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CONSUMER LAW TASK FORCE
Chair: Lonni Summers
Senior Attorney Advocate: Louise Carwell
Consumer Forum Posts
Consumer Law Legal Resources
From the Administration for Community Living:
Identity thieves claiming other people’s refunds rose more than 650% between 2008 and 2012, and older adults are among the most frequent targets. Last week, the US Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to discuss this scam’s impact on seniors and federal legislation has been filed to increase penalties to act as a deterrent.
Older adults are particularly at risk because one of the sources that thieves use to obtain social security numbers are records kept by nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and companies servicing Medicaid programs. Information can be stolen by unscrupulous employees or found by prying eyes. Elderly individuals are also specifically targeted by tax thieves because many of them are not required to file a tax return. As a result, they are often unaware that fraudulent returns have been filed under their name. Similarly, the Internal Revenue Service usually doesn’t realize a fraudulent return has been filed unless a return from the legitimate taxpayer is filed, resulting in a duplicate filing.
These resources can help your clients avoid becoming a victim of tax-related identify theft.
Free case consultation for elder advocates is provided by the National Senior Citizens Law Center and NCLC through the National Legal Resource Center
The FTC will bring together experts from government, private industry, and public interest groups to discuss the unique challenges facing victims of senior identity theft. The forum will include panels on different types of senior identity theft – tax and government benefits, medical, and long-term care – and will also explore the best consumer education and outreach techniques for reaching seniors.
May 7, 2013
9:00 am – 4:30 pm
601 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington DC 20001
This forum is FREE and open to the PUBLIC. It will be also be available via webcast.
For more information about the forum and the webcast, please visit the forum website: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/senior-identity-theft/
Pre-registration is not required to attend the forum but is encouraged so that we may better plan this event.
To pre-register, please send your name and affiliation to seniorIDtheft@ftc.gov
Free Training on Pension Rights! Learn from the experts at the National Pension Rights Center how to advise clients so they can get the most out of their pensions. We all know that many legal problems stem from the fact that our clients simply don't have enough money to pay their bills. By helping clients understand their pension rights, you could be helping them increase their income every month! From helping clients understand pension statements to finding lost pensions, some basic advice can go a long way. This training is appropriate for many types of advocates: including folks who handle intake, consumer law, elder law, family law, and more. Legal Aid staff, other legal services advocates, and pro bono or volunteer attorneys are all welcome!
So, join us on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 10:00 am- 2:00 pm, for What Our Clients Really Need is Money! Helping Clients Make the Most of their Pension. The training will be held at the Charles Ecker Business Training Center located at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, MD 21046. Lunch and materials will be provided.
To sign up for this free training opportunity, go to http://understandingpensions.eventbrite.com
- overview of basic features of employer sponsored retirement savings plan
-basic rules and terminology
-issue spotting pension problems
As with all Legal Aid trainings, if you are a Maryland Legal Aid staff member please consult with your supervisor and obtain approval to attend prior to registering for the training. If you have any questions please contact Yoanna at firstname.lastname@example.org .
What: What Our Clients Really Need is Money! Helping Clients Make the Most of Their Pension
When: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 10:00 -2:00 p.m.
Where: Charles Ecker Business Training Center located at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, MD 21046
From the Department of Health and Human Services:
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a final rule that will make purchasing health coverage easier for consumers. The policies outlined today will give consumers a consistent way to compare and enroll in health coverage in the individual and small group markets, while giving states and insurers more flexibility and freedom to implement the Affordable Care Act.
Today’s rule outlines health insurance issuer standards for a core package of benefits, called essential health benefits, that health insurance issuers must cover both inside and outside the Health Insurance Marketplace. Through its standards for essential health benefits, the final rule released today also expands coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, for millions of Americans.
A new report by HHS, also released today, details how these provisions will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections for 62 million more Americans.
