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“Human Rights Lawyering” Comes to Maryland

April 23, 2012

BALTIMORE - "Human rights lawyering" is a new mission for Maryland Legal Aid, which has been selected as a project partner to explore ways to integrate human rights arguments and international law into the everyday cases handled by Legal Aid.

Chief Counsel Shawn Boehringer says basic human rights are at the root of most of their legal work.

"The three most important needs of our clients are affordable housing, access to health care, and jobs that pay a living wage. We created this human rights framework to try to address those issues."

Local staff will receive training and support to help them include human rights points in the cases they work on.

Project director Lauren Bartlett at American University says there are many international human rights conventions and treaties that have been approved by Congress and that could play a role in local court cases.

"A right to housing under the International Convention for Economic, Social, Cultural Rights. Or, talk about a right to housing might help a judge interpret state law."

Maryland Legal Aid was one of two partners selected nationwide for the Local Human Rights Lawyering Project. It's part of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. The other partner is a legal aid bureau in southern Texas.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD