January 2024

By Kayla Williams-Campbell, Esq., Managing Attorney

As we begin filling up our calendars for the New Year, I thought that now would the perfect time to provide an update on our various programs and clinics in hopes that you will find time to volunteer and make providing pro bono services part of your new year’s resolutions. In FY23, we provided free legal advice and representation in more than 12,000 cases involving family law, domestic violence, foreclosure prevention, landlord/tenant, bankruptcy chapter 7, and other non-fee generating civil legal issues. Through our various clinics and programs, which are described below, we assist clients with their legal needs which in turn, increases their economic status by freeing them from legal hardships and providing them with access to equitable legal representation which positively impacts many of their personal, financial, and professional lives.

In total, we have 6 clinics and programs and all have various ways that attorneys can get involved. Our Latino Access clinic provides legal advice and representation to low-income Latino and Spanish speaking individuals in family law matters including custody, child support, standby guardianship, and domestic violence cases. This clinic is located in Langley Park, Maryland, which is a predominately Hispanic community, and it focuses on ensuring that Latino and Spanish speaking residents have equitable access to legal representation, since this demographic encompasses a significant portion of Prince George’s County residents. This clinic is staffed by a full-time CLS attorney and paralegal who are both bilingual, and it operates every Tuesday and Thursday in-person, with a virtual option on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Our Self-Represented Clinic operates out of the Prince George’s County Circuit Courthouse in Upper Marlboro five days a week. This clinic provides legal advice and document preparation in civil cases in which the client intends to represent themselves. Our Foreclosure Prevention and Bankruptcy Clinic also provides legal advice and representation through this clinic on Friday afternoons, and virtually throughout the week.

Our Eviction Prevention Programs provide same-day and extended scope representation, along with legal advice and document preparation, to tenants facing eviction in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties. Our clinics operate at the Hyattsville, Glen Burnie, and Annapolis District courts. CLS attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants are present at each courthouse daily during each docket. In addition to full-time staff, both programs utilize volunteer attorneys to ensure we are able to meet the demand in need for our services. Since 2018, we have provided representation and legal advice in more than 10,000 cases, many of which resulted in case dismissals, referrals for rental assistance, and evictions being avoided.

Our Domestic Violence Wellness Program (DVLW) represents victims of domestic violence in Protective Order cases. Our staff attorney personally handles dozens of cases per year, and we place approximately 60 cases per year with other pro bono attorneys. Moreover, clients of the DVLW program often receive pro bono representation from volunteer attorneys for their family law matters after their protective orders are secured. This year, CLS expanded its program to add an additional staff attorney to assist clients with same-day representation in Temporary Protective Order Hearings.

Finally, we recently expanded our services to include a Cannabis and Expungement Law Outreach and Education Program which provides legal advice, training, and expungement assistance to individuals throughout Prince George’s County. This program also staffs our jail clinic hotline for detainees of the Prince George’s County Detention Center to call with their civil law legal concerns.

Additional information about our programs is included below. If you have any questions, or are interested in volunteering with any of these programs, please email Kayla Williams-Campbell at williams@clspgc.org.

Pro Bono Call to Action

The Maryland Attorney General, Maryland Judiciary, Maryland State Bar Association and Maryland’s Access to Justice Commission have delivered an urgent call to action for pro bono services. Attorneys are strongly encouraged to take at least one pro bono case or a designated number of pro bono service hours over the next year to provide legal services in areas including housing and family law. All Pro Bono providers in Maryland, including CLS, are taking part in this call to action. The Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland is helping to implement this call to action by matching interested attorneys with pro bono organizations throughout the state. For more information, visit probonomd.org.

Eviction Prevention Programs

CLS is seeking attorneys to provide representation to tenants at their Failure to Pay Rent hearings through our same-day tenant representation programs which operate in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties. Stipends are available. CLS provides training, malpractice insurance coverage, mentoring, and support to our volunteers. Out-of-state attorneys are welcomed. CLS and the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland have put together a training on how to represent tenants. This training includes statutes that attorneys should be familiar with, perspectives from the judiciary and landlord and tenant attorney advocates, 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 represent tenants at their hearings, please contact Kayla Williams-Campbell, 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, with a potential maximum of $200 per day. *$100 per half day in court (AM or PM sessions)

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 pay $30 per hour and up to 30 hours per case. For more information, please email info@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. Our Judicare program provides funding to pay attorneys $120 per hour, and up to $4,200 per case, with a cap of 35 hours. 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. CLS uses 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 $120 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 are provided. Funding is available from a generous grant provided by MLSC.

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 cases, petitioners and respondents with attorneys. Attorneys are eligible to receive $120 per hour with a cap of $750 per case. We ask that for each case that an attorney takes paid, that the attorney also takes one pro bono. Please contact Ivy Finkenstadt Esq. at finkenstadt@clspgc.org for more information.

Concluding Thoughts

CLS clients have limited means, but that does not negate the fact that they have significant legal issues that require legal representation. We encourage you to help bridge the Access to Justice gap by taking Judicare and pro bono cases. CLS provides our attorneys with 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., is a non-profit organization established to provide quality legal services to low-income residents of Prince George’s County, MD. CLS provides direct legal services through the generous contributions of members of the private bar. For more information about our funder, Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) and our Judicare Program, visit www.mlsc.org.