The Women’s Law Center’s efforts to promote justice and fairness for women operate on two levels. We help individuals protect their legal rights by providing information about the law and legal representation. In addition, we engage in advocacy efforts and address policy issues to achieve systemic change.
Direct Services to Individuals
Women’s Law Center provides direct legal services to individuals to help them understand and protect their legal rights. These include hotlines to provide information about the law and representation in domestic violence and family law cases. These programs include:
Protective Order Advocacy and Representation Project (POARP) – provides representation to victims of domestic violence in Protective Order hearings in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Carroll County. The protective order process is an invaluable emergency remedy to ensure safety from an abusive intimate partner. Representation is essential to help the victim present the most effective and compelling case in order to obtain all the available remedies.
Multi-Ethnic Domestic Violence Project (MEDOVI) – provides representation to foreign-born victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in immigration matters. Foreign-born victims face unique challenges based on cultural differences and language barriers. Often a victim’s sponsor for citizenship is the victim’s abuser and immigration status is used as another tool of control. MEDOVI utilizes provisions of the Violence Against Women Act to help victims obtain the immigration status that allows them to live and work legally in the United States.
Judicare – screens cases and places low-income clients involved in contested custody cases and family law cases in Baltimore County with experienced attorneys who provide their services for free to clients. A litigant in a contested family law case who is unable to afford an attorney is at a distinct disadvantage. Judicare links these clients in need of representation with attorneys who are willing to provide low bono legal services to help them protect their rights.
Limited Scope Representation Project – provides legal representation and advice about specific components of family law cases. This innovative service helps expand the continuum of services available to low income self-represented litigants by providing representation that is limited in scope.
Human Trafficking – will provide representation to survivors of sex trafficking in cases to have prostitution convictions removed. Victims who are exploited through commercialized sex are commonly arrested and convicted for prostitution. As a result, they face barriers to housing, education, employment, and government benefits, leaving them impoverished and penalized for acts they committed as a result of having been trafficked. Representation will provide these vulnerable victims with access to the new vacatur law, providing them with expanded opportunities and reinforcing that survivors of trafficking should be treated as victims, not as criminals.
Family Law Hotline – provides information about family law issues by allowing callers to speak briefly with an experienced family law attorney for free. For many callers, the Hotline is their only opportunity to talk to a knowledgeable attorney about their rights. It empowers them with information, allowing them to make more informed decisions and better advocate for themselves.
Legal Forms Helpline – provides assistance with the completion of forms to individuals filing family law cases without legal representation. The court makes standard forms available for use by self-represented litigants but they face the daunting task of navigating the legal system without professional assistance. Information about the law and guidance about the court process provides litigants with more effective access to the court system.
Employment Law Hotline – provides information about workplace legal issues. Workers benefit when they have access to reliable and practical information about their rights, assistance in assessing the merits of their case and guidance in determining how to proceed.
Policy and Advocacy
The Women’s Law Center sponsors and participates in advocacy and strategic initiatives to achieve systemic change.
Kaufman Center for Family Law – direct service programs and policy initiatives in the area of family law are conducted under the auspices of the Kaufman Center for Family Law
Kaufman Alimony Guidelines – a tool to help lawyers and decision-makers develop appropriate and equitable alimony awards
Legislative advocacy – take positions on legislation that affects women’s legal rights
Judicial Selections and Judicial Monitoring — interview candidates for judicial vacancies; when necessary, report prejudicial behavior to Judicial Disabilities Commission
Appellate advocacy – support and participate in appellate advocacy that has an impact on women’s legal rights
The Women’s Law Center conducts research about issues that impact women’s legal rights and identifies trends and emerging issues. It develops policy recommendations and works to create solutions and overcome barriers to equality for women. For example, the Women’s Law Center performed the only empirical study about family law decisions in Maryland to inform and educate advocates, policy-makers and litigants about the process by which very personal issues are resolved.
Custody and Financial Distribution in Maryland – analysis of outcomes in family law cases filed in FY99
Families in Transition – analysis of family law cases filed in FY 03 and comparison to previous report
Maryland’s Family Violence Option – analysis of implementation of the Family Violence Option
The Women’s Law Center’s numerous educational publications help individuals be aware of and understand their legal rights.