December 2020 Newsletter

COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES OF PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, INC.

By Catrina Aquilino, Supervising Attorney

As the holidays near, CLS is gearing up for the new year and the end of the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. While many will be toasting in a new year with hopes of healing and better days to come, thousands of those in our community will be facing the very real threat of homelessness. Not only does the coronavirus continue to spread throughout our communities, but our clients continue to face widespread unemployment and underemployment. CLS attorneys are working tirelessly to help clients navigate through the many changes to the court system during the past several months.

CLS has adapted, as we all have, to working remotely. Recently CLS has begun to host virtual expungement clinics. CLS hosted our first two virtual clinics on October 31 and November 14. We want to thank all of the volunteers and partner organizations that worked with us to ensure successful and safe events for all the clients. CLS continues to offer a number of ways in which attorneys can volunteer with our various programs, both pro bono and for paid opportunities as detailed below. Please contact us today to find out how you can help our community to enter into the new year with greater certainty so that they too will be able to begin 2021 with hope for healing and better days to come.

Expungement Clinic (Virtual)

CLS and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System will host an expungement clinic on Saturday, December 12, 2020, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The clinic will address criminal records that may keep residents from obtaining work and housing. Attorneys will be available to provide advice on expungement and other civil legal matters. Potential participants seeking advice need to register at bit.ly/libraryexpungement. For more information or to register to volunteer, please contact Supervising Attorney Catrina Aquilino, Esq., at aquilino@clspgc.org.

Project Bounce Back

CLS and the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) are partnering on Project Bounce Back. Project Bounce Back, which focuses on Prince George’s County residents who are facing or have recently filed a Chapter seven or thirteen bankruptcy for financial relief. This is a six-month financial and legal education course, where participants receive practical tips and advice on understanding their finances. Program benefits include: One-on-one credit counseling

Free legal advice & referrals, Budgeting tips & tools. The program is offered virtually, free of charge, on the third Thursday evening of each month from September 17, 2020, to February 18, 2021. We intend on offering another session to begin around March 2021. We may be able to provide assistance with equipment to access the course.

Failure to Pay Rent Tenant Representation Program

Sign up to help in our Prince George’s County or Anne Arundel County’s Failure to Pay Rent Tenant Representation Program and help families avoid wrongful evictions during Covid-19. Training & Stipend are available. Maryland courts have resumed in-person hearings, CLS needs attorneys to provide same day representation to tenants in Rent Court. CLS provides training, malpractice insurance coverage, mentoring, and support to our volunteers. Out-of-state attorneys are welcomed. CLS and Pro Bono Resource of Maryland have put together a training on Tenants in Prince George’s County Rent Court. 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, have questions about the program, or want to sign up to help in either county, please contact Kayla Williams, Esq. at williams@clspgc.org. 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 half day in court (AM or PM sessions) in Prince George’s County, and $100 per case in Anne Arundel County.

A Success Story from our Rent Court Program

On October 29th, CLS represented a tenant at her rent escrow hearing where the tenant had complained about an insect infestation, holes in her ceiling and floor, and mold. Although the tenant had withheld $3,347 in rent, by establishing a rent escrow case, the tenant was allowed to pay the back due rent to the court. The issues were eventually resolved after the rent escrow case concluded, and a trial was held which resulted in the tenant receiving $1,347 that was returned back to her based on the length of time that the issues existed, and the severity.

We have also helped many tenants raise the CDC and Governor Hogan’s eviction moratoriums delaying evictions and helping them get caught up on their rent.

Interpreters Needed

CLS is in need of interpreters to assist attorneys representing Limited English proficient clients. Training is available and no prior experience is required. We paid $30 per hour up to 30 hours per case. For more information, please contact Nora Eidelman at eidelman@clspgc.org

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 provides funding to pay attorneys $100.00 per hour with a cap of $3,000 per case. CLS allows you to bill twice during the case. CLS invoices Maryland Legal Services Corporation for your billed time. As a result, Judicare payments are usually paid a month after an invoice is submitted but CLS is now using bill.com, which allows for electronic payment for invoices. This funding program is administered by MLSC with funds from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Foreclosure Prevention Program

CLS has funding for attorneys representing clients in Prince George’s County through our Foreclosure Prevention Program. In foreclosure prevention cases, the funding provides attorneys $80.00 an hour and up to thirty (30) hours of representation. Cases 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 email us at info@clspgc.org. Training, mentoring and malpractice insurance is provided. Funding is available from a generous grant provided by MLSC.

Our Monthly Foreclosure Prevention Trainings for volunteer attorneys will be held via ZOOM on Monday, November 30, 2020 at 2:00 PM. Please contact John Gabel, Esq., at gabel@clspgc.org to register to attend the training.

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 the staff attorneys during Protective and Peace Order hearings. CLS’s Domestic Violence Legal Wellness Program places protective order and petitioners and respondents with attorneys. Attorneys receive $80 per hour with a cap of $500 per case. Please contact Marcie Mininberg, Esq., at mininberg@clspgc.org for more information.

Success Stories from our Domestic Violence Wellness Program

Success Story #1

As a follow up to the Client whose story we shared last month, Ms. Mininberg was able to assist the client in obtaining an entire apartment worth of furniture.

Success Story #2

Client was referred by the Family Justice Center regarding domestic violence incidents between her and her husband. Client was fearful of her husband having suffered horrific abuse by him and thus opted not to return to the marital home. CLS placed the protective order case with Ms. Mininberg and took the client’s application for a divorce attorney. Ms. Mininberg successfully obtained a final protective order allowing the client to no longer live in fear of abuse by her husband. Ms. Mininberg also advised the client of the possibility of filing multiple criminal charges against her husband. Client did so and her husband was arrested and is awaiting trial. In addition, Ms. Mininberg contacted an organization to assist the client with obtaining an apartment by providing financial assistance with a security deposit and first month’s rent as well as furniture for her new apartment.

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, and malpractice insurance. To join our volunteer pool, please apply on our website at www.clspgc.org or contact info@clspgc.org.

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, MD. CLS provides direct legal services through the generous contributions by members of the private bar. For more information about MSLC and the Judicare program, please visit https://www.mlsc.org

Please Note: During Covid-19, all of our services are remote including our clinics, clients may call our hotline, email info@clspgc.org , or apply online to speak with an attorney. CLS operates free Legal Advice Clinics throughout the County, including in the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Room M2435, 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. Our temporary intake-hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00 am-6:00pm; online applications are available at www.clspgc.org.

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