In the past, nearly 20 percent of individuals purchasing insurance didn’t have access to mental health services, and nearly one third had no coverage for substance use disorder services. The rule seeks to fix that gap in coverage by expanding coverage of these benefits in three distinct ways:
1. By including mental health and substance use disorder benefits as Essential Health Benefits
2. By applying federal parity protections to mental health and substance use disorder benefits in the individual and small group markets
3. By providing more Americans with access to quality health care that includes coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services
To give states the flexibility to define essential health benefits in a way that would best meet the needs of their residents, this rule also finalizes a benchmark-based approach. This approach allows states to select a benchmark plan from options offered in the market, which are equal in scope to a typical employer plan. Twenty-six states selected a benchmark plan for their state, and the largest small business plan in each state will be the benchmark for the rest.
The rule additionally outlines actuarial value levels in the individual and small group markets, which helps to distinguish health plans offering different levels of coverage. Beginning in 2014, plans that cover essential health benefits must cover a certain percentage of costs, known as actuarial value or “metal levels.” These levels are 60 percent for a bronze plan, 70 percent for a silver plan, 80 percent for a gold plan, and 90 percent for a platinum plan. Metal levels will allow consumers to compare insurance plans with similar levels of coverage and cost-sharing based on premiums, provider networks, and other factors. In addition, the health care law limits the annual amount of cost sharing that individuals will pay across all health plans – preventing insured Americans from facing catastrophic costs associated with an illness or injury.
Policies in today’s rule also provide more information on accreditation standards for qualified health plans (QHPs) that will be offered through the Health Insurance Marketplaces (also known as Exchanges), one-stop shops that will provide access to quality, affordable private health insurance choices.
Together, these provisions will help consumers compare and select health plans in the individual and small group markets based on what is important to them and their families. People can make these choices knowing these health plans will cover a core set of critical benefits and can more easily compare the level of coverage based on a uniform standard. Further, these provisions help expand choices and competition on the Marketplaces.
For more information on today’s rule, visit: http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/ehb-2-20-2013.html.
To view the rule, visit: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx.
For more information on how today’s rule helps those in need of mental health and substance use disorder services, visit: http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/mental/rb_mental.cfm.
Please direct questions to HHSIEA@hhs.gov.
PJC recently published a guide to collecting on judgments in Maryland. It is helpful not only after you have a judgment, but may also help you decide to litigate a case where you might have thought suing someone would result in a mere paper judgment. The guide focuses on judgments for unpaid wages and related damages, but is also useful for judgments in other cases.
The three fundamental components of this manual are: (1) pre- and post-judgment defendant investigation and asset research; (2) prejudgment tools to proactively prevent employers and other potential judgment debtors from hiding or selling off assets; and (3) judgment enforcement, including enforcement for unpaid wages.
Check it out here:
Webinar: Understanding Property Tax Sales and What Advocates Can Do to Help Clients Avoid Tax Lien Foreclosures
Understanding Property Tax Sales and What Advocates Can Do to Help Clients Avoid Tax Lien Foreclosures
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM EST
Join us for a Webinar on February 13
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
All states permit local governments to sell property through a tax lien foreclosure process if the owner falls behind on property taxes or other municipal charges. The complicated procedure and inadequate notice in most states leave many homeowners in the dark about steps they can take to avoid a home loss. This webinar will help advocates understand the tax sale process and cover strategies to help homeowners avoid a tax lien foreclosure.
Presenter is John Rao, staff attorney, National Consumer Law Center
Additional sponsorship for this Webinar is provided by a grant from the Administration on Aging/Administration for Community Living . This webinar is part of a series of National Elder Rights Training Project webinars for the National Legal Resource Center.
There is no charge for this webinar.
All time listings are in Eastern Standard Time.
If you have any questions email email@example.com
AWARD WINNING NON-PROFIT LAW FIRM SEEKS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Civil Justice Inc., a Maryland non-profit legal services program, is seeking a full time Executive Director.
