Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s mission is to provide access to free legal services and is committed to strengthening the communities of Maryland's Mid-Shore by offering resolution to a variety of civil issues.
Founded as a result of joint efforts of the Mid-Shore counties’ Bar associations and circuit courts to address the need for increased pro bono legal representation for low-income residents, MSPB was the first regional pro bono referral agency in the State of Maryland and is the only such agency located on the Eastern Shore.
MSPB offers several new projects that focus on specific issues facing our rural community including those set forth below. These new projects along with our existing projects rely wholly on private attorneys providing their time and expertise on a pro bono basis as well as alternate methods of dispute and conflict resolution.
Lawyer Referral Program: This is Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s core program. Intake and referrals are conducted from our Easton, MD office. Potential clients contact Mid-Shore Pro Bono for screening of legal matters and income verification. Income guidelines are set by Maryland Legal Services Corporation. Eligible clients are referred to a panel of volunteer attorneys who accept these civil cases on a pro bono basis. In FY 13, Mid-Shore Pro Bono facilitated 5875 hours of free legal services to its community. MSPB offers a valuable service to the private bar through its intake and screening process.
Judicare Family Law Project: This is Mid-Shore Pro Bono’s largest program. It provides funds to pay attorneys a reduced fee of $80.00/hour for Contested Family cases only. This project has been funded since 2008 and has grown by over 400%.
Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project:
The Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project was launched in July 2008 with a letter from Chief Judge Robert M. Bell to all attorneys licensed in Marylandrequesting their assistance in Maryland’s foreclosure crisis. The Project, a collaboration of Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, Civil Justice, Inc., and various other non-profit organizations and state agencies, trains participating attorneys in Maryland’s new foreclosure process and engages them in pro bono legal representation of homeowners in distress. MSPB entered this project in 2009 and continues to provide services as a legal partner in this statewide project. In 2013, MSPB was awarded a multi-year grant from the Maryland Attorney General as a result of the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement. This project includes a Foreclosure Clinic each week. A reduced fee is available to attorneys willing to represent our clients in Foreclosure Mediation.
Legal Services Clinic:
MSPB holds weekly Civil Legal Services Clinic to address the need to legal services for our residents. While not limited to the income guidelines of the pro bono referral program, the clinics have proven to be an effective way to triage cases for referral and engage more attorneys in pro bono services. Clinics are held in all 5 counties we serve.
The Debtor Assistance Project
The Debtor Assistance Project ("DAP") is a clinic, originally located at the U.S. Courthouses in Maryland, which provides debtors with an opportunity to meet with a bankruptcy attorney for a cost-free half-hour consultation. The DAP is designed to help individuals without an attorney to answer legal questions about bankruptcy. MSPB holds a DAP clinic once a month. This project started in January 2010 and has expanded to include all Eastern Shore counties.
Consumer Protection Project
This project will enable us to provide pro bono legal service to consumers in debt buyer cases through brief advice clinics and/or direct representation through volunteer attorneys. Through a partnership with the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, attorneys will receive free training so consumers’ statutory protections will no longer have to be forfeited because consumers cannot afford legal representation. This project launched in 2011.
Collaborative Practice Reduced Fee Project:
This project enables Mid-Shore Pro Bono to refer eligible clients to attorneys certified in the Collaborative Practice Model. Similar to the Judicare Project, attorneys are paid a reduced fee of $80.00 an hour. This project was a Pilot in FY 12 and is funded for FY 13. It is unique in that it uses an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) method to resolve domestic issues outside of court, which is especially needed to address the high number of family law cases flooding our courts along with the high number of pro se (self-represented) litigants. Collaborative Practice engages specially trained attorneys and other professionals to work with our clients to resolve their domestic disputes out of court and benefits our overburdened court system and the families involved in these cases.
Community Conferencing Project:
Community Conferencing is a powerful social justice process that brings together everyone involved in, and affected by, crime and conflict. During a Community Conference, a trained Community Conferencing facilitator brings together victims, offenders and their respective supporters. During the Community Conference, everyone discusses what happened, how everyone has been affected, and how to resolve the matter to prevent it from happening again. The goal is to have a written agreement drawn up at the end of the conference which all parties will sign. If the agreement is completed, then the case is closed. If the agreement is not completed, then the case gets returned to the referral source to be processed in the usual manner. We are currently receiving referrals from the Departments of Juvenile Services, local schools, and local law enforcement agencies. We are collaborating with Talbot Partnership to utilize Community Conferencing as an option to address first offenders with under-age possession of alcohol and other civil citations.
Women’s Family Law Project
The Women’s Family Law Project was conceived in an effort to provide additional support for the number of female clients seeking legal assistance with family law disputes. The project has a multilayered approach to assist women at every stage of the legal process which includes mentoring and financial assistance. It is the goal of MSPB to make these services readily accessible to women, regardless of the barriers they may face. Attorneys are compensated to assist these clients through limited scope representation.