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Maryland Access to Justice Commission Names Second Annual Awards Program Winners

(ANNAPOLIS, Md. – April 18, 2012) The Maryland Access to Justice Commission has announced the recipients of its second annual Maryland Access to Justice Awards.

“The Access to Justice awards recognize individuals, programs and entities that improve the ability of all Marylanders to access the courts or to get legal help in civil legal matters so they can benefit from the rights, protections, services and opportunities that the law provides,” said retired Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Irma S. Raker, chair of the Commission.

--The 2012 Outstanding Program of the Year Award goes to the District Court Self-Help Center operated by Maryland Legal Aid. In 2011, the District Court Self-Help Center provided legal information to more than 10,000 self-represented litigants with civil cases before the District Court of Maryland. Together the walk-in center in Glen Burnie and remote-access services (phone, email and live Web chat) serve more than 1,500 individuals each month. The staff of the District Court Self-Help Center are being honored for demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to aiding those in need, responding with dedication, commitment and ingenuity in developing new services and handling the high volume, high pressure demands of a much-needed service, explained Chief Judge Clyburn of the District Court of Maryland. “Few people who come to the District Court are represented by an attorney, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help,” Judge Clyburn said. “Our challenge is to serve the needs of the many self-represented court users who may appear at any District Court location throughout the state.”

--Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, Maryland House of Delegates, and Sen. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Senate, will receive Legislator of the Year Awards.

Rosenberg, vice-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, was one of the lead sponsors of a 2010 bill that enhanced the filing fee surcharge that generated funds for civil legal services in the State during a time when interest-based IOLTA income had significantly declined. In 2011, he introduced three bills to implement the recommendations of the Maryland Access to Justice Commission designed to improve the ability of law students to enter public interest or public service practice.

Raskin, a member of the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee, the Joint Committee on the Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Regions, the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics and the Joint Committee on Federal Relations, has advanced a number of legislative issues that have enhanced access to justice in Maryland. He has done so in a number of ways, but especially by advancing the public’s understanding of the justice system and their rights under the law.

-- Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown will receive the 2012 Executive Branch Award. Brown has used his position within the Executive Branch to champion reforms to enhance access to justice for victims of domestic violence, to enhance the laws that protect the health and safety of children, and to promote access to justice for veterans. He has actively supported reforms to combat domestic violence and increase services and the accessibility of those services to victims. He worked to develop the “Maryland Domestic Violence Health Care Screening and Response Initiative” to quickly identify victims and connect them with free services including crisis and follow-up counseling, forensic examinations, law enforcement support, victim advocacy and community education.

--Two judges will share the 2012 Judge of the Year Award: Judge Karen Murphy Jensen, administrative judge for the Circuit Court for Caroline County, and retired Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Joseph F. Murphy, Jr.

Since her appointment to the Circuit Court in 1999, Judge Jensen has used her role as a judicial leader to support the expansion of access to justice in her own jurisdiction, on the Eastern Shore and across the state. She serves on the Court of Appeals Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services and has actively supported the efforts of Maryland’s local pro bono committees, especially those on the Eastern Shore.

Judge Murphy came to the bench in 1984 after a distinguished career in private practice handling criminal defense matters, and formerly as an assistant and deputy state’s attorney. First appointed to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, he was appointed in 1993 to the Court of Special Appeals, and served as that court’s Chief Judge from 1996 until his elevation to the Court of Appeals in 2007. He retired from the Court of Appeals in 2011. Judge Murphy has always been supportive of expanding access to representation for individuals, and during his tenure as chair of the Judiciary’s Rules Committee, a number of innovations were adopted that have enhanced access to justice in Maryland.

-- Connie Kratovil-Lavelle, executive director of Family Administration, Administrative Office of the Courts, will be awarded the Judicial Branch Excellence Award for dedicating her skills and energy to Maryland families who need help in negotiating the legal system and the courts. As executive director of the Department of Family Administration, Kratovil-Lavelle has become a powerful spokesperson for alternative dispute resolution that is affordable and effective. Throughout her career, she has dedicated her skills and energy to Maryland families needing assistance in negotiating the legal system and the courts, and has worked to advance initiatives that provide better outcomes for families that pass through the courts, always keeping in mind the importance of making sure all options are available to all families.

The honorees will receive their awards at the 2012 Judicial Conference, which will be held on May 11 in Annapolis.

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