January 2013--Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler presented Legal Aid with a check for $3.6 million at a press conference January 10 in the Baltimore office. The money originated from the $26 billion National Mortgage Settlement. Five other legal aid programs also received checks: Civil Justice ($1.4 million), the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service ($930,000), the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center ($600,000), the Pro Bono Resource Center ($565,000) and the Public Justice Center ($510,000).
"The people being recognized today do God's work," Gansler (right in photo, along with Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm Joseph and Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development Carol Gilbert, left) said at the press conference yesterday. "This money will help more than 10,000 families keep their homes, not be victims of predatory lending and get thrown out of their homes. People need housing counselors and lawyers to navigate the deal, so we're giving more than $7 million to these six organizations."
"This is a very important occasion and I see lots of smiles," Joseph said. "Usually, people in this lobby aren't smiling, because they have very serious legal issues. We appreciate the attorney general for his leadership in a national role in forging the national foreclosure settlement. Because of him, Maryland ended up with a substantial settlement."
December 2012--A coalition of 28 non-profit legal and social services organizations led by Maryland Legal Aid, submitted a complaint today to the U.N. arguing that the practice of denying farmworkers the right to have visitors and social services providers the right to meaningful access to migrant farmworker labor camps is a violation of human rights law.
Legal Aid, with technical assistance provided by Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law, spearheaded the complaint submitted to Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, by legal services, healthcare, workers’ rights, anti-trafficking organizations, and other community service programs that serve migrant farmworkers, representing all 50 states.
“This is the first time in history that these types of organizations have joined together to submit a complaint to a U.N. Special Procedure,” said Lauren E. Bartlett, director, Local Human Rights Lawyering Project at the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. “The legal aid and other organizations are making history by taking such a strong stance on expanding the rights of migrant farmworkers across the United States.”
Migrant farmworkers often live on the rural farms and ranches where they work. “They are completely cut off from the rest of society,” said Reena Shah, Human Rights project director at Maryland Legal Aid, one of the organizations that signed the complaint. “They cannot get legal help or go see a doctor when they need to – even if they suffer from HIV/AIDS or pesticide poisoning or fall prey to domestic violence or even child abuse.”
“Farmers and ranchers regularly harass outreach workers and even threaten violence if they attempt to talk to migrant farmworkers,” said Nathaniel Norton, supervising attorney, Maryland Legal Aid’s Farmworker Program. “Without the right to receive visitors and access justice, the ongoing human rights violations will continue to go unaddressed and will likely be exacerbated.”
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights is expected to review the complaint and communicate with the U.S. government towards a solution to the issue of migrant camp access and the right of farmworkers to receive visitors. The joint legal aid complaint argues that a coordinated federal solution is necessary, given the widespread problem and the inconsistency in state-based policies.
October 2012--Former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti (and retired partner and past chair at Venable) was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Equal Justice Council, the private-bar fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid. “I’ve known Ben longer than anyone in this room,” said EJC co-chair Benjamin Rosenberg to a group of 35 partners from large Baltimore firms at the annual EJC Managing Partners Breakfast. “I was a summer clerk in 1968 and Ben wasn’t even a partner yet at Venable — but he was the leader of his peers and senior lawyers. In 1977, he went to Washington, and I became a partner. It felt like being a member of the Colts and Unitas had just left!”
Accepting the award, Civiletti, 77, said Maryland is fortunate to have leaders such as Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm Joseph and the EJC. “They help people who need our help desperately,” Civiletti told the lawyers. “They stepped up when others stepped down. Ask yourself this question: Could we have any semblance to equal justice in Maryland without Legal Aid?” In the photo, left to right: Civiletti, Joseph, Bell.
October 2012--Two Pro Bono Days–free legal clinics–will be held later this month. The first is Saturday, Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Randallstown branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, 8604 Liberty Road in Randallstown. The second is Saturday, Oct. 27, at Maryland Legal Aid’s downtown Baltimore office, 500 E. Lexington Street. Volunteer attorneys will be on hand to provide individual free consultations in the areas of divorce and custody, landlord/tenant, wills & advance directives, bankruptcy, expungements, government benefits, criminal and consumer law. The Baltimore County event is sponsored by Maryland Legal Aid and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. The city event is sponsored by Maryland Legal Aid, Legal Services for the Elderly, the Maryland State Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, and the Young Lawyers Division of the Bar Association of Baltimore City. The events are free and no registration is required. Bring any relevant documents with you. For more information (and for private lawyeers to volunteer), call 443/451-2810
August 2012--Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. was selected by The Daily Record as a Most Admired CEO in the nonprofit, over $10 million revenue category. The inaugural event will take place Sept. 13, beginning at 5:30 p.m., at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Inner Harbor.
Maryland’s Most Admired CEOs will honor 30 men and women who were nominated by their colleagues and associates. The nominees were evaluated in terms of leadership and vision, competitiveness and service, community leadership and service, financial performance and growth and corporate leadership and board service.
