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New Maryland Laws Effective July 2016 With More to Come October 2016

Posted by Yelitza Conover on August 11, 2016

Many new Maryland laws became effective on July 1, 2016 .  Still, keep an eye-out for more laws that are scheduled to take effect October 1, 2016 .
 

In Maryland, when both chambers of the General Assembly (House and Senate) have passed a bill, it is submitted to the Governor for his signature to make the bill into law or, if the Governor rejects the bill by a veto, the bill becomes law through three-fifths vote of the membership of each chamber. The Maryland Constitution requires new laws to take effect on the first day of June after the session which they were passed, unless another date is scheduled. In the past, Maryland bills were scheduled to become effective in July, but lately, many laws also get scheduled to take effect at the start of the  federal government’s new fiscal year, in October or at the start of the new calendar year, in January.

Media outlets, like the Baltimore Sun and the Capital Gazette have highlighted a few of the new laws that rolled-out in July. The most talked about law was the minimum wage increase to $8.75 per hour. This law is an example of how changes in state law can occur on a regularly-scheduled basis. This minimum wage change is part of an incremental increase under the Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014. It will reach $10.10 by July 2018.

To learn more about how a bill becomes a law in Maryland see the Maryland Manual On-Line’s page on the Legislative Process. See all Legislation passed by both chambers here. To read about more laws resulting from the 2016 session, see the Department of Legislative Services’ “90 Day Report”, a comprehensive review of legislation that was considered during the session. Also, see the “2016 Chapters: Chronological by Effective Date,” a list of new laws by Chapter Number and Bill Number in order of effective date.

 

 

 

 

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Ask A Lawyer In The Library: July 2016

Posted by Joan Bellistri on July 28, 2016

 

The Ask A Lawyer In The Library program is a civil, non-family law, self-help program sponsored by The Anne Arundel Bar Association and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. Every Wednesday, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., you can talk with a volunteer attorney for up to 20 minutes. No appointment is necessary, but sign-up is required at the law library’s information desk. Sign-up begins at 10:45 a.m., and time slots are determined by a lottery. For more information, please see http://circuitcourt.org/legal-help/lawyer-in-the-library.

In addition to the weekly program in the courthouse, the program is offered monthly in branches of the Anne Arundel County Public Library. These programs are held in the evening from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with the lottery at 4:15 p.m. This was the second month for the Eastpost Annapolis-Neck Community Library. The Eastport program will continue on the last Tuesday of the month with the next date on August 30. The program at the Glen Burnie Regional Library will resume on August 17 after its summer break. The Glen Burnie program is offered on the third Wednesday of the month.

Twenty six people took part in the program this month and were able to speak with an attorney to request assistance with issues such as leases, bankruptcy, power of attorney, trusts and estates, patents, mortgages and procedure. Volunteer attorneys were Mike Ragland, retired from Bell, Ragland, Gauges & Paltell; Chris Boucher; Dan Mellin of Hillman, Brown and Darrow; Paul Farmer of Gormley Jarashow Bowman; Jimmy Praley of Lessans, Praley & McCormick; and Elizabeth Pfenson and Kelly Kylis of Brassel, Alexander and Rice.

 

This month issues included topics such as leases, bankruptcy, power of attorney, trusts and estates, patents, mortgages and procedure.

More information about the program is available at http://circuitcourt.org/legal-help/lawyer-in-the-library. The Ask A Lawyer In The Law Library program is a limited legal advice service. The program is not a substitute for representation. If you need an attorney to represent you, you can contact the Anne Arundel Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service.

Questions about foreclosure? The law library hosts the MVLS Foreclosure Brief Advice Clinic on the third Wednesday of the month for 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The next Foreclosure Clinic will be on August 17.

Do you have a family law matter? Family law issues are best addressed by the Family Law Self Help Center, which is also located in the library. For more information, please see http://circuitcourt.org/legal-help/family-law.

