[In addition], we do referrals here [of Marylanders to outside attorneys]. … We do about 30 to 40 a day. … So it's tens of thousands of people we've helped, directly or indirectly.

What problems are you working on besides foreclosure?

We're … looking ahead to doing a lot of work in the bankruptcy court. There's a huge need there; people need representation. And the court needs help.

We're [also] heavily involved in a bunch of cases under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act involving sham title companies. These were established for partnerships between different real estate professionals as a means to, we allege, create referral fees and kickback arrangements that otherwise are illegal.

We do a fair amount of work in areas related to mortgage brokers and the fees that they charge: Are they lawful under Maryland law? Did they disclose the fees in the manner in which they are supposed to be disclosed?

We're going to unfortunately always have problems related to housing, but [the goal is] minimizing the big problems that just snowball.

Where does Civil Justice's funding come from?

We have short- and long-term commitments from different funders … and we continue to do public-interest cases that offer fee-generating opportunities for the organization — we can receive court-awarded attorney fee awards.

The kind of cases we do are ones the private bar won't do, typically, or aren't doing. And that's the way it's supposed to be. Our next step is we teach the private bar how to do it and we move on to some other type of case the private bar won't do.

What could be next for Civil Justice, besides bankruptcy work?

How to help someone with an unemployment claim, with a Social Security disability claim or other Social Security benefits is probably going to be vital. And that could be a great practice niche for young attorneys.

We're going to have, because of the economy, more people who need those services. And those services are going to be more limited.

What made you decide it was time to move on from Civil Justice?

I want to leave it in good hands. Structurally, it's in a terrific position for the short and long term. We have excellent partners. … From that perspective, it's the right time for CJ. I don't believe in nonprofit directors staying in perpetuity.

Personally, I'm committed to this kind of work — I'm just going to be doing it in private practice now. I'm excited about that.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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