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lawlibrary Pro Bono Self Represented

Ask a Lawyer in the Public Library Program Continues

Elizabeth, Patricia and Brian

Law Week was off to an early start with the Ask a Lawyer in the Library program returning to the Maryland City at Russett Branch of the Anne Arundel County Public Library on Saturday.  Elizabeth Leight, co-chair of the AABA Pro Bono Committee, enlisted  AABA attorney Brian Markovitz and  Maryland Hispanic Bar Association attorney Patricia Chiriboga-Roby to provide free legal advice in the library.  By 12:30 p.m. the attorneys had already assisted 11 clients with a total of 18  clients being seen by the end of the day.  I was on hand to provide back-up reference assistance. 

Issues for which consultations were sought included consumer contracts, immigration, child support and custody, legal malpractice, home construction disputes and employment. 

The program will be held in the Brooklyn Park branch on May 4 and continue in the Circuit Court on Wednesdays.

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lawlibrary

Carpet installation: Day 2

Carpet has been laid as far as the “reading room.”   It has been interesting providing service in the library today with most of the stacks wrapped in plastic.  Some still want nothing to do with online research and still want to hold that book in their hands.  Some books  could be retrieved from the stacks but some were just too wrapped up.   Many users were able to find what they needed using Westlaw or Lexis and others just decided to come back when it was all over.  The library certainly was not able to offer  the usual comfortable spot in which to work.  It was appreciated that we could at least  use the computer room  making it so we didn’t have to ration computer time.

It  is expected that it should all be finished by tomorrow so that the library can be back to normal sometime on Monday.

Old and New
Progress: Day 2
My office is ready.
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lawlibrary

Maryland Library Day at the Legislature

Today was Maryland Library Day as proclaimed in the Maryland Senate chamber this morning.  Librarians came from across the state to participate in this Maryland Library Association event.  The message librarians hoped to get across was appreciation for the support Maryland public libraries have had through the years.

Issues of concern this year were that there not be a permanent freeze in state aid to libraries and that the state’s public library capital grant program be maintained at the full funding level.  Another issue raised by members of the Law Library Association of Maryland concerned bills in the House and Senate (HB111 and SB174) that proposed that counties whose codes were published on the Internet would not be required to furnish print copies to the Archives and the State Law Library and reduce the number from four to one for the Department of Legislative Services.  The House bill was amended to specify that printed copies be furnished to the Archives and State Law Library and restored the number to four for the Department of Legislative Services.  Members of the county delegation would receive notice of  a code published on the Internet instead of printed copies though.  The Senate bill was not similarly amended and so it was asked that the Committees accept the amendments as passed by the House

The day began here in the AACPLL where the Law Library Association of Maryland provided breakfast.  Joanne Colvin, Pat Behls and Janet Camillo were on hand to represent LLAM.  The breakfast program included a briefing by Gary Alexander of Alexander and Cleary of what is going on in the legislature this year.   After the information packets were assembled and candy distributed everyone headed to the State House Senate and House chambers where librarians were recognized.  From there the group spread out to meet with their delegates and senators armed with the information packets and candy.

The AACPLL acts as a central location where librarians can rest and recharge in between appointments throughout the day.   The day ended with a reception  held in the Miller Senate Office Building  which provided another opportunity for librarians to thank the legislators for past support and talk more about the value of  Maryland’s libraries.  The Maryland library quilt was on display. Photos of the many libraries built as a result of capital projects  hung about the room provided  evidence of funds well spent. A double screen slide show reinforced the value of funding libraries.

All in all it was a long but productive day.  The AACPLL looks forward to hosting Maryland Library Day again next year.

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lawlibrary

National Pro Bono Week in the AACPLL

This week, October 25 through October 31, 2009 is the  first annual National Pro Bono Celebration.  The  ABA Press Release of July 8, 2009 states that this Pro Bono Celebration will recognize the legal work done on behalf of the poor and underserved.   ProBono.net’s “Celebrate Pro Bono” page describes this event, “sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service,”  as “a coordinated national effort to showcase the great difference pro bono lawyers make… The week is also dedicated to the quest for more pro bono volunteers to meet the ever-growing legal needs of this country’s most vulnerable citizens.”

The Anne Arundel County Public Law Library with the Anne Arundel Bar Association Pro Bono Committee will celebrate with the establishment of the “Ask a Lawyer in the Law Library” program.  On Wednesday, October 28, from 11:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m., two attorneys will be in the library for two-hour shifts to answer legal questions.   The program will continue on every third Wednesday of the month from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

In January the program will expand into the Anne Arundel County Public libraries for evening hours, beginning with the Maryland City Russet branch.  With more volunteers, the hours and dates can be increased at both locations.