Do you have a criminal law matter? Criminal Law matters are best addressed by the Office of the Public Defender. Information about the Office of the Public Defender is available at http://www.opd.state.md.us/.

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Ask A Lawyer in the Library Expands to the Eastport Annapolis-Neck Community Library

Posted by Joan Bellistri on July 25, 2016

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Carole Brown and Joan Bellistri

Eastport Annapolis-Neck Community Library offered its first “Ask a Lawyer in the Library” program on June 28, 2016.  The Ask A Lawyer In The Library program is a civil, non-family law, self-help program sponsored by the Anne Arundel Bar Association and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service.

Four attorneys volunteered for the first night: Nathan Volke of the Law Offices of Laura E. Burrows; Carole Brown, Jimmy Praley of Lessans, Praley and McCormick; and Jerry Williams of Patel and Williams.

Jimmy Praley, Amanda Spino and Jerry Willliams

Jimmy Praley, Amanda Spino and Jerry Willliams

They were assisted by librarians Amanda  Spino of the Eastport Annapolis-Neck Community Library and Joan Bellistri of the Law Library. The attorneys were able to help with issues such as divorce, breach of contract and estate planning.

The “Ask a Lawyer” program  will continue monthly on the last Tuesday of the month. This is the second Anne Arundel County Public Library branch to offer the program with the other being  offered at the Glen Burnie Regional Library on the third Wednesday. The program is offered from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at both libraries. The next date for Eastport will be July, 26. The Glen Burnie program will resume on August 17.  It is also offered every Wednesday in the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

 

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New Hours for the Free Foreclosure Mediation Brief Advice Project in the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library

Posted by Yelitza Conover on July 15, 2016

The Foreclosure Mediation Brief Advice Project in the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library has NEW HOURS!

  • Registration: None. First come, first served basis.
  • When: 3rd Wednesday of the month,  11:00 am—1:00 pm
  • Where: Anne Arundel County Public Law Library, Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County – RM 303, 8 Church Circle
    Annapolis, Maryland 21401

July 20, 2016 is the date of the next Foreclosure clinic in the Law Library at the new time.

The Foreclosure Mediation Brief Advice Project, a service of the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, provides FREE brief legal consultations for homeowners facing foreclosure who do not have legal representation.  Foreclosure Mediation Brief Advice Attorneys will:

  • Answer questions about foreclosure mediation;
  • Give legal advice regarding your foreclosure;
  • Help you understand court papers and documents you received regarding your foreclosure.

Foreclosure is the legal process that the lender starts with the courts when you have not made your mortgage payments, and the lender wants to force the sale of the house to recover the balance of the mortgage. Foreclosure mediation allows the homeowner to discuss their situation with the lender under the facilitation of a mediator. Foreclosure Mediation Brief Advice Attorneys will NOT attend mediation with you, but may help direct you to other options for obtaining legal representation for your mediation.

More detailed information about the foreclosure process and foreclosure mediation  is available on the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library Self Help and Pro Bono Wiki  and the Maryland People’s Law Library.

Can’t make it to the clinic?  Call the helpline: 443-808-0076
      Mondays from 1:30 pm—6:00 pm
Wednesdays from 8:00 am—12:00 pm

MVLS offers the program in other locations.  Check the website for more information.

 

 

 

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Best Practices and Technology to Better Serve Self-Represented Litigants with Low Literacy or Visual Impairments

Posted by Yelitza Conover on July 14, 2016

When self-represented litigants (SRLs) seek help from Maryland Court Self-Help Centers, Maryland Law Libraries, and other access to justice programs, they may need special assistance to use the resources available at these centers.

Imagine this everyday scenario: a staff member identifies the SRL’s legal issue and proceeds to help the SRL by looking up the relevant section in a law publication, by pulling-up a Plain English article on a legal topic, by downloading a template for a court form, or by handing them a pamphlet with referral information.

