FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2018
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
New Frederick self-help center first in state to provide assistance to self-
represented litigants in both district and circuit courts
FREDERICK, Md. – Maryland’s first self-help center to offer free, on-site legal advice and information about civil matters, in both district and circuit courts, officially opened today in the Frederick County Courthouse.
Attorneys at the Maryland Court Self-Help Center in Frederick provide legal help to self-represented litigants involved in civil cases, including family law, landlord-tenant, domestic violence, foreclosure, small claims, debt collection, expungement, and more.
“The opening of the new self-help center in Frederick represents the Maryland Judiciary’s ongoing commitment to meaningful access to justice for people who may not have the resources to afford an attorney,” said Mary Ellen Barbera, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.
The Maryland Court Self-Help Center in Frederick, which is located on the lower level of the Frederick County Courthouse, has already served more than 400 people since July. Litigants may speak with an attorney during regular court hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“The new center represents a significant expansion in the Judiciary’s network of self-help services,” said District Court of Maryland Chief Judge John P. Morrissey. “Through these services, the Judiciary provides resources for the many people who need assistance in understanding their rights.”
Last year, 80 percent of litigants in domestic cases were unrepresented. In most district court cases, at least one party is unrepresented.
“The lack of financial resources to obtain an attorney should not be a barrier to understanding one’s rights when you come to court,” said Morrissey.
“It is tremendous that we can offer resources right here in the courthouse,” said Frederick County Administrative Judge Julie R. Stevenson Solt, Circuit Court for Frederick County. “When people come to the courthouse with legal questions about civil matters, this center will be the first step for them. Litigants can find help navigating the courts, finding legal information, and accessing other resources to help them prepare for their cases.”
The Maryland Court Self-Help Center in Frederick is the fifth courthouse walk-in center in the state and is part of a wide array of self-help services. There are walk-in district court self-help centers in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Upper Marlboro, and Salisbury. All locations are operated by the Maryland Center for Legal Assistance (MCLA) through a contract with the Administrative Office of the Courts. The district court centers have served more than 79,000 people since the first one opened in Glen Burnie in December 2009.
“The Judiciary, under the leadership of Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera and District Court of Maryland Chief Judge John Morrissey, is committed to implementing programs that expand access to justice for Marylanders,” said program manager Lonni Kyhos Summers, Esq. “The goal is to make it easy for people to access the legal help they need.”
The Judiciary also runs a statewide center that serves litigants remotely via phone, live chat, and email, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Last year, more than 70,000 litigants were assisted in various case types, including landlord-tenant, expungement, and family law.
“The opening of the court-based self-help center in Frederick concretely reflects the commitment of the Maryland Judiciary to increase access to justice for all,” said Brian Hochheimer, chair of the MCLA Board of Managers. “This is an exciting development for Marylanders seeking guidance in navigating their legal challenges through the judicial system.”
For more information on the Maryland Courts Self-Help Centers, go to https://www.mdcourts.gov/selfhelp.
Photos from the official opening of the Maryland Court Self-Help Center in Frederick