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Md. Chief Judge Issues Pro Bono Call to Action to Save Homes

Posted Jul 8, 2008 11:15 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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In a massive public service effort to help residents in danger of losing their homes, key judges and legal professionals in Maryland are calling on lawyers in the state to join the Foreclosure Prevention Pro Bono Project.

Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, wrote a letter this week to all 33,000 lawyers in the state, asking them to sign up for training and pitch in, the Baltimore Sun reports.

"This is one of the most important pro bono initiatives of our time," Bell wrote.

The Sun reports that 50 attorneys have already volunteered for training.

The coordinated Maryland effort follows similar moves by other states, including Ohio.

"The need is obviously enormous," Esther F. Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute in Washington, is quoted saying. "The biggest issue we're seeing with this is that many of the major financial institutions that have issued the mortgages are also the clients of many large law firms. ... Those firms have contacted us to say that they would love to be able to help on this, but under the ethics rules, they would be considered potentially in a conflict-of-interest situation."

Because of the conflicts issue, it's possible, the story notes, that the chief judge's call to action in Maryland could fall disproportionately on the shoulders of smaller firms and solo practitioners, the lawyers with the least money and least amount of time to volunteer.

Training sessions begin Thursday in Baltimore and continue throughout the summer at various locations.

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