New Maryland Rule Moves Toward Civil Gideon?

With the civil unrest in Baltimore still simmering, it seems a good time to pass on some potential help for indigent residents there who face civil court actions, like evictions or family law issues. A legal blogger for the Maryland Daily Record explains that the new rules might even be a small step toward “civil Gideon,” or the idea that people who need a lawyer for civil actions, but cannot afford one, should be provided legal representation the way they might be in criminal court.


The newspaper explains: “… the new rule¬†should assist impecunious clients and the pro bono attorneys that represent them to receive prompt determinations as to the waiver of filing fees.¬†Indeed, if the individual is represented by an attorney¬†retained through programs on a list¬†submitted by the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau or the¬†Office of the Public Defender there is a procedure for the clerk of the court to¬†waive filing fees without need for a court order.”


Even better, the new rule “… also provides that circuit and district courts¬†must¬†consider the Maryland Legal¬†Services Corporation income guidelines when determining whether to waive¬†filing fees. This should promote some measure of uniformity across Maryland for determining when filing fees will be waived. This is a¬†good reform and one that was promoted by the Maryland Access to Justice Commission.


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