UB's groundbreaking Court Navigator Program assists unrepresented people in Baltimore City District Court.
Court navigators are undergraduate, graduate and law students who have been trained about how the court works and can help an unrepresented person navigate the steps of the court process. This program focuses on helping tenants who are suing landlords for failure to repair hazardous housing conditions such as lack of heat or hot water, leaks and mold, and vermin infestation. As indicated in a Baltimore Sun article, tenants in Baltimore experience great difficulty in enforcing their legal right to safe and healthy housing, and court navigators can help. The program also assists defendants in debt collection cases, working alongside attorneys from the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service and Pro Bono Resource Center.
Court navigators provide tenants with basic information about their legal options, assist them with filling out court forms, go with them into the courtroom hearings and into hallway negotiations, and aid with any followup steps afterward. They also help tenants with organizing their paperwork, figuring out budgets, and getting access to resources. In other words, court navigators can help unrepresented people pursue their legal cases more effectively than when they go it alone. They can also help streamline the legal process to make the court work more efficiently. Navigators assisting with debt collection help inform unrepresented defendants with information about making a defense, negotiating a settlements, and coping with a judgment against them.
Hear from our students.
UB students who helped develop the plans for the Court Navigator Program and served as UB's first navigators talk about how it works and why it's so important.
Meet your faculty supervisor.
Watch as Baltimore attorney Justin Hollimon, the program’s faculty supervisor, talks about this unique internship course and invites you to register this fall.
Ready to become a court navigator?
Download the course flyer with information on how to register for the spring 2019 Court Navigator internship course. Open to undergraduates and graduates in all majors.
Faculty, students and community partners have come together to make this project possible and to provide support and input. In addition, a large study group convened by the Maryland General Assembly, including a wide range of stakeholders, reached a consensus that this court navigator program should be implemented as a pilot, which began in September 2017.
The ideal solution for the unrepresented in civil legal cases is a right to counsel, similar to that enjoyed by criminal defendants, and indeed efforts are going on around the country and here in Maryland to try to achieve that goal. Navigators can’t do all that attorneys can do. But until and unless every unrepresented person has a lawyer, they can help level the playing field.
The value of this kind of assistance has been proven by a similar navigator program undertaken in New York, which was praised in a New York Times editorial and has showed substantial benefits, as demonstrated in its social science evaluation. Maryland’s own navigator project will hopefully improve upon New York’s version, by offering more extensive training and providing assistance at a lower cost.
If you have any questions or would like further information, email Prof. Michele Cotton.