LA PLATA, Md. – On Monday, members of the Maryland Judiciary, representatives from the Charles County Board of County Commissioners, and Maryland Center for Legal Assistance (MCLA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Maryland Legal Aid, celebrated the grand opening of the new court help center in La Plata. The center officially opened in July and began offering walk-in services to self-represented litigants. This court help center is the second all-civil court help center, after Frederick. Although this center is in the circuit court, litigants with District Court matters can also find assistance at the center.
“Being able to provide high-quality legal help is an important component of ensuring access to justice for self-represented litigants across the state and now, in southern Maryland,” said Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader, Court of Appeals of Maryland. “Within its first four months of operation, the help center has provided more than 670 instances of service, and it is off to a great start. Help centers are an important resource in advancing the Maryland Judiciary’s mission to provide fair, efficient, and effective justice for all.”
Last year, Maryland court help centers offered more than 180,000 instances of service to self-represented litigants. The new La Plata Court Help Center, which is on the lower level of the Circuit Court for Charles County, is open Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., providing in-person legal assistance to unrepresented litigants.
“This help center is a welcome addition to our community, and we are proud to have given so many instances of service since opening its doors this summer,” said Administrative Judge H. James West, Circuit Court for Charles County. “The success of our court help center is a strong collaboration between the Maryland Judiciary and the Maryland Legal Aid.”
Through local court help centers, Maryland residents can get assistance with civil legal matters, including landlord-tenant, family law issues such as divorce, custody, child support, and guardianship, expungement, consumer matters including debt collection, the return of property, domestic violence and peace orders, and foreclosure. Additionally, court help center attorneys may assist with completing court forms, teaching individuals how to file court documents, prepare for court or mediation, and to better understand court documents.
“It really does take a village to have an idea and watch the talented employees from the legal system come together and make the plan come to fruition,” said Chief Judge John P. Morrissey, District Court of Maryland. “Last year, over 80 percent of the walk-in visitors were assisted in 30 minutes or less proving that we can deliver these types of services effectively in a short period of time. We know the La Plata court help center will continue to support those metrics here in southern Maryland.”
“We are thankful the Maryland Judiciary has opened a court help center here in Charles County,” said Charles County Commissioner President Reuben B. Collins, II, Esq. “We see how important this service is for our residents who do not have representation which provides access to the courts and helps level the playing field.”
“Many Marylanders living in poverty are unable to get the legal assistance and representation they need and deserve resulting in a tremendous justice gap. These court help centers help fill that justice gap,” said Vicki Schultz, executive director for Maryland Legal Aid. “Maryland court help centers are an innovative way to provide critical help and serve as a national example for providing access to justice.”
The Judiciary also runs a statewide center that serves litigants remotely via phone, live chat, and email, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. For more information on the Maryland Courts Help Centers, visit: https://mdcourts.gov/helpcenter