Community Legal Services Program

In the Community Legal Services Program, Community Law Center attorneys represent and provide counsel to community-based organizations to help those organizations bring their goals to fruition.

Photo by Andy Cook

Community Law Center attorneys employ diverse legal tenets and strategies to help communities organize and achieve their objectives. The focused use of these tenets constitutes a body of law known as community law. Community law ranges from capacity-building activities, such as seeking incorporation and filing for IRS and state tax exemption, to partnership formation, to implementation of creative solutions to community issues related to housing, economic development, and public safety.

Community Law Center staff attorneys are general legal practitioners. They utilize corporate law to formalize associations of active citizens. They apply crime-fighting civil laws, such as the drug nuisance abatement law and self-help nuisance abatement law, to target disruptive behavior in the neighborhoods. They employ real property laws to turn vacant lots into community gardens, playgrounds, or new structures. They use transactional law to form agreements and partnerships between distinct entities. They are well-versed in local ordinances that affect their clients’ pursuits, and communicate consistently with clients about their options.

Working with community leaders, a Community Law Center’s attorney represents the interests of Baltimore’s community associations and assists to:

  • Draft articles of incorporation and bylaws, which help associations operate effectively and efficiently;
  • Obtain 501(c)(3) status;
  • Clean and beautify vacant lots and alleys;
  • Acquire and care for community open spaces;
  • Understand the land use/development process and present community interests at zoning hearings;
  • Protest liquor license renewals and transfers and draft agreements with liquor licensees;
  • Stop drug dealers from using houses for the distribution of narcotics;
  • Draft community benefits agreements with developers in their neighborhoods;
  • Seek policy changes to improve opportunities for equitable development; and
    Bring stakeholders together to address community concerns.

Community Law Center attorneys also provide legal representation to eligible community-based organizations and nonprofit housing developers seeking to return vacant properties in Baltimore City to productive use through acquisition and rehabilitation, including:

  • tax sale foreclosure;
  • direct purchase from the city (if the property is city-owned) and/or private owner;
  • private donation;
  • acquisition planning;
  • ground rent redemption;
  • property consolidation and state property tax exemption applications;
  • lien release requests;
  • construction and financing documents; and much more!

We will work with organizations to provide the legal counsel necessary to achieve the organization’s mission and meet its goals.