The House of Ruth Domestic Violence Legal Clinic is one of the largest shelter-based legal clinics in the country and provides legal, shelter and counseling services to almost 2000 victims of domestic violence each year throughout Maryland. The Clinic has a staff of over seventeen attorneys and legal advocates and is based in Baltimore, Maryland with satellite offices in Baltimore City, Prince George's and Montgomery County.

The Prince George's County offices began operating in 1993 in direct response to an ever-increasing number of requests for legal services from victims in the county. Through the Protective Order Advocacy and Representation Project (POARP), the legal clinic is able to provide on-site legal representation, advice, referrals, and safety planning to victims of intimate partner domestic violence.

Representation is provided in civil protective orders proceedings, including hearings on the merits, contempt, and modifications, peace orders and criminal accompaniments at the walk-in clinics located in the Hyattsville District Court and the Upper Marlboro Court building that houses both the District and Circuit Court. Victims of domestic violence receive legal information, services and referrals through both walk-in clinics Monday through Friday (except holidays) between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30p.m., and after hours by appointment. Many legal information, safety planning and referral services are also available by phone.

The Violence Against Woman Act (VAWA) also funds the Clinic's Help Establish Legal Protection Permanently Project (HELPP). This grant allows the Clinic to offer POARP clients services beyond the initial emergency stages by providing representation in divorce and custody cases. The grant also provides supported referrals for other legal and social needs for victim's safety. These services provide victims the ability to permanently end abusive relationships and create safe homes for themselves and their children.

In an effort to protect the rights of victims of domestic violence, the Clinic regularly monitors state and federal legislation. The Clinic also provides suggestions for changes in laws and monitors policies and procedures for consistent implementation of current statutes and policies by police, prosecutors, probation offices and court personnel.

In addition to monitoring case law and statutes, the clinic also provides representation at the Maryland Court of Appeals on issues with significant legal impact on the rights of victims of domestic violence. Most recently, the Clinic successfully litigated Katsenelenbogen v. Katsenelenbogen, 365 Md. 122 (2001). The case clarified among other things the legal standard that must be applied when addressing acts that place victims in fear of imminent serious bodily harm.

The House of Ruth is dedicated to advocacy and to bringing together forces and resources of the community, government and legislative policy, legal services, social services, education, health professional and other agencies to break the cycle of violence. As part of its outreach program, the clinic provides professional training to members of the legal, medical, social service, educational, law enforcement, business and other communities who confront domestic violence in the their work. Through this active outreach, the House of Ruth works to educate the broader community on what they can do to help.

Monica N. Player
Acting Managing Attorney for
House of Ruth
Domestic Violence Legal Clinic,
Prince George's County,
Suburban Maryland Office