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In the Media: Activists Push Bill Addressing Evictions; The Latest in Freddie Gray Cases

Activists for eviction reform.
Activists for eviction reform.

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Citing Thousands of Baltimore Evictions, Activists Push Bill to Make That Harder

"A coalition of activist groups calling themselves The 7,000 Families Campaign is pushing legislation aimed at making it more difficult for landlords to evict renters after a study showed widespread problems with Baltimore’s Rent Court system.

"The legislation, sponsored in the Senate by mayoral candidate Catherine E. Pugh and in the House by Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, would force landlords to provide renters with a 14-day notice and proof the property is in compliance with Maryland lead laws before attempting eviction.

“'Baltimore City sees around 150,000 rent actions and 7,000 evictions every year,' said Jessica Lewis of the Right to Housing Alliance, one of the campaign members. 'This is a problem driven not just by unaffordability, but in large part by our unfair eviction law. Without real reform, the current eviction process will continue to displace Baltimore families and destabilize communities.'

"The bill will be discussed by Baltimore's House Delegation Friday morning.

"The legislation has already faced push-back from property owners, Pugh said Thursday. She said lobbyists are trying to kill the bill before it gets a hearing."

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: Attorney General Asks State’s Highest Court to Intervene in Freddie Gray Cases

"The Maryland attorney general's office is asking the state's highest court to take up competing appeals in the Freddie Gray case, which would freeze all proceedings indefinitely as the next trial date nears.

"The agency, representing the Baltimore state's attorney's office, has petitioned the Court of Appeals to bypass the lower-level appeals process and expedite a review regarding questions over whether Officer William G. Porter can be compelled to testify against other officers while still facing his own charges.

"Porter was ordered by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams to testify in two of the officers' cases, and Porter's lawyers have been seeking to overturn the decision. In the three other cases, prosecutors failed to convince Williams that Porter is a necessary witness, and they are seeking to overturn that decision.

"The attorney general's office wrote that all five cases should be reviewed 'because they provide an appropriate vehicle for this court to consider the application of [the state immunity statute] from all sides.'

"At issue is whether the state's immunity statute can protect Porter's right against self-incrimination. Attorneys for the state argue Williams applied the immunity statute differently in the two instances now being appealed. They ask the court to resolve the issue 'before Maryland's witness immunity scheme fails to function as the legislature intended.'”

Full Article

From the Washington Post: A Historic Number of College Freshmen Expect to Protest This Year

"This past year, colleges across the country, from Yale to Towson to Claremont McKenna, were rocked by protests. Students upset over racial issues took over the president’s office at Princeton, demanded the resignation of Ithaca College’s president, and forced out the chancellor and president of the entire University of Missouri system.

"And this spring may be even more intense: Researchers at UCLA are predicting a continued rise in campus demonstrations based on the results of their annual freshman survey, which found students’ interest in political engagement at historically high levels.

"It was yet another sign that many students are not waiting for social change — they are forcing it to happen, campus by campus.

"Almost one in ten said they expected to participate in protests — the highest it has been in the 50 years the survey has been given.

"The students most likely to protest are black students, one in six of whom said they expect to demonstrate.

"More than 41 percent of all students said that helping promote racial understanding is either an essential or a very important goal for them.

"It wasn’t just concern about race: The high cost of college, student debt and sexual assault are also topics of intense interest, that could be flash points for student demonstrations."

Full Article