MVLS Volunteer Helps Maryland Woman Clear Debts

Darlene* has roots in Maryland, but lived and worked in other states. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012. In 2014, she moved back to the Eastern Shore to be with family. Darlene’s debts totaled more than $40,000, and included student loans. Darlene’s income from food stamps and Temporary Disability Assistance simply could not stretch enough for her to make payments on debts she incurred while she was still working.

In 2015, she sought help from an attorney who volunteers with MVLS. MVLS provides our volunteers with bankruptcy software, and for all types of cases volunteers receive malpractice insurance, mentorship if desired, client screening, and staff support. The attorney agreed to represent Darlene pro bono if she went through our intake. We referred her back, and he was able to help her discharge all her loans through chapter 7 bankruptcy and successfully helped her get a disability exemption for her student loans.

Darlene needed relief from her financial troubles so she could focus on her health. When MVLS’ low-income clients are able to move past their legal issues, it frees them up to focus on employment, housing, child care and more. Without help from volunteer attorneys, almost all MVLS clients would go unrepresented.

2017 MVLS Annual “March Madness” Benefit

high-res-benefit-logo

Get ready for another slam dunk event!  Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service will host our annual “March Madness” themed benefit on Thursday, March 23, 2017. Guests will enjoy upscale tailgate fare, open beer and wine bar, live music, exciting silent auction, behind-the-scenes stadium tour, interactive basketball games and more!

All funds raised from this event supports MVLS’ mission of providing quality civil legal services to low-income Marylanders.

benefit-photos-for-website-4-panel

Early bird tickets prices are available until February 3!

Please follow the link below for more information on the “March Madness” benefit including ticket and sponsorship info.

more-info-button

Feb. 1 – Expungement Training Webinar

Join MVLS for an online expungement training. The training is free and there is no requirement to take any expungement cases.

The training will be taught by Matthew Stubenberg and will go over the fundamentals of expungement law and how to use MDExpungement.com.

February 1, 2017
1:00 p.m.

Register online for the training.

 

Feb. 2 – Self-Help Bankruptcy Class

MVLS will hold a self-help seminar on February 2 from 9am – 12:30pm on How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The seminar will be held at MVLS’ office at 201 North Charles Street, Suite 1400 in downtown Baltimore.

An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will conduct the class and will demonstrate how to fill out the necessary forms and how to represent yourself at your bankruptcy hearing. An attorney will review the forms you complete, but the attorney will not represent you.

Click here to register.

Feb. 6 – Expungement Clinic

MVLS will host an Expungement Clinic on February 6, 2017 from 5-8 pm at Bon Secours. This event is open to the public, and if you can volunteer at this clinic please reach out to Matthew Stubenberg.

MVLS will need 6 volunteers for this clinic, online training is available to attorneys new to expungements or need a refresher.

To register as a volunteer please sign up here.

Bon Secours Expungement Clinic
February 6, 2017
5-8 pm

26 N. Fulton Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201

Post

Feb. 24 – Attorney & Housing Counselor Tax Sale Training

MVLS and the Pro Bono Resource Center will host a FREE training for volunteer and housing counselors about tax sale prevention in Baltimore City. Topics will include Baltimore tax sale process, water bills and liens, environmental liens, and counseling homeowners and community groups. Attendees are asked to make a pro bono commitment.

February 24, 2017
9 am – 1 pm
University of Baltimore School of Law | 1401 N. Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21201

REGISTER TODAY

AttorneyHousingCounselorTrainingatUB2.24.17Flyer

Spring Tax Sale Clinic Dates – Prince George’s County

Are you a homeowner who is behind on your property tax and/or water bill and facing tax sale and/or foreclosure? Get one-on-one free brief legal advice and speak to a housing counselor at one of these tax sale clinics:

April 11, 2017
Oxon Hill Branch Library
6200 Oxon Hill Rd,
Oxon Hill, MD 20745
5:00 pm-3:30 pm

April 22, 2017
Largo-Kettering Branch Library
9601 Capital Ln.
Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
11:30 am-3:30 pm

April 25, 2017
Greenbelt Branch Library
11 Crescent Rd.
Greenbelt, MD 20770
5:00 pm-8:00 pm

To pre-register for a clinic, call the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at 443-703-3052 or 800-396-1274 ext. 3052.

Attorneys interested in volunteering should contact Amy Hennen at ahennen@mvlslaw.org or at (410)451-4064.

