MVLS launches Cyber Civil Clinic in Southern Maryland
Attorneys give free legal advice to residents facing foreclosure
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.