New Awards Program Acknowledges Efforts to Improve Access to Justice in Maryland Courts
(ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Jan. 24, 2011), The Maryland Access to Justice Commission has launched an awards program to recognize judges, court workers, legislators and programs who have improved the ability of fellow Marylanders to access the courts or legal help. The Commission is calling for nominations for its first annual Maryland Access to Justice Awards.
“Our courts have a significant impact on the lives of Marylanders. Each year, Maryland’s courts handle more than two million cases,” said retired Court of Appeals Judge Irma S. Raker, chair of the Maryland Access to Justice Commission. “The Commission wants to salute those individuals who go beyond the usual call of duty to enhance the quality of justice for people who encounter barriers when they are dealing with the courts.”
The Maryland Access to Justice Commission was created in 2008 by Chief Judge Robert M. Bell to improve and expand all people’s access to the state’s civil justice system. A coalition of representatives from Maryland courts, executive branch agencies, legislators, attorneys, social services and faith groups, and legal service providers, the Commission recommends changes to improve the ability of all Marylanders to use the courts effectively and to obtain legal help when they need it. Its primary focus is on expanding access to the state’s civil justice system, which includes landlord-tenant cases, divorce, child custody issues, small claims and debt collection, domestic violence and other non-criminal case types.
“The goal of the Commission is to enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for people who encounter barriers when dealing with the courts or trying to solve legal problems, including the challenges faced by people who represent themselves in court,” said Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn of the District Court of Maryland, who is vice-chair of the Commission. Other barriers include language or literacy issues, challenges due to varying physical abilities, not being able to afford to hire legal help or take time off work to attend to legal issues, or a lack of understanding of the civil justice system in Maryland and the resources available.
The Commission is accepting nominations for four awards categories for outstanding contributions to advance access to justice for low- and moderate-income Marylanders:
-Judge of the Year Award for an outstanding jurist who exemplifies Maryland’s commitment to access to justice;
-Judicial Branch Excellence Award for an employee of the judicial branch for exemplary service and special contributions;
-Outstanding Program of the Year Award for a program or project that improves access to justice for all Marylanders; and
-Legislator of the Year Award for an outstanding legislator who personifies Maryland’s commitment to access to justice through action and leadership.
Nomination forms for each of the categories are available on the Commission’s website, mdcourts.gov/mdatjc/index.html. The deadline for nominations is Feb. 15.
E-mail completed forms to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, 2011-D Commerce Park Drive, Annapolis, Md., 21401.
Awards will be presented at the annual Maryland Judicial Conference in May.
For more information, visit the Maryland Access to Justice Commission website, mdcourts.gov/mdatjc/index.html, or call 410-260-1258.
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