In this scenario, the services provider has exchanged words with the SRL without being aware of their difficulties with reading and writing. Almost 21 million Americans report vision problems, and 3.4 million over 40 are legally blind. Many Americans face barriers accessing basic corrective vision care. According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy, 1 in 7 adults lack basic literacy skills, severely hindering their ability to participate in the judicial process.

Many adults will hide their difficulties rather than ask for help. They may become embarrassed or antagonistic if their literacy difficulties start to show. This can lead to unresolved legal issues.

WHAT CAN LEGAL SERVICE PROVIDERS DO TO HELP?

IDENTIFY LITERACY ISSUES

If you come across the following situations, you may have come across someone who has trouble reading and writing:

  • The SRL wants to read/complete a document at home;
  • The SRL uses excuses to get you to explain/read/write information for them, like they forgot their glasses, need to leave early for another appointment, have bad handwriting;
  • The SRL tries to memorize information given rather than writing it down or asking for written information;
  • The SRL presents documents with spelling errors;
  • The SRL misses appointments when notified in writing to appear;
  • The SRL mispronounces words with more than three syllables, or with more complex sounds.

BE A SAFE, NEUTRAL SPACE

  • Create a climate of trust where the SRL can be confident in accessing the court.
  • Many people with literacy issues think they are alone in their problem. It may help to confide that you often meet people who have difficulties reading and writing and offer to help.

 BEST PRACTICES

  • Use simple vocabulary and short sentences and rephrase ideas.
  • Don’t talk to the person as if they were a child.
  • Simplify technical vocabulary by providing information and forms in Plain English, if possible.
  • Avoid numerous abbreviations which often mean nothing to the SRL.
  • Give short clear summaries of documents, covering the main information.
  • Avoid correspondence and reminders by email or mail. Call instead. Orally verify dates.

TECHNOLOGY

  • Text-to-speech (TTS) is the ability of a computer or mobile device to play back written text as spoken words.
  • TTS for reading Word Documents: Make TTS software and headphones available at computer stations if you sense that SRLs prefer to have documents read to them. Microsoft allows users to hear most text that appears on a screen in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote. How to Configure (MS Word):
    1. Locate the Customize Quick Access Tool Bar dropdown.
    2. Click More Commands.
    3. In the Choose commands from list, select All Commands.
    4. Scroll down to the Speak command, select, and then click Add.
    5. Click OK.
    6. To use text-to-speech, highlight the text you want read and hit the Speak Selected Text button that now appears on the Quick Access Tool Bar (looks like dialog bubble). 
  • TTS for reading Web Pages: Apps like Chrome Speakcan read aloud any selected piece of text within the browser.
    1. Hit Launch App from the Chrome Web Store.
    2. Choose options like language and volume from the Options page.
    3. To have a web page read aloud, the user should be able to select any text, right click, and hit Read the selected text.
  • TTS for Mobile Devices This may be helpful for navigating the Maryland Law App. Most smart phones and tablets have some TTS option already installed. Users just need to go to their settings to turn them on. For most devices:
    1. Go to your device’s Settings.
    2. Choose Accessibility.
    3. Choose speak OR Text-to-speech output.
    4. Turn on TSS. 
  • Other free, downloadable TTS programs/apps: There are many free online programs/apps for computers and mobile devices that allow users to paste text into or open files directly. Users can search their device’s app store or try one of the following popular apps:
    • WordTalk is a free Windows text to speech plugin for Microsoft Word. WordTalk will highlight each word it as it reads the document. WordTalk also contains a talking dictionary and a text-to-mp3 converter.
    • PowerTalk automatically speaks text in Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. PowerTalk can speak text as it appears on a slideshow and can speak hidden text attached to images.
    • QR voice encodes a given text message into QR code (a two-dimensional barcode which has encoded any kind of data) that once scanned by a QR scanner smartphone application, reproduces the message with a synthesized voice. QR voice allows users to convert text to speech, generate QR Code for speech URL, and simplify share text to speech files.
      • This app may help SRLs with directional information. Place a QR code at the bottom of signs giving instructions and directions. Mobile device users can scan the QR code and have sign read aloud.
  • Audio/Visual Materials:
    • YouTube: Search YouTube to find informational “How To” materials made by courts, law schools, and legal organizations. Experts will explain legal topics relevant to SRLs like court filing procedures. For instance:
      1. Federal Judiciary YouTube Channel offers a Bankruptcy Basics playlist to help the public understand the process of filing for bankruptcy.
      2. Maryland Courts provide several Self-Help Videos to help SRLs navigate courts.
  • Online Webinars:Presentation, lecture, workshop, or seminar transmitted over the Web using video conferencing software. Webinars allow SRLs to be interactive with media because the video conference allows users to discuss information live. Recent webinars for SRLs include:
    1. The Maryland Judiciary webinars on topics like, “How to File for Divorce” and “How to File in the District Court of Maryland.”
    2. Other statewide webinars can be found posted on the People’s Law Library of Maryland’s Clinic Calendar.

