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Maryland Judiciary Creates Access to Justice Department

(ANNAPOLIS, Md., September 15, 2014) Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera today announced the creation of the Access to Justice Department within the Judiciary. The new department will work to develop, consolidate, coordinate, and implement policy initiatives to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters. The Access to Justice Department will be headed by Pamela Cardullo Ortiz. For the past seven years, Ortiz has served as executive director of the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, which will end in its current form on December 31. It is anticipated that a new entity external to the Judiciary will be created in the future.

“I commend Judge Irma Raker for her superb leadership as chair of the Access to Justice Commission over the past seven years,” said Chief Judge Barbera. “It is because of the extraordinary success of the commission that we are creating a permanent Access to Justice Department. The commission’s work relates directly to a core function of Maryland’s court operations. The department will continue to support and advance access to justice innovations within the Judiciary, and help assure that access to justice for everyone in Maryland remains a top priority. Additionally, I look forward to the department collaborating with a new external access to justice partner.”

The Judiciary’s Access to Justice Department will include the existing Court Interpreter Program, which will allow the new department to focus on a range of access to justice initiatives within the Judiciary, including language access. In the wake of institutionalizing the court-based initiatives that have been generated by the commission, the creation of this department represents a significant commitment on the part of the Judiciary to continue and expand on those into the future. As part of restructuring the Judiciary’s internal governance, Chief Judge Barbera envisions a new committee comprised of judges and other judiciary personnel charged with supporting and advancing access to justice innovations.

”My work as chair of the Access to Justice Commission has been a wonderful experience and has improved access to justice for the people of Maryland,” said Judge Raker (ret.). “One major accomplishment has been bringing together Maryland’s diverse, superb legal services community to collaborate and develop a shared vision for access to justice.”

“I am grateful for the work we were able to accomplish through the Maryland Access to Justice Commission. I look forward to continuing that work through this new department,” Ortiz said. “After all that the commission has accomplished, we see this as an opportunity to take this work to the next level.”

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