Civil Justice provides legal services, including in impact cases, to people throughout Maryland and supports a network of small firm and solo attorneys to help meet the legal needs of historically underserved Marylanders.
About Civil Justice
Civil Justice was established in 1998 to increase the delivery of legal services to clients of low- and moderate-income while promoting a statewide network of community based lawyers who share a common commitment to access to justice.
Since it was founded, Civil Justice has become a recognized leader nationally and in Maryland by: (i) helping solo and small firm lawyers integrate public interest and private practices; (ii) successfully pursuing impact ligation on consumer and housing issues affecting Marylanders; (iii) providing policy advocacy at all levels of government; and (iv) providing other essential services to homeowners in foreclosure, debtors in bankruptcy, and other vulnerable consumers who have been victims of predatory practices.
About The Position & Qualifications
The Civil Justice Board of Directors seeks applications from candidates who have the commitment and capacity to lead the organization, including in new ways. It will give preference to candidates who have five years of related professional experience (including a background in consumer, foreclosure and/or housing law and solo or small firm practice), and three years or more of active litigation practice (federal and/or state courts), and who are licensed or eligible to practice law in Maryland within one year of the hire date.
Candidates should have the ability to:
• Provide support and vision to the organization’s network of solo and small firm attorneys;
• Direct/manage the organization’s active litigation practice, create and implement a litigation plan, and coordinate with staff and outside counsel;
• Oversee the organization’s various projects;
• Lead the organization’s Development Program (which heavily relies on grant proposals);
• Direct the administration and financial management of the organization;
• Lead and implement strategic planning initiatives; and
• Exercise creativity and vision in leading the organization and developing new legal services delivery mechanisms.
Interested candidates should apply by sending a confidential resume and cover letter detailing (i) the candidate’s interest in this opportunity and (ii) salary requirements and expectations for a position to: Civil Justice Inc., Attention: Executive Director Search, 520 W. Fayette Street, Suite 410, Baltimore, MD 21201, or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Final ED Job Description.pdf||98.32 KB|
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
Foreclosure Prevention Project Manager
Immediate opening for an experienced lawyer to manage Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service’s (MVLS) Foreclosure Prevention Project. This project serves low-income homeowners in multiple Maryland counties by providing pro bono and reduced-fee legal services through a panel of trained volunteer lawyers.
The mission of MVLS is to provide quality legal services to Marylanders of limited means. MVLS is the largest pro bono legal services provider in the state both in terms of volunteers, over 3,000 lawyers on its panel, and clients served, over 65,000 since its founding in 1981. Our core pro bono program helps approximately 3,000 Marylanders every year.
- Manage intake and placement of pro bono and reduced fee foreclosure cases with MVLS volunteer lawyers.
- Administer all aspects of MVLS foreclosure prevention grant compliance, including timely submission of monthly, quarterly, and annual grant reports to DHCD or other project funders.
- Represent clients in foreclosure mediations on an as-needed basis or when MVLS is unable to place a client with a volunteer or reduced-fee lawyer.
- Provide brief advice to clients when our housing counselor is unable to assist.
- Mentor less experienced foreclosure volunteers or assign mentors.
- Interview experienced foreclosure lawyers to represent clients on a reduced-fee basis. Monitor these volunteers to ensure quality legal services are provided to clients.
- Review reduced-fee lawyer invoices and handle other administrative aspects of reduced-fee foreclosure panel.
- Supervise MVLS housing counselor to ensure client access to loan modifications and other programs available through Maryland’s mortgage settlement or other DHCD programs intended to help distressed homeowners.
- Recruit and supervise experienced foreclosure lawyers to provide case review services to housing counseling agencies on a reduced-fee basis.
- Attend all DHCD Legal Partners team meetings, trainings, webinars, etc. and stay informed about developments in state and federal housing programs that prevent foreclosure and provide loss mitigation assistance.
- Coordinate services with other Foreclosure Project Legal Partners to ensure clients receive appropriate legal services and MVLS is not duplicating services.