Nominees were broken down into six categories: private companies with 150 or more employees, private companies with 51 to 149 employees, private companies with 50 or fewer employees, public companies, nonprofits with more than $10 million in annual revenue and nonprofits with less than $10 million in annual revenue.
“The Daily Record is proud to add Maryland’s Most Admired CEOs to our list of prestigious events,” said Suzanne E. Fischer-Huettner, publisher of The Daily Record. “We think it is especially important that the people being honored are not only successful in every way but are also admired within their organizations for what they do.”
May 2012--Benjamin Crump, a Tallahassee, Fla. attorney who has handled many high-profile cases—including representing the family in the Trayvon Martin murder case in Sanford, Fla.—was the featured speaker at the Equal Justice Council’s 15th Annual Awards and Recognition Breakfast on May 23 at M&T Bank Stadium.
“Most of the cases my firm represents are for little people,” said Crump, who is chairman of the board of Legal Services of North Florida (a sister organization of Maryland Legal Aid) and donated $1 million to its capital campaign. “You don’t do things for the result, but because it’s the right thing to do. As lawyers, we need to take our educations out to benefit people who need help—or that education means nothing. Our finest hour is taking the call. It’s about answering the bell when it’s not a popular thing to do—not only for paying clients, but for people who don’t have money.” The EJC is the private-bar fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid.
October 2011--More than 700 guests were on hand September 24 for Maryland Legal Aid's sell-out Centennial Celebration. One hundred Champions of Justice and Human Rights were recognized after rousing speeches by Governor Martin O'Malley and guest of honor Harry Belafonte (right, with Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm Joseph)
"The Maryland Legal Aid Bureau celebrated its centennial anniversary Saturday night in Baltimore and keynote speaker Harry Belafonte struck a beautiful chord," wrote board member Erek Barron in The Daily Record. "Both Belafonte and Legal Aid Executive Director Wilhelm Joseph actually sang together on stage!"
"Belafonte entertained the crowd but also offered serious sentiments stemming from his experience as an international human rights activist," Barron continued. "The message was right on time for an organization re-energized around a human rights framework.
"Belafonte acknowledged that he was 'preaching to the choir.' But he quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, saying, "it's important that you preach to the choir because if you don't, they could stop singing," Barron wrote.
"The evening was an opportunity for Legal Aid supporters to get together, reminisce about 'the old days at Legal Aid,' and renew their commitment to Legal Aid's next 100 years," said Baltimore Child Advocacy Unit chief attorney Joan Little (one of the night's honorees). "The governor's and Harry Belafonte's speeches were excellent--and the house was packed."
Added Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, the publisher of the Daily Record, the event's media sponsor: "I hope you are incredibly proud of your team for the tremendous event you held two weeks ago," she wrote in an email to Wilhelm Joseph. "It was an honor to be on stage to celebrate 100 outstanding leaders and support the great works of Maryland Legal Aid. The entire evening was perfect and a great tribute to legal leaders. I met so many people and saw many friends in the legal community. Everyone had a great time and many are still talking about the event."
July 2011--Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr., Maryland Legal Aid’s executive director, is featured in a print and video interview in the Daily Record. “My dream is to have access to justice as available as milk and bread at the 7-Eleven,” [Joseph] said during a conversation last week with Daily Record reporters and editors. Using Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” as a guideline (all people are entitled to freedom of speech and of worship and freedom from want and from fear), Legal Aid is trying to attack the roots of its clients’ problems, making its advocacy more broad-based. “It’s really about creating a society where we are more conscious about justice, where we behave in a way that is more respectful to people and inequities,” Joseph said. To read the interview and see the video, click here.
March 2011--The Equal Justice Council, the fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid, announced this year’s awardees to be honored at its annual recognition breakfast at Camden Yards on May 25. The guest speaker is the Hon. A C Wharton, Jr., Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee. Paul D. Bekman of Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins and Scott A. Livingston of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver will be given Champions of Justice awards. The Equal Justice Associates’ Leadership award goes to Lisa Hall Johnson of Dickstein Shapiro and the Pacesetter awards will be given to Ober Kaler and Whiteford, Taylor & Preston. This year’s Trailblazers are DLA Piper, Miles & Stockbridge and Venable. The event is Wednesday, May 25 at 7:45 a.m. in the Camden Yards Banquet Room, 6th floor. Free parking is provided on Stadium Lot C. While the event is free, reservations are required by May 11. Call 410/951-7759 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 2011--An April 28th symposium will celebrate Legal Aid’s Centennial through an exploration of international and national human rights advocacy and its application to local advocacy strategies when serving the poor. The symposium will commence with an in-depth presentation on human rights followed by a discussion of the use of such rights by legal experts. The second panel will focus the discussion on a "Maryland Context" and will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Panelists and speakers include experts in the fields of human rights and legal services, including Wade Henderson, Florence Roisman, Edgar Cahn, and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell. While open to the public, this event is targeted to attorneys, law students, law professors, legal and human services providers, and college and high school students. The symposium will conclude with a cocktail reception.