Opinion: Commentary: Moving the Needle on Justice

Opinion: Commentary: Moving the Needle on Justice

59 racial justice priorities for the 2021 Legislative Session

As we know, Covid-19 did not create the systematic failings and inequities of our civil justice system and social safety net. Rather, the pandemic exacerbated these deficiencies and the significant harm they cause. To address these issues, in June, I convened the Attorney General's Covid-19 Access to Justice Task Force, a partnership between the Office of the Attorney General and the Maryland Access to Justice Commission. The purpose of the Task Force is to address civil legal challenges facing Marylanders in the wake of Covid-19.

On Jan. 11, the Task Force released recommendations on a series of 59 racial justice priorities for the 2021 Legislative Session. These address housing, economic and food security, health equity, labor protections, and adequate access to the state's legal system. These measures are intended to help poor and minority families who have suffered the worst of the hardships brought by the coronavirus. Full report here

Principal among them are:

  • A ban on civil arrest warrants known as "body attachments" for consumer debt;
  • Bolstering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as "Food Stamps");
  • Requiring employers to offer paid leave to anyone in quarantine because of exposure to the coronavirus;
  • Establishing measures so people may submit court filings in Baltimore by email;
  • Increasing free legal services by mobilizing 500 new pro bono lawyers statewide;
  • Raising fees to landlords to file for eviction, and block landlords from passing those higher fees on to tenants.

I'm hopeful that we have created a roadmap to help Maryland recover from this crisis and to put the state in a stronger position to weather the future.