If you think you need a good lawyer to protect your home from a proposed development project or some other threat, then you've come to the right place.
First of all, far too many people rush out to hire a lawyer before they know whether they really need one or what expertise the attorney should have. We can help you avoid both very expensive mistakes. Just call our Citizens Hotline at 410-654-3021 or e-mail us at Help@ceds.org to discuss of your case.
CEDS is designed to serve as a bridge between nonprofits and for-profits. In other words, we support those who need more help then nonprofits can provide. We can help you determine the quickest, least expensive strategy for resolving your development-related concerns.
When you call our Citizens Hotline we'll first review the facts of your case. We can then help you determine where the project stands in the permitting process. With this information we can advise you if the time has come to hire a lawyer. If it has then we can link you up with one of the 135 attorneys in our nationwide network. All of these attorneys have a good reputation for helping citizens win zoning, land use, and environmental cases. Beginning with Smart Legal Action, we can do much more then just find you a good lawyer.
If you wish we can also help you find a good local attorney. In fact, our preference is generally to engage local counsel. With more then three decades of success in winning hundreds of cases throughout the nation, we're very efficient at screening attorneys to find the best for our clients. Following is an example of what we can do that few others can and why citizens are much better off with CEDS on their side.
Hiring an attorney is among the most critical decisions to success. Far too many citizens hire the first lawyer who will take their case, which can be a fatal mistake. Instead, CEDS quickly researches the law relevant to your case then drafts questions we use to interview prospective attorneys. Through these interviews we separate the truly good attorneys from those who merely sound good. An example of these questions can be viewed by clicking the following title: CEDS Special Exception Interview.
This example focuses on our home state, Maryland, though we've drafted similar interviews for many other states. Of the 34,000 attorneys practicing in our home state, only a fraction of 1% could give a good answer to all seven interview questions. Finding these two- or three-dozen attorneys is something CEDS does very well.
But a lack of experience is not necessarily an insurmountable problem. Through our unique Smart Legal Action we can arm an inexperienced lawyer with much of the same knowledge a veteran would bring into a hearing room. When combined with CEDS' Politically Oriented Advocacy, Smart Legal Action allows 90% of our clients to win their cases. In comparison, citizens who hire just any lawyer win 7% of the time.
CEDS has developed an approach to winning land use, zoning and environmental cases seldom employed on behalf of citizens. This approach, which we call Smart Legal Action, dramatically increases the likelihood of victory, particularly when combined with the CEDS Politically Oriented Advocacy.
The amazing thing is that few of the hundreds of attorneys we've worked with throughout the nation follow anything remotely resembling Smart Legal Action, at least on behalf of citizen clients. We believe this is because funds are so limited in most citizen cases that even the best attorneys just can't get to these actions. However, CEDS has become so efficient at carrying out these Smart Legal Actions that we now apply them to all our cases. Following are the components of this highly-effective approach.
Permits & Approvals: The first task is to quickly identify all permits and other approvals the applicant must obtain before the project can proceed. The total number is usually about a dozen which can include: rezoning approval, a special exception permit, a conditional use permit, a wetland permit, a grading permit, a highway access permit, a discharge permit, variances, waivers, etc. CEDS then determines the status of each permit and approval so our clients do not miss a critical opportunity to influence decision-making or to appeal an unfavorable decision.
Agency Negotiations: CEDS will then speak with the staff handling each permit-approval. The purpose is to explore opportunities to resolve our clients concerns by adding conditions to a permit-approval or to prompt the agency to deny.
Decision-Making History: CEDS will review actual decisions rendered by the body which must approve the issuance of each permit or approval. This body may be a planning commission, a hearing officer, a board of appeals, or an agency. The purpose of the review is to determine if the body has ever made the decision our clients are seeking with regard to a similar project. If it has then this intelligence allows us to refine our client's case so a favorable decision becomes far more likely. If the body has never acted favorably then we usually move on to the next permit-approval. We also look at how favorable decisions have held up on appeal.
Attorney Interviews: It is only after completing the preceding research that we'll know what type of attorney our clients need. By type of attorney I'm referring not only to zoning, land use, environmental, eminent domain, and other specialties but also whether they have a good track record before the decision-making body and the appellate courts. We always interview at least three attorneys. We'll draft a set of questions designed to probe the depth of the attorney's experience and their tract record. An example of these questions can be view by clicking the following text: Special Exception Example.
Sometimes we need to gain a more thorough understanding of a case to identify the quickest, least expensive way of resolving our client's concerns. When this situation arises we recommend a CEDS Initial Strategy Analysis. For as little as a few hundred dollars we can research the facts in your case, look at the applicable laws, and talk with regulatory officials to see if we can resolve your concerns without going to the expense of engaging a lawyer. Our clients presently are winning 90% of their cases and more than half of these victories are achieved without legal action.
Funds are usually the factor which most limits the strength of citizen cases. Raising money is something else CEDS does very well. In fact, our signature fund-raiser:
nets $3,000 to $30,000 in just one night;
can be held within three-weeks of bringing us on board; and
works in even relatively low-income areas.
Following are some of the many citizen groups, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies we've helped across the nation:
Apple Greene Civic Association;
Baltimore County, MD;
Blue Ridge Coalition - Floyd County Chapter;
Chesapeake Bay Foundation;
Citizens For A Better Flathead;
Citizens to Protect Brice Prairie;
Coalition Against Surface Mining;
Echo Hill Outdoor School;
Friends of Beaver Lake;
Mannington Preservation Citizens Committee;
Martha's Vineyard Conservation Society;
Piedmont Environmental Council;
City of Pocomoke, MD;
Potomac River Association;
Saddlebrook Estates Homeowners Association;
Shawnee Preservation Society;
Southern Environmental Law Center;
State of Hawaii Office of Planning;
Talbot River Protection Association;
The Nature Conservancy;
Valleys Planning Council;
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy;
Woodland Hills Homeowners Association; and
hundreds of other groups and individual citizens.
CEDS has established a nationwide network of more then a hundred attorneys who specialize in helping citizens win land use, zoning and environmental issues. Following is breakdown of the number of attorneys by state. For a referral to an attorney in your state or to suggest someone we should add, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.
|State||Land Use, Zoning & Environmental Attorneys|
|District of Columbia||5|