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lawlibrary Maryland Law Pro Bono

Lawyer in the Library: Wrap-Up for March and April 2022

The Ask a Lawyer in the Library Program welcomed Jennifer Jones and William Moomau as the newest pro bono volunteers this spring. They joined Steve Migdal, Jack Paltell, Richard Ronay, Carole Brown and Saul McCormick in assisting 20 people with a variety of legal issues in April and March. Issues included landlord/tenant, contracts, wills and estates, consumer debt and property disputes with neighbors.

The law library will send issue related information to registrants so that they might have a better understanding of the law in preparation for their time with the attorney. This information is also shared with the attorneys so that they can review the same resources. The library maintains FAQ pages, making this easy. Recent FAQ pages included landlord/tenant, wills and estates, name change, and expungement. When there is not a FAQ to send the People’s Law Library of Maryland is great source. recent articles include Solving Disputes with Your Neighbors and Filing a Consumer Complaint.

“Ask a Lawyer in the Library” is held every Wednesday of the month from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and on the third Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. You can talk with a volunteer lawyer for at least 20 minutes about your civil, non-family legal problem for free. All sessions are now conducted over Zoom or by phone.

This program is sponsored by Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, and the Anne Arundel Bar Association. It is hosted by the Anne Arundel County Public Library.

Register online here or call the law library for help. Once you have registered, you will be sent a link to an intake sheet. Instructions for meeting with the attorney will be sent once the intake is competed.

Contact the library if you have questions: (phone) 410-222-1387 or (email) AALawLibrarian@mdcourts.gov

Categories
Maryland Law

Sine Die – The Maryland Legislative Session Has Ended

The 2022 legislative session on Monday night, April 11, 2022 at midnight. Visit the Maryland General Assembly website to find out what passed and what didn’t over the last 90 days. There are links to:

Senate Bills Introduced

House Bills Introduced

Bills Passed by Both Chambers

Bills Enacted (Chapters)

Most laws will go into effect on October 1, 2022.  However, to be sure you can check the effective date at the end of the enacted legislation.

Find out more about the workings of the legislature in the article, “The Legislative Process: How a Bill Becomes a Law,” in the Maryland Manual Online .

Categories
lawlibrary Maryland Law

Tax Season is Upon Us 

Tax filings are due in less than a month, and like many, you have probably been putting them off. Fortunately, there are online tools and helpful information available through our library for those who just need the tools and forms to get them done, learn more specific aspects about tax filing, or become more proficient in tax law.

General Tax Filing Information and Tools 

Assistance 

Appeals 

Library Resources  

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lawlibrary

Lawyer in the Library: Wrap-Up for February 2022

Steve Migdal, Jessica Corace and Jack Paltell were the Lawyers in the Library this month. These volunteer attorneys helped 8 people with their legal questions. Issues included personal injury, breach of contract, return of stolen goods and estate administration.

“Ask a Lawyer in the Library” is held every Wednesday of the month from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and on the third Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. You can talk with a volunteer lawyer for at least 20 minutes about your civil, non-family legal problem for free. All sessions are now conducted over Zoom or by phone.

This program is sponsored by Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, and the Anne Arundel Bar Association. It is hosted by the Anne Arundel County Public Library.

Register online here or call the law library for help. Once you have registered, you will be sent a link to an intake sheet. Instructions for meeting with the attorney will be sent once the intake is competed.

Contact the library if you have questions: (phone) 410-222-1387 or (email) AALawLibrarian@mdcourts.gov

Categories
lawlibrary Libraries Maryland Law

Law on the Frontlines: Legal Reference for Public Libraries

This training begins on March 1, 2022. Sessions will cover the basics and then concentrate on subject specific issues. You can register for all sessions or pick the ones you want. Register here.

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lawlibrary

What’s new … A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland

A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland has been added as an e-resource to the library’s collection. Per the introduction, this publication “provides a brief, but comprehensive, overview of the history of slavery in the state. Built upon the most recent scholarship, this guide offers teachers and students a starting point from which to begin their own exploration of an institution, that, in so many ways, has shaped the modern world.”

The 2020 version of the book is available online, free of charge, via the Maryland State Archives. The book is available for checkout at the Anne Arundel Public Library. It can be purchased from the Maryland State Archives, Amazon, or other local booksellers.

Also of interest is the Maryland State Archives Presents: Legacy of Slavery in Maryland. This website provides access to “case studies” such as Stories of Flight or Blacks in Annapolis, interactive maps allows research by name or place and resources include the Guide to African American Families and Census Data.

All of these resources provide access to the many treasures to be found in the Maryland State Archives that shed light on slavery and the history of Maryland. There are links to documents and the photos and illustrations really bring the information alive. As Black History Month comes to a close, a virtual visit to the Maryland State Archives via A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland and the Maryland State Archives Presents: Legacy of Slavery in Maryland is highly recommended.

