The 2011 meeting of the Maryland Judicial Conference held on May 13 began with the awarding of the first Access to Justice Awards. “The awards recognize individuals, programs and entities in the State that improve the ability of all Marylanders to access the courts or to get legal help in civil legal matters so they can benefit from the rights, protections, services and opportunities that the law provides.”
I am honored to report that I was the recipient of one of those awards, the Judicial Branch Excellence Award. It was exciting to be on the program with Governor Martin O’Malley who received the Executive Branch Award, Judge Ben Clyburn who received the Judge of the Year Award, and Sen. Brian Frosh who with Del. Kathleen Dumais was a joint honoree for the Legislator of the Year Award and with Matt Hill of the Tenants in Foreclosure Project which received the Outstanding Program of the Year Award.
Governor O’Malley was recognized for his quick response to the mortgage foreclosure crisis with the creation of the Foreclosure Mediation Program in 2010.
Hon. Ben Clyburn is the Chief Judge of the Maryland District Court and the Vice-Chair of the Maryland Access to Justice Commission. As a member of the commission, I have witnessed first hand his dedication to improving access to justice. Whenever a problem for access to justice is identified he immediately addresses the issue. He was cited for creating the Glen Burnie District Court Self Help Center and how he has addressed the problems of debtors in District Court. Judge Clyburn is even able to address access to justice concerns as he works to create the new statewide case management system.
The Public Justice Center received the Program of the Year Award for its Tenants in Foreclosure Project. In addition to advocating for their clients, the Center was instrumental in the changes to Maryland law and rules that protect tenants in foreclosure.
The Legislator of the Year award went to Sen. Brian Frosh and Del. Kathleen Dumais for their work in the 2010 legislative session that lead to the passage of HB106/SB248. This legislation increased surcharges on court filing fees for the funding of legal services in Maryland.
I received the Judicial Branch Excellence Award for the library’s self-help and training programs and for the use of Web 2.0 technologies in these efforts. Having been nominated for the award by my colleagues in the law library and public library community means more to me than I can properly say.
In his brief remarks the Governor stated “that often the difference between justice and injustice is access.” I am pleased that the programs instituted here in the law library have been recognized as contributing to this access.