(a) Professional Responsibility. A lawyer has a professional responsibility to render pro bono publico legal service.
(b) Discharge of Professional Responsibility. A lawyer in the full-time practice of law should aspire to render at least 50 hours per year of pro bono publico legal service, and a lawyer in part-time practice should aspire to render at least a pro rata number of hours.
(1) Unless a lawyer is prohibited by law from rendering the legal services described below, a substantial portion of the applicable hours should be devoted to rendering legal service, without fee or expectation of fee, or at a substantially reduced fee, to:
(A) people of limited means;
(B) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, or educational organizations in matters designed primarily to address the needs of people of limited means;
(C) individuals, groups, or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights; or
(D) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, or educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes when the payment of the standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization’s economic resources or would otherwise be inappropriate.
(2) The remainder of the applicable hours may be devoted to activities for improving the law, the legal system, or the legal profession.
(3) A lawyer also may discharge the professional responsibility set forth in this Rule by contributing financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.
(c) Effect of Noncompliance. This Rule is aspirational, not mandatory. Noncompliance with this Rule shall not be grounds for disciplinary action or other sanctions.
(a) Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service.
(1) Creation. There is a Standing Committee of the Court of Appeals on Pro Bono Legal Service.
(2) Members. The Standing Committee consists of the following members appointed by the Court of Appeals:
(A) eight members of the Maryland Bar, including one from each appellate judicial circuit and one selected from the State at large;
(B) a maximum of three Circuit Court judges selected from nominees submitted by the Conference of Circuit Judges;
(C) a maximum of three District Court judges selected from nominees submitted by the Chief Judge of the District Court;
(D) the Public Defender or a designee of the Public Defender;
(E) a representative from the Legal Aid Bureau, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, and one other pro bono referral organization; and
(F) a member of the general public.
(3) Terms; Chair. The term of each member is three years. A member may be reappointed to serve one or more additional terms. The Court of Appeals shall designate one of the members as chair.
(4) Consultants. The Standing Committee may designate a reasonable number of consultants from among court personnel or representatives of other organizations or agencies concerned with the provision of legal services to persons of limited means.
(b) Functions of the Standing Committee.
(1) Required. The Standing Committee shall:
(A) develop standard forms for use by the Local Pro Bono Committees in developing and articulating the Local Pro Bono Action Plans and making their annual reports;
(B) recommend uniform standards for use by the Local Pro Bono Committees to assess the need for pro bono legal services in their communities;
(C) review and evaluate the Local Pro Bono Action Plans and the annual reports of the Local Pro Bono Committees;
(D) collect and make available to Local Pro Bono Committees information about pro bono projects;
(E) at the request of a Local Pro Bono Committee, provide guidance about the Rules in this Chapter and Rule 6.1 of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct;
(F) file with the Court of Appeals an annual report and recommendations about the implementation and effectiveness of the Local Pro Bono Action Plans, the Rules in this Chapter, and Rule 6.1 of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct; and
(G) prepare a State Pro Bono Action Plan as provided in section (c) of this Rule.
(2) Permitted. The Standing Committee may make recommendations to the Court of Appeals concerning the appointment and reappointment of its members.
(c) State Pro Bono Action Plan.
(1) Generally. Within three years after the effective date of this Rule, the Standing Committee shall submit to the Court of Appeals a State Pro Bono Action Plan to promote increased efforts on the part of lawyers to provide legal assistance to persons of limited means. In developing the Plan, the Standing Committee shall:
(A) review and assess the results of the Local Pro Bono Action Plans;
(B) assess the data generated by the reports required by Rule 16-903;
(C) gather and consider information pertinent to the existence, nature, and extent of the need for pro bono legal services in Maryland; and
(D) provide the opportunity for one or more public hearings.
(2) Contents. The State Pro Bono Action Plan may include a recommendation for increasing or decreasing the aspirational goals for pro bono publico legal service set forth in Rule 6.1 of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct. The Plan should include suggestions for the kinds of pro bono activities that will be most helpful in meeting the need for pro bono legal service throughout the State and should address long-range pro bono service issues.
Committee note: Examples of long-range issues that may be addressed include opportunities for transactional lawyers, government lawyers, business lawyers, and in-house counsel to render pro bono legal service; opportunities for pro bono legal service by lawyers who are unable to provide direct client representation; “collective responsibility” for pro bono legal service when a law firm designates certain lawyers to handle only pro bono matters; and encouraging pro bono legal service among law students and in the legal academic setting.
(d) Publication. The Clerk of the Court of Appeals shall cause the State Action Plan submitted by the Standing Committee to be published in the Maryland Register and such other publications as the Court directs and shall establish a reasonable period for public comment.
