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Dispatch | February, 22 2023

A2J Dispatch – January/February Issue 2023

The January/February Issue

In this month’s issue of the A2J Dispatch, we share A2JC’s top legislative priorities, we highlight a number of bills and legislative initiatives that advance access to justice and the civil legal organizations backing them, we recap a House Judiciary Committee briefing urging legislators to consider continuous funding for the Access to Counsel in Evictions law, we explore the ways ChatGPT can be used to scale and advance pro bono work, and we learn about a free App Marylanders can use to click, call and chat directly with a lawyer at a Maryland Court Help Center, all this and more in this month’s issue.

A2J Commission News

  • A2JC and MSBA join on two Legislative Priorities at MSBA Day ’23. Last month, A2JC, in collaboration with the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA), headed back to Annapolis for MSBA Day ‘23 to continue the tradition of bringing together Maryland leaders, elected officials, and MSBA members and sections to learn about and advocate for key priorities for the legal profession. This year’s MSBA Day featured two joint legislative priorities:
    • Funding for the Access to Counsel in Evictions Law. A2JC and the MSBA, along with coalition partners, have made it a priority to fully fund the access to counsel in evictions law, through advocacy with the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly. A2JC and MSBA remain committed to securing a continuous and stable source of state funding to fully implement the law by 2025 and beyond.
    • Increased Civil Legal Aid Funding. Since 2020, A2JC and the MSBA have worked with coalition partners to secure over $40 million in funding for the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC), the largest funder of civil legal aid in Maryland. We will continue our push to educate legislators on the value of civil legal aid and increase the amount of civil legal aid funding. Civil legal aid makes it possible to access legal information, advice or representation when faced with a civil legal problem. It helps Marylanders navigate non-criminal legal issues affecting their livelihoods and families.
  • A2JC joins in Support of Cannabis Reform Bill HB556 with Amendment to dedicate 10% of tax revenue to support vital legal services. Earlier this month, the House Economic Matters Committee held a hearing on a bill looking to legalize recreational cannabis and establish a working marketplace (HB 556). At the hearing, MLSC Executive Director, Deb Seltzer, Maryland Legal Aid Executive Director, Vicki Shultz, and Kirsten G. Downs, Executive Director for the Homeless Persons Representation Project all testified in favor of the legislation with an amendment dedicating 10% of the cannabis tax revenue to an existing Special Fund administered by the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC), whose grantees (the civil legal aid providers) provide vital legal services to the residents of communities most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition. As lawmakers consider cannabis reform, A2JC joins in the effort urging lawmakers to consider funding for civil legal aid as a mechanism to right many of the harms that have impacted communities most impacted by the war on drugs and the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition, the same communities most served by civil legal aid.

Legislative Spotlight. The 2023 session of the Maryland General Assembly is underway! In the coming weeks, we’ll not only highlight the bills that have A2JC support, we will also spotlight a few of the bills and legislative initiatives from other civil legal aid organizations that advance access to justice for Marylanders across the state.

Tips from Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department. We are pleased to offer recurring content from the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department as part of the A2J Dispatch.

Local A2J News

National A2J News