Law school clinics assist clients impacted by COVID-19

The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law building in downtown Baltimore may be quiet as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Maryland. But the stay-at-home order has not stopped the school’s legal clinics from operating remotely. Students in programs such as the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic, the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, and the Public Health Law Clinic have been busier than ever providing free legal services to clients and advocating on behalf of the citizens of Maryland impacted by COVID-19. 

Here is a sampling of Maryland Carey Law’s clinic activities during the pandemic: 

Students in the Economic Justice—Consumer Clinic worked with the Maryland Access to Justice Commission to create a detailed summary of the economic stimulus bill, especially those portions that directly affect low- and moderate-income people and families. The clinic also developed public information materials focused on some of the fraudulent practices and scams targeting individuals who are trying to cope with the virus and its economic devastation. 

Public Health Law Clinic students tracked and summarized the coronavirus bills passed in the Maryland General Assembly. Students who had already been working on a policy brief on gaps in food access for children incorporated some of the policy approaches taken in response to the virus to make sure that children who are now displaced from school are getting daily meals. 

The Immigration Clinic filed four individual Emergency Requests for Humanitarian Parole (release) for medically vulnerable individuals who are in ICE detention. The clinic connected one of the individuals to a community-based bond fund that paid his bond. The clinic assisted another in communicating with his immigration attorney so that he was represented at a bond hearing and provided his son with information to facilitate payment of his bond. Additionally, the clinic is serving as local counsel to a group of public health and human rights amicus parties to the lawsuit that is seeking to force ICE to either come up with a viable plan to protect medically vulnerable detainees or release them, Coreas v. Bounds, 8:20-cv-00780-TDC (D.Md.). 

The Mediation Clinic is working with the Maryland judiciary and government agency partners to deliver and develop best practices for online mediations. 

The Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic helped one client return to work whose employer required him to stay home without pay due to an immunodeficiency disorder and advised another client with an immunodeficiency disorder regarding her legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to request a reasonable accommodation in her healthcare workplace to minimize exposure to COVID-19 patients. Clinic students are preparing one-page written guidance for medical clinics to help healthcare providers and social workers address immediate client legal needs related to employment and housing.  The clinic is also collaborating with its partner HIV medical clinic to prepare advance directives, simple wills, and powers of attorneys for clients.    

The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic is working to help low-income taxpayers and taxpayers who have not filed in the last two years to file their tax returns to receive their economic stimulus checks under the CARES Act. The clinic is also partnering with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network to provide guidance to immigrant taxpayers regarding their qualifications to receive the economic stimulus checks. 

Students in the Criminal Defense Clinic are drafting fact sheets for clients, families, and others with an interest explaining recent orders from the Court of Appeals regarding the handling of criminal cases.  Students have also drafted an op-ed on detained people in Baltimore and are working on a policy paper that outlines the rights of incarcerated people during emergencies and the authority of state actors to take action on behalf of incarcerated people. 

Students in the Gender Violence Clinic and the Youth, Education, & Justice Legal Theory and Practice class have been working to secure the release of individual incarcerated clients, advocating with the Governor, the Maryland Parole Commission, and State’s Attorneys offices on behalf of clients. The Gender Violence Clinic and Youth, Education, & Justice LTP have also been part of coalitions to develop and implement strategies designed to raise awareness of the plight of incarcerated people at risk of contracting COVID-19 and to build support for their release. Students have drafted an op-ed, focused on the need to consider and expedite the release of “juvenile lifers” in response to COVID-19. 

Unique among law schools nationally, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law requires all full-time day students to provide legal services to people who are poor or otherwise lack access to justice as a prerequisite to graduation. Named for U.S. Senator Ben Cardin ’67, the Cardin Requirement results in more than 150 students contributing over 75,000 hours of free legal service annually. 

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