Court Information Office
Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building
For Immediate Release
COURT OF APPEALS ADOPTS
(ANNAPOLIS, MD–February 7, 2002) On February 4, the Court of Appeals voted to revise Rule 6.1 of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) governing pro bono service by attorneys. The revised rule encourages (but does not require) all members of the Maryland State Bar to render 50 hours pro bono service per year, with a substantial portion of those hours devoted to helping the poor. A financial contribution may be made in lieu of service.
In addition to this revision, two related rules were also adopted -- one calling for a State Action Plan for pro bono service and creating a Standing Committee on Pro Bono Service; and the other, establishing local pro bono committees for each county.
“This is a wonderful step taken by the Bench and Bar, one which promotes, and hopefully will move us closer to, access to justice for all,” said Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell.
Under the State Action Plan rule, every Maryland lawyer submit an annual pro bono report to the Administrative Office of the Courts, describing the nature of his or her pro bono service. The reports are confidential under the Maryland Public Information Act. The non-identifying information in the reports will be used by the Standing Committee to obtain information about the amount of pro bono service being performed by lawyers and the success of pro bono projects.
The revisions to MRPC 6.1 and the new rules were patterned after recommendations made by a special Commission on Pro Bono in March 2000. That Commission, which included ten attorneys from across Maryland, and five judges from each level of state court, was established by Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and chaired by Court of Special Appeals Judge Deborah S. Eyler. Its mission was to examine the role of the courts in increasing pro bono service, thereby promoting access to justice for those in need.
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