Legal help center opens in Montgomery County

Navigating the legal system can be difficult and expensive, but a group of attorneys in Rockville, Maryland, are making sure residents get the support they need.

The new District Court Help Center, on the second floor of the Rockville District Courthouse, is intended to help residents with everything from small claims and domestic violence to expungement and debt collection. It also provides assistance for people who just need help filling out forms.

“The idea started with my predecessor … in a tiny little office in Glen Burnie,” said Chief Judge John Morrissey. He said when he visited that office in 2014, it had already helped more than 23,000 people that year. Morrissey said the court expanded the offices to Prince George’s County, then Salisbury and Baltimore City before opening in Rockville.

“We’re trying to geographically cover the whole state,” he said.

“Perception of how the court system works is vital to a person’s experience,” Morrissey said. “If you go to court and, through the work of the help centers, you’re treated with respect, research shows that you’re going to have a much more favorable outcome. Whether you win or lose, you’re going to feel like you had your say.”

Attorneys at the help center have hit the ground running. Nicole Katrivanos, the supervising attorney, said they’re already one of the two busiest help centers in the state.

“The need for our services is very clear,” Katrivanos said. “There are constantly people coming in first thing in the morning.”

She said that if, for any reason, the center cannot support a litigant, they connect them with other organizations.

Many people who use the help center use it often.

“Sometimes we have landlords that have been here before; we have staff who are Spanish speakers. We make it a point that we can speak to our litigants in a way that they can understand the process,” Katrivanos said.

The center, which is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, has an interpreter line that can translate more than 200 languages. Residents can also call 410-260-1392 between 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., or use a chat function on the website.

Morrissey said he would like to see the program eventually begin providing pro bono work. They now hope to open another location in Charles County next July.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2022 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up