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lawlibrary Pro Bono

Lawyer in the Library: Wrap-Up for May 2022

Jack Paltell, Steve Migdal, and William Moomau were the “Lawyers in the Library” this month providing legal assistance with such issues as deeds, eviction, debt collection, contracts and homeowner associations.

“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. (The evening program will not be held this summer and will resume in September.) 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

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lawlibrary

Using Sample Procedure and Legal Forms

Frequently, patrons ask us if we have official court forms to file for their specific situations. The courts have their own official forms (People’s Law Library lists some of the most frequently used), but more often, people ask for official forms that do not exist.

Fortunately, the library has a wide variety of sample procedure and legal forms that are free to be copied and modified. Procedure forms are for court filings, while those commonly called “legal forms,” most of which are not standardized, are used for all other legal affairs, such as wills, leases, and contracts.

Non-standardized procedure forms can include very general templates, such as blank petitions and blank motions; they can also be more specific (but still general enough to copy), such as motions for summary judgments and counterclaims for bringing in a new party.

Form books and form sets are good sources for all kinds of sample forms and templates. Some are available online through Westlaw or Lexis, others are exclusively in print, available here inside the library. When there is no sample form specific enough to cover a situation, they can be modified.

Form Books and Individual Samples

In addition to forms from Westlaw and Lexis, the Library has a variety of form books in print and has made available additional sample procedure forms for Maryland courts. Below, I have listed them by jurisdiction and subject area, and have also included the Library’s recommended form sets from Lexis and Westlaw.

Maryland

Practice and Procedure Sample Forms
  • Maryland practice forms (MSBA)
    Call Number: KFM1738.A65 M3 2009
    Also on Lexis and Westlaw
  • Maryland civil procedure forms: Maryland practice series (George W. Liebmann)
    Call Number: KFM1730.A65 L5
    Also on Westlaw
  • Forms from Maryland civil procedure forms (Robert Dale Klein)
    Call Number: KFM1730.A65 K64 2000
    Also on Lexis
  • Practice manual for the Maryland lawyer
    Call Number: KFM1730.A65 P7 2019
    Also on Lexis and Westlaw
  • Maryland litigation forms and analysis /by Gary I. Strausberg, general editor
    Call Number: KFM1730.A65 M372 1998
    Also on Westlaw
Family Law Sample Forms
  • Maryland family law form finder
    On Westlaw
  • Maryland divorce and separation law / editors, John J. Condliffe, Esq. & Debra B. Cruz, Esq.
    See “Marital Settlement Agreements” chapter for sample agreement.
    Call Number: RES KFM1300.M37 2019
    Also on Lexis and Westlaw
  • Maryland domestic relations forms: with practice commentary / Ann M. Turnbull, Joseph J. Wase
    Call Number: RES KFM1294.A65 T8
    Also on Lexis
  • Forms from Maryland domestic relations forms
    On Lexis
  • Premarital and domestic partnership agreements (MSBA)
    On Lexis and Westlaw
  • Maryland family and juvenile law : practice manual and forms
    Call Number: RES KFM1294.R44 2001
  • Marital settlement agreement – form / Thomas C. Ries, Richard B. Jacobs
    Call Number: KFM1300.M34 2009
  • Maryland family law forms / [Constance K. Putzel, Shelley L. Rothschild … et al.]
    Call Number: KFM1294.M37 2011
  • A practice guide to family law
    Call Number: RES KFM1294.P88 1999
  • Collection of family law forms. Sample forms on this page include several types of answer templates, consent forms, interrogatories, and motions. There are also links to official court forms.
Real Estate
  • Forms from Maryland real estate forms
    On Lexis
  • Maryland real estate forms: practice / Russell R. Reno, Jr., Wilbur E. (Pete) Simmons, Jr., Kevin L. Shepherd ; contributing editor, Michael S. Kosmas
    Call Number: RES KFM1326.A65 R46 2005
    Also on Lexis
  • Maryland real estate leasing forms: practice.
    Call Number: KFM1317.A65 A37 1988
Estates, Wills, and Trusts
  • Maryland estate planning, will drafting, and estate administration forms: practice
    Call Number: KFM1340.A65 B37 1995
    Also on Lexis
  • Probate forms in Maryland : annotated, including pleading, guardian and ward, actions at law and in equity relating to administration and forms of wills / by Philip L. Sykes
    Call Number: KFM1344.A65 S9
  • Contest of wills in Maryland with complete forms / by Philip L. Sykes
    Call Number: KFM1344.5 .C6 S9
  • Maryland estate planning, wills and trusts library : forms and practice manual
    Call Number: KFM1340.A65 G88 1998
  • Maryland estate planning form finder
    On Westlaw
Business and Commercial
  • Maryland corporation law and practice : with forms / by Herbert M. Brune
    Call Number: KFM1413.B7 1953
  • Maryland limited liability company forms and practice manual
    Call Number: KFM1407.5 .A65 M37 1999
  • Maryland secured transactions under revised article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code : forms and practice manual
    Call Number: KFM1375.W58 2000
Criminal
  • Maryland criminal procedure forms and analysis
    Call Number: KFM1775.A65 S653
Employment
  • Maryland employment law : forms and practice manual / Carla N. Murphy, editor ; Sharon A. Snyder, editor
    Call Number: KFM1534.M87
Intellectual Property
  • Maryland intellectual property and technology transactions : forms and practice manual / William S. Galkin
    Call Number: KFM1530.G35 2008
Technology
  • Maryland technology transactions: the Venable practice and forms manual
    Call Number: KFM1530.M37 2002
Practice of Law
  • Legal representation and fee agreements for the Maryland Lawyer: forms and comments Call Number: KFM1277.5 .F4 B36 2009 Also on Lexis and Westlaw