There will be drop-in information sessions  on pro bono opportunities for Anne Arundel County attorneys everyday between 11:00 and 1:00 for Pro Bono week.  Cookies and coffee will be served   The AACPLL wiki, created to provide information on pro bono opportunities as well as resources to which attorneys can make referrals, will be highlighted during these sessions.  It is hoped that with this information, attorneys will find it easier to provide the pro bono service that is so needed.

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lawlibrary

Maryland Rule 9-206 amended

The Maryland Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure released a new rules order dated October 5, 2009 stating:

“This Court’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure having submitted to the Court a Letter Report dated September 23, 2009 recommending adoption on an emergency basis of proposed amendments to Rule 9-206”

The rule concerning child support guidelines was amended in order to add provisions concerning “cash medical support” to the worksheets.

The full text of the report can be found at the Rules Committee website.

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lawlibrary

Maryland Code receives updates

Most new Maryland laws go into effect October 1 so it is important that the 2009 pocket parts and supplements are received in time.  Both of the library’s sets, published by Thomson/West or LexisNexis/Michie have been received and filed.

For a review of what has gone into effect the 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2009 Legislative Session, published by the Department of Legislative Services, provides a comprehensive discussion of  the new laws.  The report is  broken into 12 subject areas.  Each section contains a discussion of the majority of related bills passed.  It includes a table of major issues and an index of new bills.

There have also been some news reports on the new laws with the no texting while driving law getting a lot of press.  Here are just two links.

From WJZ: New Laws in Maryland Focus on Road Safety and in the Baltimore Sun: New Laws take effect Thursday: Drivers, gun owners among those affected

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Conferences CTC2009

CTC2009 Question: why have a law library?

The topic for this morning’s plenary session was Leading in State Courts: The Unique Challenges Facing Leaders of Loosely Coupled Systems. The moderator, Dr. Mal O’Connor,  began the program with the discussion of the differences between command and control systems and loosely coupled systems.  Many courts are the latter with many different entities working within the system to reach the same goal but with no clearly defined head in charge of the whole court.  All systems are social and technical with the loosely coupled system having its own set of challenges.  System wide change is understandably difficult for such a court system with tensions and contradictions seen in the relationship between the appointed and the elected,  judicial and legislative interests, trial and appellate courts, and between standardized practices versus localized practices.  The challenge to leadership involves the ability to protect and guide.  Fairness, collaboration and the sharing of information are key to success.

After the discussion of systems, there was a panel discussing change in terms of the introduction of technology projects in the courts.  What got my attention was the comment by Karl Heckart, Chief Information Officer for the Arizona Judicial Branch, that now technology drives the business and as such acts as an equalizer.  He stated that with the introduction of technology we have to ask ourselves questions such as: why do we have a law library or why do we have court reporters?  Needless to say that was all I could think about as the panel discussion turned to the implementation of court technology such as case management systems and e-ticket programs.  We were directed to discuss technology implementation projects in our own courts with those sitting next to us and then report those questions or problems to the panel.  No one took them up on the reporting request but now I wish I had been able to break away from my seat mate discussion group to answer that library question.

I could have at least said that libraries provide access to justice through access to information.  And, that although the nature of the source of some of that information may have changed, the role of the library with professional librarian remains the same: access to the information necessary to solve a legal problem or question.  Electronic information is not necessarily easier to access by nature of it being on the Internet, especially so for the ever increasing self represented litigants that law libraries serve every day. Librarians assist in the navigation and evaluation of  legal information no matter the format.  Law libraries are evolving as self-help center partners or even self-help centers in fact.  It should be clear that a court has a law library because of the valuable services provided there.

Later, at lunch I had to answer a deputy clerk’s question as to whether my library had any books any more.  Before I could answer, the clerk of that court stated that I should have gotten rid of them all.  (She was even older than I am.)  So, I had my chance to explain that we still have books even though we have Westlaw and Lexis and that no matter the format the librarian is necessary in the efficient use of any of those  tools.

It is important that I convey as much as possible the value of a law library to the court while I am here to everyone I meet.   All court law librarians should be on a constant campaign to make sure their courts are aware of that value.  Any court that does not have a law library should feel like they are really missing out on something.

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lawlibrary

A place to start

This begins the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library blog. The place to find library announcements and news, descriptions of services and what’s new in the library.  Look for reviews of new additions to the library as well as the old library standards you may have forgotten.  You will find legal research tips and learn about new legal research sites on the Internet.