Laurie Culkin Joins MVLS as Coordinator of the Human Trafficking Prevention Project
BALTIMORE, May 2, 2017 – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the largest provider of pro bono civil legal services to low-income Marylanders, today announced the launch of its Human Trafficking Prevention Project (HTPP). The project will build upon the Human Trafficking Prevention Project clinic already operating at the University of Baltimore School of Law and will expand post-conviction civil legal services to human trafficking survivors, as well as individuals at the highest risk of exploitation. The program is made possible through a grant from the University of Baltimore School of Law, which received project funding from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.
MVLS will leverage the capabilities of its staff and volunteer attorneys to provide criminal record expungement, shielding and vacate to survivors of human trafficking to remove barriers to employment, housing, public benefits and student loans, so they can move forward with their lives. MVLS’ breadth of civil legal services make the organization uniquely positioned to help these clients with other legal hurdles, including child custody, divorce, landlord/tenant disputes, tax controversy, among other challenges. In addition, MVLS will partner with victim service providers and Human Trafficking Task Forces around Maryland to lead free training on human trafficking prevention and post-conviction relief.
“Employment hurdles on top of their emotional distress can be debilitating to survivors of human trafficking, especially as they try to better their lives,” said Bonnie Sullivan, executive director of Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. “Our partnership with the University of Baltimore School of Law presents an opportunity to help survivors heal from their trauma by reducing the stigma associated with having a criminal record that resulted from a history of trafficking.”
Through the bill “Expansion of Maryland Vacating Convictions Law for Survivors of Human Trafficking” sex trafficking survivors can vacate prostitution convictions. Under the new partnership, MVLS staff and volunteer attorneys will put this law to work to help more victims of human trafficking.
MVLS hired Laurie Culkin as its HTPP coordinator. Previously, Culkin assisted in victim’s rights and family law advocacy on behalf of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in her role at Maryland Legal Aid as a University of Baltimore Public Interest Fellow. She is a member of and certified trainer for the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force. Culkin earned her J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law.
“We are thrilled to welcome Laurie to MVLS as her pro bono legal experience aligns with the critical work MVLS does throughout Maryland,” continued Sullivan. “Laurie understands that serving low-income clients, many of whom have faced trauma, involves as much emotional intelligence as it does legal skill. And, this insight is vital when helping victims of human trafficking.”
MVLS is offering a free training session for attorneys who want to provide pro bono legal services to human trafficking survivors. The session will be offered on June 9 from 9:30 a.m. until noon at the University of Baltimore School of Law at 1401 N. Charles Street, Room 102 Baltimore, MD 21201. To learn more or to register, please visit www.mvlslaw.org.
About Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)
With a 35-year history and a mission to provide access to justice for all, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) serves Maryland’s low-income residents by offering counseling and full representation for civil legal cases. MVLS matches clients with volunteer lawyers who represent them in a wide range of consumer and family situations, including foreclosure, bankruptcy, income tax disputes, landlord/tenant disputes, denial of public benefits, wills, divorce/custody and deed changes. For more information about MVLS, visit www.mvlslaw.org.