What We Do
The mission of Maryland Legal Services Corporation is to ensure low-income Marylanders have access to stable, efficient and effective civil legal assistance through the distribution of funds to nonprofit legal services organizations.
The Maryland General Assembly established MLSC in 1982 as a nonprofit corporation to distribute funds from the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program and other sources for the provision of civil legal services to low-income Marylanders. In addition to IOLTA, MLSC receives funding from surcharges on certain court filing fees and a distribution from the Abandoned Property Fund. MLSC currently provides funding to 36 nonprofit grantees throughout Maryland to ensure that eligible clients in all areas of the state have access to legal assistance.
The Maryland General Assembly established a voluntary IOLTA program and created MLSC to administer it.
MLSC made its first round of grants, totaling $307,500.
The Maryland General Assembly designated $500,000 annually from the state Abandoned Property Fund for the activities of MLSC.
Then-Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin chaired an advisory council to study legal services needs. The resulting “Action Plan for Legal Services to Maryland’s Poor” served as a blueprint for the future of legal services in Maryland.
Stemming from a recommendation in the Cardin Action Plan, the Maryland General Assembly enacted legislation converting IOLTA to a mandatory program.
MLSC funded the Advisory Council on Family Legal Needs of Low Income Persons, which led to the creation of Family Court and many new laws to address domestic violence and improve the practice of family law.
The Maryland General Assembly established modest filing fee surcharges to support MLSC and created the MLSC Fund to house IOLTA, filing fee surcharge and abandoned property funds.
In response to falling interest rates on IOLTA accounts, the MLSC received a one-time general revenue appropriation of $300,000.
As interest rates continued to fall, the Maryland General Assembly increased filing fee surcharges to avert a crisis in Maryland’s civil legal services.
MLSC celebrated its 25th anniversary and created a video presenting our history and achievements.
After a pilot project, MLSC and the Administrative Office of the Courts initiated the Judicare project to expand private bar representation in contested family law cases.
The Maryland Court of Appeals implemented the IOLTA Comparability Rule, requiring banks to pay rates on IOLTA comparable to other accounts.
As interest rates hovered around 0%, the Maryland General Assembly increased filing fee surcharges, but set the increase to expire in 2013.
With interest rates not budging, the Maryland General Assembly extended the filing fee surcharge increases to 2018 and increased the Abandoned Property Fund distribution to $1.5 million.
After receiving one-time, restricted funding from a Department of Justice settlement, MLSC implemented the temporary Foreclosure Prevention and Workforce Legal Services projects.
The Maryland General Assembly removed the sunset provision on the filing fee surcharge increases and increased the Abandoned Property Fund distribution to $2 million, stabilizing legal services funding.
In response to an evolving legal services delivery system, MLSC launched a pilot Extended Representation Project with funding dedicated to providing low-income Marylanders with an attorney in court.
MLSC’s two major revenue sources – IOLTA and surcharges on certain court filing fees – were significantly reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic due to near zero interest rates and a dramatic decrease in court filings. In response, Governor Larry Hogan and Attorney General Brian Frosh announced one-time, emergency funding of $11.7 million to fund legal services related to housing security and other issues arising from the pandemic.