Courtroom Advocacy Project (CAP)

COVID-19 UPDATES          About CAP          Volunteer with CAP          Contact the CAP Team              

COVID-19 UPDATE:          

On July 20th, 2020, the Maryland Judiciary will enter Phase III of reopening. Per Chief Judge Morrissey’s Second Amended Communication Regarding Affidavit Judgments in the District Court, the Court may begin processing and scheduling small claims debt collection matters filed on affidavit. If you are a consumer with an active lawsuit filed against you, you should be on the lookout for a summons from the court with your new trial date. Failure to appear at your hearing could result in the entry of a default judgment for the amount claimed in the lawsuit. Read the full communication here: https://www.courts.state.md.us/sites/default/files/import/coronavirus/communicationaffidavitjudgmentsdc071020.pdf  

If you are unable to attend your hearing due to illness or being in close contact with someone who is ill or symptomatic, you should call the court in the jurisdiction where you are sued to request a postponement.   

The process for scheduling these cases will vary by local jurisdiction. The best way to determine when your matter will be scheduled is to contact the court where the case was filed. Contact information for all Maryland courts is available on the Maryland Judiciary’s website: https://www.courts.state.md.us/ 

If you have not received anything from the court, you should check the status of your case on Maryland Judiciary Case Search: http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/ 

Also beginning July 20th, the court will begin scheduling certain landlord/tenant matters, including: 
(1) rent escrow actions, provided local inspection practices are capable of being conducted; 
(2) tenant holding over actions and any associated warrants of restitution; 
(3) any breach of lease action and any associated warrants of restitution;
(4) any wrongful detainer actions and any associated warrants of restitution; 
(5) processing of warrants of restitution for failure to pay rent actions 

 Beginning August 31st, the court is permitted to resume scheduling eviction actions for Failure to Pay Rent (FTPR).   

On July 25th, both federal and state moratoriums (bans) on evictions will lift. However,  a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without a court order. If your landlord is attempting to evict you without a hearing, you should contact an attorney:  

  • Maryland Legal Aid  (Statewide; advice and representation – focused on subsidized housing cases; same day representation for failure to pay rent eviction cases possible) 410-951-7777www.mdlab.org 
  • Public Justice Center (advice and representation – focused on non-subsidized housing cases) 410-625-9409www.publicjustice.org 
  • Homeless Persons Representation Project (advice and representation – focused on subsidized housing cases) 443-402-5395www.hprplaw.org 
  • Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (Baltimore City only; advice and same-day representation in rent court) 443-703-3052www.probonomd.org 
  • Disability Rights Maryland (housing cases involving a tenant or family member with a disability), 410-727-6352https://disabilityrightsmd.org/ 
  • District Court Self-Help Center (legal advice; to speak to an attorney, call 410-260-1392 or chat here.  

Though the PBRC Courthouse Clinics (Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day and Consumer Protection Project) are unable to operate while the courts are closed, we plan to resume in-court activities as soon as the court begins in-person hearings in consumer and housing cases.  

 FOR TENANTS & CONSUMERS

  • Tenants who have received a Failure to Pay Rent (FTPR) complaint in Baltimore City can reach a Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day attorney by phone or email at mchiasera@probonomd.org or 443-273-5200  
  • Consumers who have received a debt collection lawsuit in Baltimore City or Prince George’s County can reach a Consumer Protection Project attorney at sdunning@probonomd.org or 443-703-3049.   
  • If you are a former CPP or TVLD Client with questions about your case, please contact Akeria Lumpkins at alumpkins@probonomd.org or 443-703-3047.  
  • Attorneys interested in remote pro bono opportunities should see available opportunities here: https://probonomd.org/remote-service/

About CAP

The Courtroom Advocacy Project (CAP) is an innovative pro bono program providing day-of-court, limited scope representation to consumers and tenants in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County District Court. CAP Courthouse Clinics are staffed by PBRC volunteer and staff attorneys trained in consumer and landlord/tenant law.

Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day Program (TVLD)

Approximately 150,000 Failure to Pay Rent Complaints are filed every year in Baltimore City. Tenants appearing in Rent Court are almost always unrepresented, unfamiliar with court procedures, and unaware of their rights as renters (such as the right to a safe, habitable home). Even if a tenant has a clear defense to their landlord’s claim for rent—no heat in freezing temperatures, sewage backups in the basement, windows that won’t lock or shut, or clear proof that rent has been paid—a represented tenant is much more likely to prevail than an unrepresented tenant.   

PBRC’s newest pro bono program, the Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day Program (TVLD), operated its first limited-scope pro bono clinic in Baltimore City Rent Court in March 2017. Since then, TVLD volunteer attorneys have provided limited-scope representation to over 1,400 tenants in their eviction cases. The TVLD Program is supported by a grant award from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Access to Justice Department.   

