Legal workshops at Anne Arundel Community College

Lawyers, judges help public with matters of the law

February 24, 2011|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

Anne Arundel Community College is hosting its annual Law School for the Public, bringing together lawyers and judges who lead workshops and field questions on such matters as traffic court appearances, wills, divorce and employees' rights.

Attorney Saul McCormick, past president of the Anne Arundel County Bar Association and creator of the event, said the program is also a chance to inform the public on the differences between what happens in real courtrooms and what is seen on television shows.

"It's not 'Judge Judy' and all these other nonsensical shows," said McCormick, a partner in the Glen Burnie law firm Lessans, Praley and McCormick. "We want to let the public see that this is the reality of the legal situation here in Anne Arundel County or in the courts that you're going to come in contact with."

The free event, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. March 5, is presented by the Anne Arundel Bar Association, the Legal Studies Institute at AACC and the AACC Foundation.

Fran Czajka, executive director of the Anne Arundel Bar Association, said the event has averaged about 60 people since it began in 2008.

"We've had a great response from a pretty wide variety of ages," she said. "We target to areas of the law that we could give people some general information and that lots of us deal with."

Czajka said those who participate in the event help direct people looking for legal advice to different services.

"People come for education purposes," Czajka said. "But if people are coming with a specific question, they might not get their question answered, because attorneys aren't there to get specific advice. But they walk away with a sense of, 'Gee, now I know what I need to do if I'm thinking of leaving my wife or my husband.' They say, 'These are the things I need to get in order.'"

Czajka said that since its inception, the event has featured workshops on wills, family law and contracts. At a time when the sluggish economy has resulted in many companies downsizing and employees being laid off, the event will offer the workshop "Pink Slips: Unemployment Law for Employers and Employees."

The event also includes a session called "Do I Need a Lawyer?" that addresses when one can tackle legal matters without representation.

Another workshop, "Traffic Light: A Quick Guide to Traffic Court, the MVA and Traffic Cameras," covers what to do before heading to court to fight a traffic violation.

"We talk to people about how to conduct yourself with the officer when you get stopped," said McCormick, who has run the workshop in the past. "Everybody who gets a speeding ticket wants to see the printout of the radar, and it doesn't exist, so we try to explain that to them. And trying to argue your way out of a ticket is probably the worst thing to do.

"We tell them that if you are going to have their case tried what's going to work and what's not going to work," McCormick added. "Some people come in to court with maybe a defendable case, but they come in so terribly disorganized and don't have their act together that it makes it difficult for a judge to really figure out what's going on."

But McCormick added that most county judges are respectful to those who bring cases to court and are not a reflection of some reality TV courtroom judges.

"You would be amazed at how many people believe that courtrooms are run like that," said McCormick, who added that he finds some TV judges to be "disrespectful and belligerent."

"I don't think you're going to find … too many judges in this county who are going to treat litigants with that degree of disrespect."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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