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Family Law Self Help Center Expansion in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court

Posted by Joan Bellistri on July 12, 2016

The Ribbon Cutting for the Anne Arundel County Family Law Self Help Center (FLSHC) was held on Friday, June 24, 2016.  The area dedicated to the Family Law Self Help Center which is located in the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library has just about doubled.  The result is increased privacy and access for those using the services of the center. The expansion was made  possible by a grant from the Access to Justice Department of the Maryland Judiciary. Family Law Division funds were used as well to supplement the grant.

Family Law Self Help Center moved to the law library 5 years ago on April 25, 2011.  Since that time the law library and FLSHC have worked together to serve the needs representing themselves in family law issues such as divorce, child custody, visitation and name changes.  The law library provides a self-help computer room and collection of materials written for the non-attorney. Librarians are able to guide Center users to appropriate resources when referred by FLSHC staff.

Law Library Intern, Chi Song, was responsible for the grant application and management; research and ordering of the workstations and computer equipment;  and the planning and reorganization of the law library, including the moving of thousands of books.

View the slideshow to see the before and after.  

The event was covered by the Capital. Please see the 6/27 online article, “Self-help family law center expands, thanks to grants” written by Lauren Loricchio for more information, pictures and a video. (It was also published  in the  print Capital  on June 28, 2016 but titled “Fulfilling a growing need.”)

 

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Upcoming Expungement Clinic

Posted by Yelitza Conover on July 8, 2016

The Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) is hosting a FREE Expungement Clinic next week at Maryland City at Russett Community Library. Volunteer attorneys will provide FREE legal assistance and information concerning the expungement of criminal records. No registration or appointments necessary; legal services are provided on a first come, first serve basis.

When? Tuesday, July 12, 2016 | 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Where? Maryland City at Russett Community Library, Anne Arundel County Public Library, 3501 Russett Common, Laurel, MD 20724

For more information about the FREE clinic, please contact the Law Library at (410) 222-1387. You can also reach us via email at lawlibrary@aacounty.org or via fax at (410) 268-9762.

To learn more about expungement, check out these articles on the Maryland People’s Law Library, our wiki page and our past blog posts! The MDexpungement app is a great tool to help expunge your records. In addition, the Maryland Courts website includes information on how to expunge your records.

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Ask a Lawyer in the Library: Wednesday Wrap-Up

Posted by Chi Song on June 29, 2016

Richard Ronay

Thank you Richard!

The Ask A Lawyer In The Library program is a civil, non-family law, self-help program sponsored by the Anne Arundel Bar Association and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. Every Wednesday, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., you can talk with a volunteer attorney for up to 20 minutes. No appointment is necessary, but sign-up is required at the law library’s information desk. Sign-up begins at 10:45 a.m., and time slots are determined by a lottery. For more information, please see http://circuitcourt.org/legal-help/lawyer-in-the-library.