In 2018, PBRC piloted its Rent Court Extended Representation Program where income-eligible tenants living in conditions that post threats to life, health, or safety are paired with a volunteer attorney for their rent escrow hearingSince then, over 40 tenants have received pro bono representation in their rent escrow hearing(s). Additionally, in partnership with Public Justice Center (PJC) and Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP), TVLD coordinates referrals for tenants with other housing matters, including breach of lease and subsidized housingThe Rent Court Extended Program is supported by a grant award from Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC).  

VIDEO: Attorney Volunteer Barry Bach on his experience volunteering with the Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day Program

VIDEO: Attorney Volunteer Cory Zajdel on his experience volunteering with the Consumer Protection Project

Consumer Protection Project (CPP)

Tens of thousands of Marylanders are sued each year under “affidavit,” a process by which a creditor can secure a money judgment in district court by filing an affidavit with documents to support their debt collection claim. Debt lawsuits filed under affidavit include hospital bills, auto loans, bail bonds, credit cards, and purchased debt. If debt collection lawsuits are not settled or disputed, consumers are subject to a money judgment and may be garnished to satisfy the debt. In contested cases, the consumer must go to trial pro se against the creditor’s attorney. The collateral consequences of a money judgment—even for a small amount—can be devastating.   

In 2012, PBRC’s Consumer Protection Project (CPP) operated its first limited-scope pro bono clinic in Baltimore City District Court and Prince George’s County District Court in Upper Marlboro. Since then, CPP volunteer attorneys have provided limited-scope, day-of-court representation to ove3,500 consumers at CPP Clinics. CPP is operated in partnership with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) and is supported by a grant award from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Access to Justice Department. 

How to Volunteer

In exchange for free substantive legal training in relevant subject areas, attorneys make a commitment to volunteer at (3) CAP Courthouse Clinics within (1) year.  

Civil Litigation in District Court:  CAP volunteers who are new to district court litigation should view the webcast training “Civil Practice and Procedure in Maryland’s District Court” for an overview of civil litigation in district court taught by experienced trial attorneys. Pro bono commitment to TVLD or CPP Clinic. Register for free webcast training.

Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day (TVLD) – Baltimore City District Court:  The Tenant Volunteer Lawyer of the Day Program (TVLD) connects tenants with day-of-court representation for their summary ejectment (Failure to Pay Rent/FTPR) hearing in Rent Court The TVLD Clinic operates every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning at Baltimore City District Court (Civil Division – 501 E. Fayette Street)Contact Melissa Chiasera at mchiasera@probonomd.org for more information.  Register for free webcast training.

Rent Escrow Low Bono Representation for Tenants – Baltimore City District Court:  Attorneys who volunteer at (2) TVLD clinics are eligible for low bono (paid) case placements at a rate of $50.00 per/hour (10 hr/max)Tenants participating in this program are screened for habitability defenses and income eligibility at the TVLD Clinic (50% of Maryland Median Income)Rent escrow hearingare held on afternoon dockets in Baltimore City District Court (Civil Division – 501 E. Fayette Street). Contact Sydney Dunning at sdunning@probonomd.org if you have questions about the Rent Escrow Low Bono Representation Program. Register for free webcast training.

Consumer Protection Project (CPP) – Affidavit Judgment Docket – Baltimore City District Court:  The Consumer Protection Project (CPP) assists Maryland consumers who have been sued by creditors in district court debcollection actions. Volunteer lawyers help consumers assert defenses in court, negotiate settlement agreements with creditors, and have the opportunity to represent consumers at trialContact Sydney Dunning at sdunning@probonomd.org if you have questions about the CPP Clinic in Baltimore City. Register for free webcast training.

Consumer Protection Project (CPP) – Resolution Docket – Prince George’s County District Court (Upper Marlboro):  At a “resolution conference,” consumers meet one-on-one with plaintiff’s counsel to negotiate and settle the case. Most lawsuits on this docket originate from purchased debt, auto financing loans, and major credit cards. Volunteer attorneys provide a legal consult to consumers where they discuss potential defenses to the claim and options for settlement. Contact Daria Zane at dzane@probonomd.org if you have questions about the CPP Clinic in Upper Marlboro. Register for free webcast training.

Contact the CAP Team

Sydney Dunning

Sydney Dunning

CAP Director

Melissa Chiasera

Melissa Chiasera

CAP Staff Attorney

Daria Zane

Daria Zane

CAP Staff Attorney (Part-Time)

Akeria "Kira" Lumpkins

Akeria "Kira" Lumpkins

CAP Paralegal