CIVIL LEGAL AID FUNDING
Status of Civil Legal Aid Funding
At present, Maryland only meets 20% of the need for civil legal aid in the state. The Access to Justice Commission works to increase funding streams and the amount of funding for civil legal aid through the following:
What is Civil Legal Aid?
Civil legal aid is a combination of services and resources that helps Marylanders of all backgrounds – including those who face the toughest legal challenges: children, veterans, seniors, ill or disabled people, and victims of domestic violence – to effectively navigate the justice system. Civil legal aid helps ensure fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money you have.
It provides access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families. Civil Legal Aid makes it easier to access information — whether through easy-to-understand forms, including online forms; legal assistance or representation; and legal self-help centers — so people can know their rights.
Civil Legal Aid also helps streamline the court system and cuts down on court costs. When we say the Pledge of Allegiance we close with “justice for all.” We need programs like Civil Legal Aid to ensure that the very principle our founding fathers envisioned remains alive: justice for all, not the few who can afford it.
Civil legal aid connects Marylanders with a range of services—including legal assistance and representation; self-help centers and other court-based services, free legal clinics and pro-bono assistance, and access to web-based information and forms—that help guide them through complicated legal proceedings. In doing so, civil legal aid helps Americans protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.
How can Civil Legal Aid help?
The type of legal assistance available through civil legal aid programs includes:
Accessing basic necessities including government benefits and disaster services (SNAP, School Lunch Program, SCHIP, TANF, SSI, disability, veterans, FEMA); housing (loans to repair, foreclosure, eviction, unsafe housing, subsidized housing benefits); and healthcare (Medicaid, Medicare, Affordable Care Act).
Ensuring safety and stability including individual safety (domestic violence, stalking or other harassment, elder abuse, child abuse and neglect); family law (child support, adoption, guardianship, divorce); and keeping children and youth in school (student discipline hearings, accommodations).
Supporting individuals’ economic security including employment (proper payment for work performed, safe working conditions, securing drivers/professional licenses, accommodations for people with disabilities); taxes (filing and getting low-income tax credits); and consumer protection (consumer fraud and scams, predatory lending, unfair debt collection practices and managing debt).
What Type of Services Does Civil Legal Aid Provide?
Civil legal aid refers to both free legal advocacy and legal information for low- and middle-income people to help address the civil legal problems they may face. This can take many forms, including:
-Direct services by legal aid attorneys and pro bono volunteers such as legal representation in a court proceeding, and legal advice to help identify legal issues and possible solutions.
-Identifying and addressing systemic issues such as comprehensive data collection and helping to identify solutions to problems faced by a large number of people.
-Self-help and community education delivered via workshops, telephone help lines, medical/legal partnerships, online information and chat tools, and downloadable court forms, that help people understand their rights and responsibilities, when legal assistance may be needed and where to find it, and get assistance with self-representation when necessary.