(e) Consideration by the Court of Appeals. After the comment period, the Court of Appeals shall hold a public hearing and take appropriate action on the Plan.
Rule 19-502 (formerly Rule 16-902) LOCAL PRO BONO COMMITTEES AND PLANS
(2) Members. The Local Pro Bono Committee consists of at least two representatives nominated by legal services organizations and pro bono referral organizations that provide services in the county and selected by the County Administrative Judge and the District Administrative Judge, and no more than nine additional members, as follows:
(A) the District Public Defender for the county or an assistant public defender selected by the District Public Defender;
(B) at least three but no more than five lawyers, appointed by the president of the county bar association, who practice in the county and at least one of whom is an officer of the county bar association;
(C) at least one but no more than two persons from the general public, appointed jointly by the County Administrative Judge and the District Administrative Judge; and
(D) at least one but no more than two trial court judges, with the selection of any circuit court judge made by the County Administrative Judge and the selection of any District Court judge made by the County Administrative Judge with the concurrence of the Chief Judge of the District Court.
(3) Term. Each Committee shall establish a procedure for new membership, including articulating length of terms, to ensure member rotation and involvement.
(4) Chair. The County Administrative Judge shall appoint a member of the Committee to serve as temporary chair. The temporary chair shall convene a meeting at which the Committee shall elect a member to serve as chair. Each Committee shall establish a procedure by which its chair will be replaced.
(5) Full Membership. On at least an annual basis, the County Administrative Judge shall assess the composition of the Committee and take steps to ensure full membership of the Committee.
(6) Consultants. The Committee may designate a reasonable number of consultants from among court personnel or representatives of other organizations or agencies concerned with the provision of legal services to persons of limited means. Each consultant should be encouraged to attend meetings and participate as a member, providing input and assisting in the development and implementation of the plan, where appropriate, without being a voting member of the Committee.
(b) Duties of the Committee. The Local Pro Bono Committee shall:
(1) assess the needs in the county for pro bono legal service, including the needs of non-English speaking, minority, and isolated populations;
(2) determine the nature and extent of existing and proposed free or low-cost legal services, both staff and volunteer, for persons of limited means in the county;
(3) establish goals and priorities for pro bono legal service in the county;
(4) prepare a Local Pro Bono Action Plan as provided in section (c) of this Rule;
(5) in accordance with the policies and directives established by the Standing Committee or the Court of Appeals, implement or monitor the implementation of the Plan; and
(6) submit an annual report about the Plan to the Standing Committee by May 1.
(c) Local Pro Bono Action Plans.
(1) Generally. The Local Pro Bono Committee shall develop, in coordination with existing legal services organizations and pro bono referral organizations that provide services in the county, a detailed Local Pro Bono Action Plan to promote pro bono legal service to meet the needs of persons of limited means in the county. The Plan shall be submitted to the Standing Committee within one year after creation of the Local Committee. The Local Pro Bono Committees of two or more adjoining counties may collaborate and form a Regional Pro Bono Committee with approval of the Administrative Judges of the counties that wish to collaborate. With the approval of the Standing Committee, a single joint Pro Bono Action Plan may be developed for two or more adjoining counties, by collaboration of the Local Pro Bono Committees.
(2) Contents. The Local Pro Bono Action Plan shall address the following matters:
(A) screening applicants for pro bono representation and referring them to appropriate referral sources or panels of participating attorneys;
(B) establishing or expanding attorney referral panels;
(C) continuing and supporting current services provided by existing pro bono and legal services organizations;
(D) a procedure for matching cases with individual attorney expertise, including specialized panels;
(E) support for participating attorneys, including
(i) providing litigation resources and out-of-pocket expenses for pro bono cases;
(ii) providing or supplementing legal malpractice insurance for participating attorneys;
(iii) providing legal education and training for participating attorneys in specialized areas of the law relevant to pro bono legal service, including consultation services with attorneys who have expertise in areas of law in which participating attorneys seek to provide pro bono service; and
(iv) recommending court scheduling and docketing preferences for pro bono cases;
(F) methods of informing lawyers about the ways in which they may provide pro bono legal service;
Committee note: Ways in which lawyers may provide pro bono legal service include assisting in the screening and intake process; interviewing prospective clients and providing basic consultation; participating in self-represented clinics or other programs in which lawyers provide advice and counsel, assist persons in drafting letters or documents, or assist persons in planning transactions or resolving disputes without the need for litigation; representing clients through case referral; acting as co-counsel with legal service providers or other participating attorneys; providing consultation to legal service providers for case reviews and evaluations; training or consulting with other participating attorneys or staff attorneys affiliated with a legal service provider; engaging in legal research and writing; and, if qualified through training and experience, serving as a mediator, arbitrator, or neutral evaluator.