MVLS & University of Baltimore Law School Partnership

Article Written by Nasim Chatha, MVLS Communications and Community Relations Officer

Human trafficking is the act of moving people by threat, coercion, violence or deception in order to exploit them. According to the United Nations, people are trafficked for prostitution, forced labor, slavery and removal of organs. Hundreds of victims of trafficking are identified in Maryland every year, mostly women and girls, many found near interstate and international transit hubs.

Identifying and getting help to victims of trafficking is important, but survivors need a path to independence. For a survivor of coerced prostitution, getting a cleaner criminal record may be the difference between moving on in life and staying in sex work. Criminal convictions can keep someone from qualifying for housing, and they can cause employers to immediately disqualify job applicants. Survivors may see sex work as the only feasible way to get by, even if they would like very badly to stop.

This year, Maryland passed a bill allowing the vacatur of the criminal convictions that easily accumulate for a victim of sex trafficking. Prostitution was already eligible for vacatur, and now related convictions like trespassing and drug possession may also be vacated, and thus removed from criminal records. (Depending on the county, police may actually use the charge of prostitution very infrequently, instead relying on other charges like “disorderly conduct.”)

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) recently formed a partnership with the University of Baltimore Law School to expand the capabilities of the already existing Human Trafficking Prevention Project (HTPP) clinic. HTPP helps survivors of trafficking get the legal services they need to address the collateral consequences of their criminal justice involvement. MVLS will be leveraging our staff and volunteer capabilities to help HTPP take full advantage of all that the law can do for victims of sex trafficking, including expungement, shielding, and vacatur.

To take advantage of the vacatur rule, survivors will need to demonstrate to judges that they have been trafficked. Those who stand to benefit include very young people as well as people who have been living with trafficking-related charges on their records for decades. They are people of all genders. Some come from here in Maryland, and others from different states and countries.

Casey*, a 24-year-old woman who was drugged and manipulated by her first trafficker in her early teen years, succeeded in getting a Maryland judge to grant her the vacatur of her criminal record. She told NPR reporters, “I’m not ever going to forget what I’ve done or what I’ve gone through.” Even though her clean record won’t erase her troubled past, she suggests it will ease her path forward. “I don’t want it thrown in my face every time I’m trying to seek employment,” she said. “I don’t want to have to explain myself every time.”

Casey was represented by Jessica Emerson, the professor who runs the HTPP clinic at the University of Baltimore law school. Emerson and her partners in Maryland’s legal services organizations have been pushing for vacatur laws to be expanding for years, resulting in the 2016 bill allowing victims of sex trafficking to vacate not just prostitution, but related charges for crimes which they may have been coerced into committing. Under the new partnership, MVLS volunteer attorneys will be tapped to put this new law to work, and to greatly expand number of people that HTPP is able to help.

Ultimately, this project may be helping to rid pimps and traffickers of one of their main tools of control. Bradley Myles, Director of the Polaris Project, says that “Traffickers use the criminalization of a victim as another way to gain power over that victim, and remind them of the hopelessness of their road back.” HTPP gives people with histories of coerced prostitution reason to start hoping. Casey is now attending college and living with family in Texas. “I want to provide my son with a good life,” she said. “It might not be the most extravagant. I don’t want to be rich. I just want to live a better life than I have lived.”

*Not her real name

Interested in volunteering with the Human Trafficking Prevention Project? HTPP is building a panel of volunteer attorneys who can help with expungement, shielding, vacatur, and federal and state pardon. To join, please contact Susan Francis or (443) 451-4084. HTPP will be holding a volunteer training in the spring of 2017, more information to come.

Spring Tax Sale Clinic Dates – Baltimore City

Are you a homeowner who is behind on your property tax and/or water bill and facing tax sale and/or foreclosure? Get one-on-one free brief legal advice and speak to a housing counselor at one of these tax sale clinics:

March 30, 2017—at Sandtown Winchester Senior Center
1601 Baker St, Baltimore, MD 21217
11:30am-3:30pm

April 1, 2017—at Money Power Day (w/CASH Campaign)
Poly-Western High School, 1400 W. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore MD 21209
9:00am-3:00pm

April 19, 2017
Zeta Center, 4501 Reisterstown Rd., Baltimore MD 21215
1:30pm-5:30pm

To pre-register for a clinic, call the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland at 443-703-3052 or 800-396-1274 ext. 3052.

Attorneys interested in volunteering should contact Amy Hennen at ahennen@mvlslaw.org or at (410)451-4064.