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.
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.
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.
These pages provide links to statutes, videos, free articles for the layperson, forms, and bibliographies of relevant print resources in the library. If you need help figuring out which resources to start with on the list, we at the law library can point you to those that would be most helpful and relevant to your situation.
It is tough navigating the court system. There are fees, deadlines, jargon, forms, paperwork, hearings, and many other details to remember. What is a lawyer-less litigant to do?
To help SRLs (self-represented litigants) keep themselves organized and get help navigating the legal process, Civil Justice and the Maryland Judiciary, with A2J Tech, have partnered to create the Maryland Justice Passport, a free online tool that allows participants to scan and upload their documents, share those documents with legal service providers, set up timelines and reminders, learn about legal topics, and connect with legal aid organizations. Litigants can use the Passport as an app on their smartphone or at the website.
Patrons who attend our Lawyer in the Library program frequently ask how to handle conflicts with their neighbors. This is such a common concern that there are countless sources on relevant law, or lack thereof, governing overhanging tree branches, fence placement, etc. For example, look at the number of search hits on Westlaw after entering some relevant keywords in Figure 1.
Below, I have collected print and electronic secondary sources available through the library that cover neighbor law for attorneys and laypersons. We also have a page on mediation resources, which may be a preferable first step in resolving many of these conflicts.
On the shelf and online through the Maryland Judiciary network:
The law library has added a number of recently published books to its shelves for both family law attorneys and others interested in family law. A list of them follows, with links to their more detailed records in our catalog.
2019 Strategic Plan Update: Building for the Future(Document URL) (Catalog Record). This document reports on the Judiciary’s progress towards its strategic goals for 2015-2020.
Handbook for Guardians of Minors. (Document URL) (Catalog Record): This guide provides help for court-appointed guardians of minors. The handbook includes instructions, sample forms, and resources to contact for additional information.
Serving on a Maryland Grand Jury. (Document URL) (Catalog Record): This pamphlet, written for new grand jurors, explains a grand jury’s purpose and the duties and responsibilities of serving on one. It also includes a helpful “Frequently Used Terms” glossary in the back.
Journalist’s Guide to Maryland’s Legal System. Sue Kopen Katcef & Robert D. Anbinder, eds. Third edition. (Document URL) (Catalog Record): Here, journalists can read about Maryland laws that affect them, the structure and functions of the courts, explanations of different court processes, and other pertinent legal topics. The third edition to this handbook is available on-line only; our library holds superseded, print versions of this handbook for those who prefer them. Find them in our catalog.