(G) coordinating implementation of the Plan with the courts, county bar associations, and other agencies and organizations;
(H) the number of hours of pro bono legal services needed annually to meet the needs of persons of limited means in the county; and
(I) programs to recognize lawyers who provide pro bono legal services.
(a) Definitions. In this Rule, (1) “AIS” means the Attorney Information System, (2) “AOC” means the Administrative Office of the Courts, and (3) “fiscal year” means the 12-month period commencing on July 1 and ending the following June 30.
(b) Required as a Condition of Practice. As a condition precedent to the practice of law, each attorney admitted to practice in Maryland, by September 10 of each year and in accordance with this Rule, shall file electronically, through AIS, a Pro Bono Legal Service Report. On or before July 10 of each year, AOC shall send electronically to each attorney registered with AIS a Pro Bono Legal Service Report approved by the State Court Administrator. The first notice to be sent under this Rule shall be emailed to attorneys on or before July 10, 2019 and shall require attorneys to report information with respect to pro bono legal service during the period January 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. This report shall be filed electronically on or before September 10, 2019. Thereafter, the Report shall include information with respect to pro bono legal service during the preceding fiscal year.
Committee note: The purpose of pro bono legal service reporting is to document the pro bono legal service performed by attorneys in Maryland and determine the effectiveness of the Local Pro Bono Action Plans, the State Pro Bono Action Plan, the Rules in this Chapter, and Rule 19-306.1 (6.1) of the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct.
(1) Notice of Default. As soon as practicable after February 10 of each year, AOC shall electronically notify each defaulting attorney of the attorney’s failure to file the Pro Bono Legal Service Report for the preceding fiscal year. The notice shall (A) state that the attorney has not filed the Report, and (B) state that continued failure to file the Report may result in the entry of an order by the Court of Appeals prohibiting the attorney from practicing law in Maryland.
(2) Additional Discretionary Notice of Default. In addition to the electronic notice, AOC may give additional notice in other ways to defaulting attorneys.
(3) List of Defaulting Attorneys. As soon as practicable after February 10 of each year but no later than March 10, AOC shall:
(A) prepare, certify, and transmit to the Court of Appeals a list that includes the name and, unless the attorney has elected to keep the address confidential, the address of each attorney engaged in the practice of law who has failed to file the Pro Bono Legal Service Report for the preceding reporting period;
(B) include with the list a proposed Decertification Order stating the name and, unless the attorney has elected to keep the address confidential, the address of each attorney who has failed to file the Pro Bono Legal Service Report; and
(C) at the request of the Court, furnish additional information from its records or give further notice to the defaulting attorneys.
(4) Decertification Order. If satisfied that AOC has given the required notice to the attorneys named in the proposed Decertification Order, the Court of Appeals shall enter a Decertification Order prohibiting each of them from practicing law in Maryland until such time as a Recertification Order applicable to a listed attorney is entered pursuant to subsection (c)(6) of this Rule. If the Court concludes that an attorney was not given the required notice, it shall delete that attorney’s name from the proposed Order.
(5) Transmittal of Decertification Order. AOC shall transmit a copy of the Decertification Order to each attorney named in the Order.
(6) Recertification; Reinstatement
(A) Notice to Court of Appeals. If a decertified attorney thereafter files the outstanding Pro Bono Legal Service Report, AOC shall inform the Court of Appeals and request the Court to enter an order that recertifies the attorney and terminates the decertification.
(B) Confirmation of Recertification. Upon entry of that order, AOC promptly shall transmit confirmation to the attorney. After an attorney is recertified, the fact that the attorney had been decertified need not be disclosed by the attorney in response to a request for information as to whether the attorney has been the subject of a disciplinary or remedial proceeding.
(7) Duty of Clerk of Court of Appeals. Upon entry of each Decertification Order and each Recertification Order entered pursuant to this Rule, the Clerk of the Court of Appeals shall comply with Rule 19-761.
(d) Certain Information Furnished to the Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service. AOC promptly shall submit to the Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service a compilation of non-identifying information and data from the Pro Bono Legal Service Reports.
(e) Confidentiality. Pro Bono Legal Service Reports are confidential and are not subject to inspection or disclosure under Code, General Provisions Article, § 4-301. Neither AIS nor AOC shall release those Reports to any person, except as provided in this Rule or upon order of the Court of Appeals. Non-identifying information and data contained in an attorney’s Pro Bono Legal Service Report are not confidential.
The December 4, 2018 order amended this Rule to accommodate the implementation of the Attorney Information System (AIS), to modify dates when certain notices and responses are due, and to make certain style changes.