June 2021 CLS Article


By Catrina Aquilino, Supervising Attorney

Summer is here, vaccinations are available to all adults, and many are cautiously reuniting with family members and friends in person. CLS is ensuring that we are as prepared as possible for when the rent and foreclosure moratoria end. Many in our community will be facing evictions, foreclosure, collections cases, and bankruptcies. Our volunteer attorneys and staff are integral to providing advice and representation to many families who will continue to suffer the effects of the pandemic for months and years to come. We continue to meet clients where most convenient for them, either by phone, video, or in person. Like many, we will continue a hybrid approach as it offers flexibility for both clients and attorneys.

We continue to work with non-profits, faith based organizations, civic organizations, and more throughout the County in order to bring about access to justice for all. We are always in need of volunteer attorneys to take on a variety of cases, with training and mentorship available. If you are interested in learning more about our opportunities, please review the various programs listed below and send me an email at aquilino@clspgc.org if you have any questions. CLS will need the help of the members of the Prince George’s County Bar Association to serve those most in need of our assistance. Please contact us today to find out how you can help our community.

Failure to Pay Rent Tenant Representation Program

Sign up to help in our Prince George’s County Failure to Pay Rent Tenant Representation Program and help families avoid wrongful evictions during Covid-19. Training & Stipend are available. As Maryland courts have resumed in-person hearings for Failure to Pay Rent cases, CLS will need 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.

Success Stories from our Failure to Pay Rent Tenant Representation Program

On April 23rd, a CLS volunteer attorney helped a client and a landlord reach a settlement agreement where the landlord agreed to dismiss his Tenant Holding Over case and to instead apply for rental assistance thus preventing an eviction and allowing the landlord to obtain funds for back rent.

Additionally, on April 30th, CLS represented a tenant in a Tenant Holding Over case which was dismissed based on the complaint being filed prematurely. CLS informed the court that the Tenant Holding Over case had been filed before the tenant’s lease expired and requested a dismissal. The court agreed and the case was dismissed.

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 fourth Tuesday evening of each month from March 23, 2021, to September 28, 2021. Even though the trainings have already begun, if you know of someone that would be interested in participating, please reach out to see how we could accommodate them, as clients are encouraged to contact us even if they have missed one training. Please contact our staff attorney, John Gabel, at gabel@clspgc.org for more information on this program. We may be able to provide assistance with equipment to access the course.

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 Catrina C. Aquilino, at aquilino@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, June 28, 2021 at 2:00 PM. Please contact John Gabel, Esq., at gabel@clspgc.org to register to attend the training.

Domestic Violence Wellness Program

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. We ask that for each case that an attorney takes paid, that the attorney also take one pro bono. Please contact Marcie Mininberg, Esq., at mininberg@clspgc.org for more information.

Success Stories from our Domestic Violence Wellness Program

1. Client obtained a temporary protective order against his landlord. Client was fearful of his landlord due to repeated assault, breaking into his room, and denying him access to common areas. CLS placed the protective order case with our staff attorney, Ms. Mininberg. Client obtained a final protective order allowing client to no longer live in fear of abuse by his landlord. Ms. Mininberg further assisted client with securing alternate housing in an assisted living facility and arranging for payment of a mover to transport client’s belongings to his new home.

2. Client was referred by a social worker at the hospital. Due to her injuries sustained as a result of an assault, client was unable to travel to the courthouse to obtain a temporary protective order. Her case was placed with our staff attorney, Ms. Mininberg. Ms. Mininberg assisted client in completing the petition for protection and filed it on client’s behalf. Ms. Mininberg assisted client in reaching out to law enforcement in order to have detectives come to the hospital to take her statement. As a result, criminal charges for assault were filed against the abuser. Client obtained a final protective order requiring the abuser to vacate client’s home. Ms. Mininberg further assisted client with arranging for financial assistance with getting client’s locks changed.

3. Follow-up: Client was represented by our staff attorney in a prior protective order hearing. Unfortunately, when that order recently expired, there was another incident and cross-petitions were filed once again. On very short notice, our staff attorney, Ms. Mininberg represented client in both hearings. Ms. Mininberg successfully defended client against an order being placed against him and succeeded in obtaining an order against the opposing party providing client with custody of the minor children and an order for the opposing party to vacate the residence. Client was also placed with a volunteer attorney to assist in filing for divorce and custody.

Concluding Thoughts

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, many 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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