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Holiday lawlibrary

The Law Library is Closed for the Presidents’ Day Holiday

The Law Library and Family Court Help Center in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court is closed today, February 21, 2022 for the Presidents’ Day holiday.  The Law Library will reopen tomorrow, Tuesday, February 22, 2022.  Except on Court Holidays, the Library is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Find out more about this holiday at the website of the National Archives. I was surprised to find out that “contrary to popular belief, neither Congress nor the President has ever stipulated that the name of the holiday observed as Washington’s Birthday be changed to “President’s Day.”

Categories
Pro Bono

Pro Bono: Giving Back is the Heartbeat of the Legal Profession

All Maryland attorneys should have or soon will receive a Call-to-Action postcard from the Maryland Judiciary, the Attorney General’s Office, the Maryland State Bar Association, and the Maryland Access to Justice Commission all who have joined forces to ask all MD attorneys to provide pro bono help.

Signing up is easy. PBRC will match you with the pro bono organizations across the state that are poised to help you get connected to remote or in-person opportunities; train in your area of interest; and receive the support you need to successfully help Marylanders with their civil legal cases at a time they need it the most.

Sign-up here.

Want to know about opportunities in Anne Arundel County? Contact Joan Bellistri (410-222-1387) in the Law Library to learn about the Lawyer in the Library program or working with Maryland Court Help Centers through MCLA.

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lawlibrary

Writing for Everyone: The Benefits of Plain Language

Girl happily reading
Closson, William Baxter. “Girl Reading.” Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the National Museum of American History, Division of Graphic Arts, Smithsonian Institution

Most non-lawyers would probably agree that legal writing is difficult and hard to understand. Latin, French, Old English and Anglo-Norman terms abound, as do double negatives and coupled synonyms (like “null and void”). This jargon is strewn across lengthy, complex sentences that may need to be read several times – with a legal dictionary – to understand, if at all.

While frustrating, there are reasons for the strangeness of legalese. It should not allow any ambiguity, which means the language needs to be as precise and accurate as possible, to the point where specialized terms and lengthy, comprehensive text are sometimes necessary. Everyday speech evolves all the time and can cause disagreements, while the constancy – hence antiqueness – of legal language is intended to prevent these disagreements.  

The danger of misinterpreting the law and legal documents is, of course, why people need lawyers. Unfortunately, lawyers are too expensive for most people to afford. They are also surprisingly few: for every 10,000 Marylanders, there are only 40 lawyers available, and there are just 1.49 lawyers who provide pro bono or low-fee services for every 10,000 low-income Marylanders. As a result, there is a huge number of people fending for themselves in the court system. That said, shouldn’t the lawyer-less, who are still subject to local and federal laws, be able to understand those laws without an interpreter?   

A great number of people and organizations say yes, hence the passage of the Plain Writing Act of 2010. This act requires all federal agencies publish their documents in plain language. While legal language is intended to minimize ambiguity, it is probably safe to say that most people skip reading lengthy and incomprehensible legal documents. When is the last time you checked “accept” for an online agreement without taking the time to scroll through the small print? These poorly understood contracts can enable unpleasant surprises down the road and cause the very disputes they are meant to prevent.  

Some of the guidance on plain writing best practices, such as white space, bullet points, headings, and active voice, could benefit legal professionals as well. While research studies on this last point are scant, a 1987 study by Robert Benson and Joan Kessler did suggest that documents written in clearer, plainer English are deemed more convincing by judges.  

That said, writing clearly, plainly, and accurately in a way most people can understand is hard. In writing this blog post, I could not make its readability go below an 11th grade level, according to Microsoft Word’s readability statistics (here’s how to find that function). There are information hubs, guidelines, tools, and samples to help with this, however.

Here are a few resources:  

Categories
lawlibrary

Lawyer in the Library: Wrap-Up for January 2022

Steve Migdal, Jack Paltell and Leonard Englander were the Lawyers in the Library for January. They assisted twelve people with issues such as wills and estates, landlord tenant problems, neighbor issues, expungement of a protective order and an automobile accident.

Jack Paltell, Leonard Englander and Steve Migdal

Once registered, information was sent to the registrants, so they could prepare for their session with the attorney. Examples of information sent this month included the Wills and Estates FAQ, the Landlord/Tenant FAQ, Maryland Judiciary brochure “Can I Keep the Public from Seeing Information about Me in a Peace or Protective Order Case?” and these articles from the People’s Law Library of Maryland on neighbor law, “Problems with Neighbors FAQ” and “Solving Disputes with Your Neighbors.” This information was also shared with the attorney so that they were aware of resources and referrals.

“Ask a Lawyer in the Library” is held every Wednesday of the month from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and on the third Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. You can talk with a volunteer lawyer for at least 20 minutes about your civil, non-family legal problem for free. All sessions are now conducted over Zoom or by phone.

This program is sponsored by Anne Arundel County Local Pro Bono Committee, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, and the Anne Arundel Bar Association. It is hosted by the Anne Arundel County Public Library.

Register online here or call the law library for help. Once you have registered, you will be sent a link to an intake sheet. Instructions for meeting with the attorney will be sent once the intake is competed.

Contact the library if you have questions: (phone) 410-222-1387 or (email) AALawLibrarian@mdcourts.gov