- Identify volunteer training needs and work with Pro Bono Resource Center to ensure MVLS volunteers and reduced fee lawyers receive up-to-date foreclosure prevention training
- Other project management duties as assigned.
- Strong written and oral communication skills
- Must possess strong time management and organizational skills
- Able to work with diverse client population and to collaborate with legal partners
- Skilled in case management, dealing with multiple priorities and deadlines
- Ability to identify and resolve problems quickly.
- Ability to work independently and manage a team.
- J.D. from an accredited law school.
- At least three years of housing/foreclosure legal experience.
- Must be admitted to practice in Maryland and in good standing.
- Demonstrated commitment to public interest
- Strong computer skills, especially Microsoft Office Suite and case management software
- Outside practice of law is not permitted
Salary commensurate with experience, in the mid $50,000 range. Generous benefits, including paid health insurance. Full-time exempt position funded through a three-year grant with Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. Employment is dependent upon grant funding.
How to Apply:
Please write “Foreclosure Prevention Project Manager” in e-mail subject line and attach cover letter and resume in Microsoft Word format.
Send email with attachments to email@example.com
Please no telephone calls.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice settled a case against Countrywide for discrimination in fair lending practices among Hispanic and African-American borrowers who received loans from Countrywide between 2004 and 2008. Awards range from $200-$15,000.
Letters were sent to borrowers in November 2012 with a deadline of January 7, 2013. (See sample letters attached.) THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED for two weeks UNTIL JANUARY 25, 2013.
Only borrowers contacted as part of the settlement are eligible. Sample letters are attached. Questions about the settlement should be directed to (800) 843-5148 or info@CWFLSettlement.com.
|National single borrower sample letter.pdf||399.97 KB|
|National multiple borrower sample letter.pdf||416.82 KB|
This introductory course will get you up to speed on your first debt collection abuse cases. Learn about the laws protecting consumers from abusive debt collection practices and proceed to more in-depth sessions on developing these cases and a fair debt collection law practice. Faculty includes top consumer lawyers from across the country. CLE credit is available in most states (up to 15 hours).
The tenative agenda is available at: http://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/conferences_and_webinars/fdcp/2013/fdcp2013-agenda.pdf
Maryland Legal Aid advocates who are interested in attending should complete a Level 2 training request form and submit to Yoanna at firstname.lastname@example.org by January 18, 2013. This will allow us time to approve requests and where appropriate submit scholarship applications by the January 28 scholarship deadline.
If you are a member of the Task Force, find the GoToMeeting information at:
Be sure to sign in to see the page.
Locations of meetings for 2013:
Feb. 19 – Metro
April 16 – Baltimore
June 18 – Metro
Aug. 20 – Baltimore
Oct. 15 – Metro
Dec. 17 – Baltimore
for addresses of the above offices, go to: http://www.mdlab.org/About%20Us
At our last Consumer Law Task Force meeting, the group expressed an interest in signing on to PJC’s amicus brief in O’Brien v. Bank of America, No. 824 (Court of Special Appeals 2012). PJC should have a draft of its brief by January 4 and will circulate the draft brief to those who have expressed an interest in signing on. If you are interested in reviewing the brief and participating in a short LAB conference call on Monday January 7 at 9:30am, please email me at email@example.com.
About the case:
Plaintiff O’Brien appeals the Baltimore City Circuit Court’s decision finding that Section 11-603(c) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article does not violate the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Section 43 of the Maryland Constitution, and/or Article 19 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. PJC's brief will focus on the due process issue, specifically arguing that it is never acceptable to permit joint spousal accounts or trust accounts to be frozen pending a court’s decision regarding their attachment, since Section 11-603 exempts those accounts from garnishment, and because of the protection provided by Maryland common law to tenancy of the entireties property.
In furtherance of an amicus brief, the Public Justice Center would like our help gathering information regarding garnishment of joint accounts in Maryland.
