to bill twice during the life of the case. MLSC reimburses CLS for your billed time. As a result, a slight delay in Judicare payments should be anticipated. This funding program is administered by MLSC with funds from the Administrative Office of the Courts. For more information about MSLC and the Judicare program, please visit https://www.mlsc.org/.
CLS also has volunteer opportunities at our Brief Advice clinics. Expand and grow your practice by volunteering around your schedule.
CLS clients have limited means but have real legal issues that require representation. Help CLS bridge the Access to Justice Gap by taking Judicare or Pro bono cases. CLS provides our volunteer attorneys training, mentoring, access to a litigation fund, monthly practitioner’s clinics, and malpractice insurance. To learn more about our opportunities, please contact Nora Eidelman, at 240-391-6532, ext. 5.
Are you interested in building your practice by adding Protective and Peace Orders?
Training is available. CLS’s domestic violence program places protective order and peace order petitioners and respondents with attorneys. CLS will provide mentoring to help you prepare your case. You will also be able to shadow one of staff attorneys during Protective and Peace
Order hearings. If you are interested or have any questions, please email Catrina Aquilino, Esq. at firstname.lastname@example.org
Free Estate Planning Services for Income-Eligible Adults of Any Age
CLS now provides free estate planning services for income-eligible county residents. Our staff attorney is available to prepare wills, advanced medical directives and power of attorney documents. To schedule an appointment, please call 240-391-6532, ext. 8.
Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County, Inc. (CLS) is a non-profit organization established to provide quality civil legal services to low-income residents of Prince George’s County. CLS provides direct legal services through the generous contributions by members of the private bar. Additionally, CLS operates free Brief Advice Clinics throughout the County, including in the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Room 2435 M, the Prince George’s County Multi-Services Center in Langley Park, and in Suitland’s Windsor Crossings Apartments. For referrals of low-income residents of Prince George’s County to CLS programs, our hotline is 240-391-6370. Intake is Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm., online applications are available at www.clspgc.org. For more information about our services, please contact Nora C. Eidelman, at 240-391-6532, ext. 5.