On Wednesday, June 29, 2016, the Law Library hosted another successful Ask A Lawyer In The Library program. Thank you Richard Ronay of the Law Office of J. Richard Ronay for volunteering and providing this service to the public. Five people were able to meet with the attorney to discuss issues related to worker’s compensation, property, civil procedure, landlord/tenant, and business litigation mattersThe next program date is Wednesday, July 6, 2016.

It is helpful to prepare for your session with the attorney.  Here are some helpful tips:

  • Write a list of specific questions for the attorney.
  • Bring any paperwork and information related to the case.
  • Organize any paperwork from most recent on the top to oldest at the bottom.
  • Identify all deadlines.
  • Prepare a timeline of the legal issue.

If you would like to research your issue prior to your session with the attorney, please come find us at the Law Library’s information desk.  We are happy to assist you.

More information about the program is available at http://circuitcourt.org/legal-help/lawyer-in-the-library

The Ask A Lawyer In The Law Library program is a limited legal advice service. The program is not a substitute for representation. If you need an attorney to represent you, you can contact the Anne Arundel Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service.

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Ask A Lawyer In the Library – Wednesday Wrap-Up

Posted by Chi Song on June 27, 2016

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The Ask A Lawyer In The Library program is a civil, non-family law, self-help program sponsored by the Anne Arundel Bar Association and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. Every Wednesday, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., you can talk with a volunteer attorney for up to 20 minutes. No appointment is necessary, but sign-up is required at the law library’s information desk. Sign-up begins at 10:45 a.m., and time slots are determined by a lottery. For more information, please see http://circuitcourt.org/legal-help/lawyer-in-the-library.

On Wednesday, June 15, 2016, the Law Library hosted another successful Ask A Lawyer In The Library program. Thank you Evelyn Spurgin of Hillman, Brown & Darrow, P.A., for volunteering and providing this service to the public. Four people took part in the program and were able to speak with the attorney to request assistance with discovery, insurance, and trust issues.

In addition, on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, the Law Library coordinated the Ask A Lawyer In The Library program with Paul Farmer of Gormley Jarashow Bowman LLC as our volunteer attorney. Five people took part in the program and were able to speak with the attorney to request assistance with guardianship, property, appeals, and estate issues. The next program date is Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

Do you have a criminal law matter?  Criminal Law matters are best addressed by the Office of the Public Defender.  Information about the Office of the Public Defender is available at http://www.opd.state.md.us/.

More information about Ask a Lawyer in the Library program is available at http://circuitcourt.org/legal-help/lawyer-in-the-library. The Ask A Lawyer In The Law Library program is a limited legal advice service. The program is not a substitute for representation. If you need an attorney to represent you, you can contact the Anne Arundel Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service.

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Second-Chance Reform in Maryland: Expansion of State Expungement Laws Take Effect This October

Posted by Yelitza Conover on June 17, 2016

An arrest or a court case is a public record, even if an individual was never convicted. The public’s ability to view these records may negatively affect an individual’s ability to apply for work, housing, child custody, loans, or college. Recently, Maryland has taken progressive steps in expanding shielding and expungement of charges that resulted in non-convictions or convictions for certain types of misdemeanors.

Last year, under the 2015 Maryland Second Chance Act, the state allowed certain nonviolent misdemeanor convictions to be shielded from the public record after a 3 to 7 year waiting period. Shielding, however, only removes the record entry from Maryland’s Judiciary Case Search. Law enforcement and employers requiring criminal background checks can still access these records.

In Maryland, people with non-convictions and some misdemeanors can get go a step further by getting their records expunged after a waiting period. Expungement is a request for a court to remove these records from public view by destroying or sealing an individual’s records. Expungement also means that the event can be treated as if it never occurred. An individual may be able to answer no to whether or not they have been convicted of a crime on applications for things like employment, licensing, and housing.

This year Maryland passed the Justice Reinvestment Act, which expands expungement to misdemeanor theft and assault convictions. The Act also provides drug treatment as an alternative to jail for addicts. By removing these records from public view individuals reentering society can get a fair second chance. Employers will not be deterred from hiring these individuals and securing employment will reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses.

For more information:

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