The type of information PJC is looking for:
-anecdotes regarding garnishment of joint accounts (e.g., how long individuals' bank accounts are tied up before they can get them released, how the process affects people, the difficulty people have in figuring out what to do)
-the frequency of garnishment of joint accounts (e.g. how many callers or clients do you see with this issue and over what period of time)
If you have information or anecdotes to share, please contact Jean Zachariasiewicz, Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow, Public Justice Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 625-9409 ext. 222.
Thanks so much for your help.
Space is limited.
The Maryland Crime Victim's Resource Center (MCVRC) has developed some new tools for people faced with identity theft. You can find some good material about identity theft on the People's Law Library, written by MCVRC staff, at http://www.peoples-law.org/node/3338.
In addition, MCVRC has created an online interactive interview for clients to help them prepare the documents needed to try to correct problems arising from identity theft, as described in the article on the People's Law Library above.
The directions from the article above specifically for using the interviews:
To use the interactive interview for responding to someone collecting a bill that is in your name, but a bill you did not authorize, you will need a copy of the bill in hand when you start the interview.
You will also need to provide a copy of your proof of your identity.
Click below to use the interactive interview for a Letter to a Creditor, directly collecting their own bill. This might be a credit card statement you received that contains charges you didn’t make or authorize. It can be any situation where your credit or identity was used without your permission.
To use the interactive interview for responding to a company or law firm that is a Debt Collector, or collecting a bill that is in your name but you did not authorize, you will need a copy of their letter in hand when you start the interview.
You will also need to provide a copy of your police report and proof of your identity, by copying these and putting them in the letter. Click below to use the interactive interview for a Letter to Debt Collector.
To use the interactive interview to create a letter to a Credit Bureau, seeking investigation and removal from your credit report of items that are the result of identity theft, you will need a copy of your credit report in hand when you start the interview.
You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau here. You do not have to pay for a copy of your credit report. One credit report from each company is available to you free each year. You can get a copy of your credit report from Annual Credit Report.
You will mail the letter and attachment, a copy of your credit report with the incorrect items circled, a copy of the police report you made of the identity theft and proof of your identity with the letter.
Click below to use the interactive interview for a Letter to a Credit Bureau.
On December 17, 2012 at 2 pm EST, NITVAN will be hosting a free webinar on the use
of identity theft by domestic violence perpetrators as a method of
power and control. Featured speakers include Erika A. Sussman, the Executive
Director of the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice, Sara Shoener, Project
Manager of the Consumer Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors Initiative at
CSAJ, and Deirdre Keys, the coordinator of the Minnesota Identity Theft
Coalition. Contact Merry O'Brien on 301-952-0063 or email@example.com
At the Sept. 27, 2012 Health Care Reform Coordinating Council meeting, Maryland chose the state employee health plan as the benchmark for Maryland's essential health benefits (EHB).
See http://www.healthreform.maryland.gov/maryland-moving-forward/essential-health-benefits/ for the materials from the meeting and reports from the EHB Advisory Committee and Wakely Consulting.
Media coverage includes:
Md. health reform panel approves state health plan as benchmark in health care reform
By Associated Press
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A Maryland panel working on implementing federal health care reform voted Thursday to use the state employee health plan as a benchmark for other plans that will be available to small businesses and individuals for two years, starting in 2014.
To view the entire article, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-health-reform-panel-to-vote-on-states-benchmark-health-benefit-plan/2012/09/27/e188303a-0862-11e2-9eea-333857f6a7bd_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend
Maryland picks model for essential health insurance benefits
Coverage includes acupuncture and pediatric dental
By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun
September 27 2012, 8:57 PM EDT
Under national health care reform, insurance policies in Maryland will be required to cover acupuncture for pain management and chiropractic care in certain cases.
The complete article can be viewed at:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/maryland-health/bs-hs-health-reform-vote-20120927,0,7774664.story Maryland picks model for essential health insurance benefits