MVLS launches Cy­ber Civil Clinic in South­ern Mary­land

At­tor­neys give free le­gal ad­vice to res­i­dents fac­ing fore­clo­sure

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

South­ern Mary­lan­ders who are fac­ing fore­clo­sure, are ac­tively in fore­clo­sure, or a ten­ant in fore­clo­sure can now re­ceive le­gal ad­vice at the new Cy­ber Civil Clinic in Charles County be­gin­ning on May 3, hosted by Mary­land Vol­un­teer Lawyers Ser­vice (MVLS).

An­drea D. Martin, MVLS com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant, said ac­cord­ing to Real­ty­Trac Inc., Mary­land has the third high­est fore­clo­sure rate in the coun­try.

“In South­ern Mary­land the fore­clo­sure rate is sub­stan­tial,” said Mary Jo Lazun, law li­brar­ian at the Charles County Public Law Li­brary. “They now can have an at­tor­ney pro­vid­ing them with

in­for­ma­tion to have the process work in their fa­vor. They might not have a lot of money, but the pro­ce­dure is com­pli­cated and try­ing to nav­i­gate that on their own is prob­a­bly a bad idea.”

The Cy­ber Civil Clinic will be held at the Charles County Public Law Li­brary in he Charles County Court­house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

MVLS pro­vides pro bono civil le­gal ser­vices to low-in­come Mary­lan­ders who live in ru­ral coun­ties with limited ac­cess to le­gal as­sis­tance. The com­pany re­ceived grants from the Mary­land Bar Foun­da­tion (MBF) and Mary­land Le­gal Ser­vices Cor­po­ra­tion (MLSC) to help make the fore­clo­sure Cy­ber Civil Clinic avail­able to those in Charles County and the South­ern Mary­land re­gion.

In a press re­lease Susan Fran­cis, deputy di­rec­tor of Mary­land Vol­un­teer Lawyers Ser­vice, said “We are con­tin­u­ously look­ing for ways to ex­pand ac­cess to jus­tice across Mary­land and our Cy­ber Civil Clinic pro­gram is the next step in reach­ing res­i­dents in un­der­served coun­ties.”

Lazun said the Cy­ber Civil Clinic will be a faceto-face com­puter conversation with an at­tor­ney us­ing Google Han­gouts and the par­tic­i­pants only need to bring es­sen­tial documents that will be scanned over to the at­tor­ney.

Amy Hen­nen, MVLS man­ag­ing at­tor­ney for hous­ing and con­sumer law, will be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Cy­ber Clinic on May 3. She will be sta­tioned at the MVLS Bal­ti­more of­fice and con­nected through a live video por­tal to clients logged in and Lazun will as­sist clients in us­ing the tech­nol­ogy.

“We had been look­ing at sta­tis­tics about the rate of fore­clo­sure in South­ern Mar yland and it’s still re­ally quite high con­sid­er­ing the pop­u­la­tion den­sity,” Hen­nen said. “We want to help peo­ple deal­ing with fore­clo­sure be­cause it can re­ally be dif­fi­cult for not only the in­di­vid­u­als who ex­pe­ri­ence it but also for fam­i­lies and the havoc that wreaks in the com­mu­nity are re­ally quite dev­as­tat­ing.”

Martin said this is the sec­ond Cy­ber Civil Clinic run by the MVLS. The pro­gram was orig­i­nally launched and of­fered at Wi­comico Public Li­brary on Feb. 8. “It was a sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess and it was well re­ceived,” Martin said.

This Cy­ber Clinic will specif­i­cally fo­cus on fore­clo­sure chal­lenges and will oc­cur ev­ery month. The orig­i­nal start date of the pro­gram was April 5, but it was can­celled due to low reg­is­tra­tion.

“If they are in the be­gin­ning stages there are more op­tions like mort­gage mod­i­fi­ca­tion and it’s done through in­di­vid­ual banks and as­sis­tance from a hous­ing coun­selor or at­tor­ney,” Hen­nen said. “If a law­suit has been started then there is an op­por­tu­nity to re­quest me­di­a­tion so that they have an op­por­tu­nity to sit down face to face with some­body and fig­ure out their op­tions in terms of pos­si­bly re­tain­ing the home.”

Hen­nen said pen­sion cuts, in­creas­ing med­i­cal bills, lack of sav­ings and low or fixed in­comes make peo­ple ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble to fore­clo­sures but she is de­ter­mined to help them un­der­stand what their po­ten­tial op­tions are.

“My pas­sion is help­ing peo­ple that are in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions,” Hen­nen said. “Hous­ing is a hu­man right and a lot of things are re­ally tech­ni­cal and the banks can be re­ally dif­fi­cult to deal with if you are un­rep­re­sented. The only way to pro­tect peo­ple is to have some­one on their side to ad­vo­cate for them.

For more in­for­ma­tion about re­serv­ing a spot, call 301-932-3322 or go to www.mvl­slaw.org.

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