Vicki Schultz, associate dean for administration at The University of Baltimore School of Law, has been named chair of the Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force. The task force was created in the 2021 legislative session by HB18, the passage of which made the Maryland General Assembly the second state legislature in the country to provide statewide access to counsel in eviction proceedings for income-eligible tenants.
“I am honored to have been asked to lead the task force comprised of subject matter experts from around our state,” said Schultz. “Through the task force, we hope to assure meaningful access to counsel for people facing eviction that will level the playing field and close an access-to-justice gap in our civil legal system.”
Effective October 1, the task force will be responsible for:
- evaluating the provision of services under HB18,
- studying potential funding sources, and
- making recommendations to improve the implementation of the access to counsel program, including necessary policy and statutory changes.
In June 2020, in partnership with the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, Attorney General Brian Frosh created the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force. That task force submitted nearly 60 significant legislative and policy recommendations to help Marylanders recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19. One of the recommendations of that task force was to provide a right to counsel to defendants in eviction proceedings.
Providing a tenant facing eviction with access to counsel is crucial, according to the attorney general. The federal government has encouraged states and localities to use federal funds for housing stability services and eviction diversion programs, including legal assistance. Frosh has urged the Hogan administration to allocate federal funds to the Access to Counsel Program created by HB 18. Without action by the state, individual counties have been left to decide whether and to what extent to fund legal services.
“The Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force is the latest in our ongoing effort to connect households at risk of eviction with resources to keep people in their homes,” said Frosh. “Now that state protections against eviction have expired, there is new urgency for legal assistance to help tenants navigate the myriad orders and resources that are available.”
By statute, the Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force consists of 15 members appointed by the Office of the Attorney General. Frosh has selected the following members to serve:
Vicki Schultz, chair
Pamela F. Newland
Pamela Cardullo Ortiz
Stuart O. Simms
The task force must issue an annual report with its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly. The first report is due on January 1, 2022.