Federal Titles

On Lexis and Westlaw
  • Nichols cyclopedia of federal procedure forms
    On Westlaw
  • Federal procedural forms
    On Westlaw
  • Bender’s federal practice forms
  • On Lexis

Non-Jurisdictional

Print Titles
  • Family law arbitration : practice, procedure, and forms / Carolyn Moran Zack
    Call Number: KF505.5 .Z33 2020
  • Forms, checklists, and procedures for the family lawyer / Mark A. Chinn
    Call Number: KF505.C478 2021
  • The law of crimes and criminal procedure, including forms and precedents
    Call Number: KF9219.H6 1904
On Westlaw
  • American jurisprudence pleading & practice forms annotated
  • American jurisprudence legal forms 2d
  • Lane’s Goldstein litigation forms
  • Fletcher corporation forms annotated
  • McGaffey legal forms with tax analysis / Jere D. McGaffey
  • Handbook of Personal Injury Forms and Litigation Materials
On Lexis
  • Rabkin & Johnson current legal forms with tax analysis / Jacob Rabkin and Mark H. Johnson ; revision author, Volume 1, Stephen E. Pigott
  • Murphy’s will clauses : annotations and forms with tax effects / Joseph H. Murphy, assisted by Beverly Massy Stowell Rounds, updates by John H. Skarbnik
  • Page on the law of wills : including probate, will contests, evidence, taxation, conflicts, estate planning, forms, and statutes relating to wills
  • Bender’s forms of discovery interrogatories

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Finding forms using Westlaw

Westlaw’s Form Finder is a convenient way to search for samples. To get there from the main screen, click on “Forms” in the “All Content” tab (Figure 1).

Westlaw browse screen, "All Content" tab, then "Forms" is ninth on the list.
Figure 1

Once you are on the “Form Finder” screen, you can choose to search for forms by state, by topic (Figure 2), or by publication name.

Figure 2

Once in the search screen, fill in the search fields and press enter.

Some forms, like those in American Jurisprudence Pleading & Practice Forms Annotated, link to captions (Figure 3). A caption is a header in which you would fill in information about the court, the plaintiff, and the defendant if applicable (Figure 4).

Figure 3
Figure 4

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Finding forms using Lexis

From Lexis’s main screen, click “Sample Forms” under the “Content” tab (Figure 5), which will send you to the Sample Forms page. There, you can choose to search by state or practice area (Figure 6). On the next screen, you can search all forms under the heading you chose or add the second state or practice area filter to make your search more precise. More precise is not always better, however, because you could filter out relevant results.

Figure 5
Figure 6

Unfortunately, there is no federal option listed with all the state options on the sample forms page.

To search for sample forms for federal courts, on the home screen click on “Federal” under “Explore Content,” then click on “All Federal” in the second section (Figure 7) (Be careful not to click “All Federal Cases”).

Figure 7

On the “All Federal” page, you can then scroll down to “Forms” and click “All Federal Forms” (Figure 8)

Figure 8

There you can choose to search all the federal form books or search an individual title (Figure 9).

Figure 9

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Categories
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
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.”

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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:  

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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