Overview of Programs

There are large numbers of Marylanders facing serious civil legal issues who lack access to affordable representation.  We at Civil Justice believe that innovative solo and small-firm lawyers can play a huge role in meeting the “justice gap” - those people who make too much money to qualify for free legal assistance from organizations like Legal Aid but who cannot afford the large hourly rates normally charged by lawyers.  Civil Justice supports those innovative lawyers helping underserved communities and connects the working poor and Marylanders of moderate income with the lawyers who can provide affordable legal help.  

Civil Justice’s programs are designed to increase access to justice.  For each of our programs, we: 
- Partner with other legal service providers to identify subject areas with unmet need;
- Develop innovative practice models that private lawyers can use to meet that need;
- Train and support attorneys implementing those practice models;
- Perform outreach to encourage potential clients to reach out to us; and finally
- Connect potential clients with the right lawyers.  
Our work is funded through a combination of donations from the general public (donations can be made here), grants from governmental agencies like the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, contributions from private foundations, and membership dues from our attorney-members.  

The following is a broad overview of our programs; please click on the headers to view more details of each program.  

Lawyer Referral Service
Civil Justice maintains the only state-wide lawyer referral service in Maryland.  Potential clients can search the directory of Civil Justice members by county and practice area through our website, or call (410) 706-0174 to go through a telephonic intake that first screens callers for eligibility for free legal services through organizations such as Legal Aid and Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service and then refers the matter to Civil Justice members if no free legal help is available.  Unlike many lawyer referral services, Civil Justice does not charge the potential clients for this service and does not charge its members for the referral or take any percentage of any fee.  In many rural counties in Maryland, Civil Justice’s lawyer referral service is the only lawyer referral service available.  

Foreclosure Prevention
Civil Justice played an instrumental role in developing a group of private lawyers who represent homeowners facing foreclosure in Maryland in response to the massive increase in foreclosures during the Great Recession.  Although the worst of the foreclosure crisis has passed, Civil Justice continues to maintain its leadership in foreclosure prevention, including: 
- Providing direct representation for foreclosure defense by Civil Justice staff in appropriate cases, 
- Running an affordable foreclosure mediation representation program
- Providing a free foreclosure brief advice hotline, and 
- A program that provides housing counselors assisting homeowners facing foreclosure with free legal guidance.  
Our foreclosure prevention programs are funded entirely by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.  

Economic Justice Program
Civil Justice’s Economic Justice Program provides legal representation to low and moderate income individuals for critical issues that threaten their economic well-being such as rental housing disputes and predatory financial products and services, in addition to automobile sales, financing, and repossessions. The legal representation provided through the Program has already resulted in over a million dollars in benefit to consumers in potential judgments avoided and affirmative recoveries against businesses.  The representation is possible because consumer protection laws often allow for “fee-shifting.”  “Fee shifting” is where the attorneys’ fees for a consumer are ultimately paid by the business that exploited them.  Civil Justice has developed free on-demand training for its members regarding relevant subject matters, such as landlord/tenant law and handling fee shifting cases in Maryland.  The Economic Justice Program is funded through the generous support of foundations such as the 21st Century International Ladies Garment Workers Union Heritage Fund and the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, as well as through private contributions from the public.  

In 2017, Civil Justice launched its new online referral portal.  The website aims to revolutionize referrals by offering a platform to streamline the referral process among legal service providers and private lawyers, and will allow Civil Justice to identify unmet need and train attorneys to address those areas.  Currently the website provides referrals in the areas of foreclosure, auto fraud, landlord-tenant and debt collection defense, but the eventual goal is for any type of legal referral.  The website is free to Civil Justice members and Maryland legal service providers.  

Limited Scope Program
In 2017, the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department funded a Civil Justice program to promote limited scope representation in Maryland.  The Program trains private attorneys on how to use new rule changes regarding limited scope representation to provide affordable and valuable representation to clients who cannot afford full representation, as well as educate potential referral sources on limited scope as an option for appropriate cases.  

Public Interest Litigation
Civil Justice undertakes litigation on behalf of Maryland consumers with legal issues that have broad public impact.  Often, the reason that Civil Justice provides representation is to act as a demonstration law office, showing private attorneys a model for providing the representation to others.  For example, Civil Justice recently took an illegal eviction case after struggling to find any private attorneys who were interested in the matter.  Civil Justice ultimately settled the case for $65,000.00 for the client.  Since then, Civil Justice has had no issue placing illegal eviction cases with private lawyers, and has been able to share the legal documents from that case to assist lawyers handling similar cases.   

Public Interest Advocacy
Civil Justice also fights for policy changes to increase access to justice.  Civil Justice staff frequently testify in Annapolis to the legislature on proposed legislation and have even drafted proposed legislation at the request of lawmakers.  Civil Justice has authored numerous amicus briefs in appellate courts.  Civil Justice will also author op-eds and position pieces.  

We would not be able to do what we do without support from the public.  If you are interested in supporting our organization, please click here to make a donation.  If you are an attorney and are interested in learning more about membership, please click here.  


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