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Maryland Judiciary help centers provide rent court resources | COMMENTARY

Caitlin Goldblatt of Baltimore Renters United speaks at a rally at the War Memorial Plaza calling for Governor Hogan to extend and expand eviction prevention measures.
Caitlin Goldblatt of Baltimore Renters United speaks at a rally at the War Memorial Plaza calling for Governor Hogan to extend and expand eviction prevention measures. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

As a result of the pandemic, the Maryland Judiciary has expanded its help centers and programs throughout the state to assist individuals with a variety of civil law questions, particularly unrepresented tenants and non-corporate landlords. These include:

New walk-in centers and statewide call-in locations that are staffed by trained attorneys who have helped nearly 100,000 people over the past year seeking assistance in civil legal matters, particularly those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Full-time walk-in centers are available in courthouse locations in Baltimore, Rockville, Catonsville, Upper Marlboro, Glen Burnie, Salisbury, and Frederick. Part-time walk-in services are available in Cambridge and Hagerstown. Individuals can also receive help from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling 410-260-1392 or talking with an attorney via online chat for free at www.mdcourts.gov/helpcenter.

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Accessing funds. State and local governments have received hundreds of millions of dollars to assist individuals with rental assistance due to the pandemic. The state as well as each county in Maryland have programs that are open and accepting applications for distribution of these funds. Maryland Judiciary’s help centers act as a coordinating body to help individuals access these funds to pay past and future rent.

Preparing for court in a safe manner. The Maryland Judiciary has extensive online informational resources available for anyone in need of assistance to help them prepare for court. The website has been expanded to offer additional information for tenants and landlords that have been affected by the pandemic. Visit www.mdcourts.gov/housing to find video series on rent court and webinars on demand to better understand the court process.

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Pre-trial mediation services for tenants and landlords is provided through the District Court of Maryland via remote access to assist parties in resolving their disputes prior to coming to court. Interested parties should contact the Maryland Court Help Center.

Free legal services provided by volunteer attorneys have expanded in courthouses throughout the state. The Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day Program is operated by the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC) four days a week at the East Fayette Street courthouse in Baltimore City. A similar program is operated by Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County (CLSPG) at the Hyattsville courthouse. Other legal service providers and volunteer attorneys, including Legal Aid, are operating in other courthouses around the state. To find out which services your local courts provide, try out the interactive map at https://mdcourts.gov/html/selfhelpcenters/map.html.

Expanding access to free attorneys. The recent Pro Bono Attorney Call to Action issued by Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera supports the free attorney programs throughout the state. Maryland attorneys can volunteer at the Help Centers by contacting Tatiana Goluskin (410-260-1674 or cgoluskin@mdcla.org) or attorneys can contact the legal service providers directly by calling PBRC (443-703-3049) or CLSPG (240-391-6370).

If you need assistance in applying for rental relief due to the pandemic, need clarification of the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Gov. Larry Hogan’s pandemic orders, or have other rent or civil law related questions, these are some of the many services and programs available to provide assistance to you. Just pick up the phone, check out our website, come to our walk-in centers or volunteer. The Maryland Judiciary is here to help.

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John P. Morrissey, Chief Judge, District Court of Maryland.

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