Commission names ACCESS TO JUSTICE award winners
The Maryland Access to Justice Commission has announced the recipients of its inaugural Maryland Access to Justice Awards.
“The awards recognize individuals, programs and entities in the state that improve the ability of all Marylanders to access the courts or to get legal help in civil legal matters so they can benefit from the rights, protections, services and opportunities that the law provides,” said retired Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Irma S. Raker, chair of the Commission.
The 2011 honoree of the Outstanding Program of the Year Award is the Tenants in Foreclosure project. Created by the Public Justice Center in late 2009, the Tenants in Foreclosure project is expanding access to justice for a previously powerless and under-represented group of people— tenants who are evicted because their landlord is in foreclosure.
Del. Kathleen Dumais, Maryland House of Delegates, and Sen. Brian Frosh, Maryland Senate, received the Legislator of the Year Award. Dumais, vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Frosh, chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, championed a bill, which became law in 2010, to increase surcharges on court filing fees. The increased surcharge helps relieve a significant shortage of funding for programs that provide critical legal services to people in need.
Gov. Martin O’Malley received the Executive Branch Award for 2011. Gov. O’Malley has used his position as governor to prioritize access to justice for Marylanders facing homelessness and financial difficulties during the ongoing economic downturn, most notably through the creation of the Foreclosure Mediation program in 2010.
Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn of the District Court of Maryland received the Judge of the Year Award. Judge Clyburn consistently challenges District Court judges around the state to respond more effectively to people who appear without counsel, the indigent, and those facing a range of barriers in using the courts. Judge Clyburn created the District Court’s first Self-Help Center at the Glen Burnie District Court, with plans to serve users statewide through innovative technology.