Our VisionTo lead in providing high-quality legal services; to build on mutual respect for clients, staff, and others; to advocate for justice; and to add maximum positive value to all who request legal assistance.
Our MissionTo provide high-quality legal services to the State’s poor through a mix of services and to bring about the changes poor people want in the systems that affect them.
Our ValuesTo grow out of in-depth conversations with our clients across the state about the issues that they and their families face everyday. Maryland Legal Aid has adopted a human rights framework to our advocacy.
What We Do
Maryland Legal Aid is a private, non-profit law firm that provides a full range of free civil legal services to low-income people statewide. We serve Baltimore City and Maryland’s 23 counties from 12 office locations. Financial support for our services comes from federal, state and local governments, foundations, law firms, the United Way, and from private donors like you.
Our firm handles civil (not criminal) cases involving a wide range of issues, including child custody, housing, public benefits, consumer law (e.g., bankruptcy and debt collection), and criminal record expungements to remove barriers to obtaining child custody, housing, and employment.
Many of our local offices represent children in CINA (Child in Need of Assistance) proceedings. Other vulnerable populations, such as victims of abuse and domestic violence, seniors, migrant farmworkers, veterans, and nursing home and assisted living residents, also receive specialized representation. Maryland Legal Aid’s services include representation before federal and state trial and appellate courts, brief advice and counsel, and referrals to other sources of assistance.
Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr., Esq.
Gustava Taler, Esq.
Chief Operating Officer
Gina E. Polley, Esq.
Deputy Chief Counsel
Cornelia Bright Gordon, Esq.
Director of Advocacy for Administrative Law
Ashley F. Cheatham
Director of Marketing & Communications
Gregory L. Countess, Esq.
Director of Advocacy for Housing and Community Economic Development
Director of Development
Anthony H. Davis, II, Esq.
Director of Advocacy for Consumer Law
John Jeffcott, Esq.
Director of Information Technology
Erica I. LeMon, Esq.
Director of Advocacy for Children's Rights
Amy L. Petkovsek, Esq.
Director of Advocacy for Training and Pro Bono
Colleen E. Russell
Director of Administrative Services
Bobbie Steyer, Esq.
Director of Advocacy for Family Law
Jennifer W. R. Schauffler
Director of Grants, Contracts, and Compliance
Phillip C. Stillman
Chief of Human Resources
Warren Oliveri, Esq.
Richard L. Wasserman, Esq.
Jo M. Glasco, Esq.
Member At Large
Carlos A. Braxton, Esq.
Jessica A. duHoffmann, Esq.
Guy E. Flynn, Esq.
Manuel R. Geraldo, Esq.
Robert Gonzales, Esq.
Herman G. Hamilton, Jr.
Brian Hochheimer, Esq.
Beth Pepper, Esq.
Ronald E. Richardson, Esq.
G. Daniel Shealer, Jr, Esq.
Executive Director’s Message
While Maryland Legal Aid provides a broad spectrum of high-quality services, establishing partnerships enables us to offer more in-depth and targeted assistance to address many inter-related issues that our clients face. The power of partnerships is an integral part of Maryland Legal Aid’s daily work and long-term mission, and strategic collaborations with a wide range of community partners have significantly improved outcomes for individuals and communities.
For example, Maryland Legal Aid’s Community Lawyering Initiative is a cutting edge project that places highly-skilled attorneys directly in underserved neighborhoods to provide free, immediate, and life-changing legal assistance. Since the inception of the Initiative, Maryland Legal Aid has partnered with close to 100 community organizations and institutions to host and coordinate statewide legal clinics and events; these partners include bar associations, private law firms and in-house counsel, law enforcement, elected officials, and other local charities.
The Initiative has enabled Maryland Legal Aid staff, pro bono attorneys, and law students to dramatically expand Maryland Legal Aid’s reach beyond its 12 full-service offices to additional neighborhoods and locations. Maryland Legal Aid was also fortunate to bolster its partnership with Venable LLP through Venable’s Loaned Associate Program. Through this program, Venable attorneys are embedded in the Housing and Consumer Unit of Maryland Legal Aid’s Baltimore City office and work with staff and clients on a number of civil legal issues including bankruptcy, foreclosure and landlord-tenant issues.
These are just two of many examples of the new and ongoing partnerships that create second chances, viable options, and meaningful change for Maryland individuals and families, many of whom have been marginalized.
Maryland Legal Aid is extremely grateful for the stalwart and steady support and contributions of staff, Board, Equal Justice Council members, pro bono attorneys, volunteers, donors, foundations, governmental funders, most notably the Maryland Legal Services Corporation and the federal Legal Services Corporation, and all of our community partners, who make it possible for us to fulfill our mission and pursue our vision for a fairer and more just society for all.Wilhelm H. Joseph, Jr., Esq.
Human Rights Framework
Maryland Legal Aid was among the first legal services organization in the country to adopt a human rights framework to its advocacy. The idea grew out of a needs assessment in 2009 with our clients across the state about the issues that they and their families face every day. Among their major concerns were finding affordable housing, earning a living wage, and receiving proper healthcare.
The problems identified from the assessment were not limited to the clients with whom we spoke—they were systemic and, as such, needed to be dealt with in a broader, more holistic manner. To do that, Maryland Legal Aid looked inward to our roots as “poverty warriors” and decided to join with advocates from a cross-section of disciplines who were leading the worldwide struggle for human rights.
Human rights are rights that every person has just because they are part of the human race. The concept of modern human rights grew out of the Second World War, when world leaders and governments developed a way to promote the concepts of peace, freedom, and dignity among the citizens of the world. What they created was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which declares that everyone is equal in dignity and entitled to certain rights and freedoms, including social and economic rights.
In the United States, we have the Bill of Rights. These are the rights enshrined in our Constitution that limit what the government cannot do—for example, it cannot stop us from assembling or hold us without due process. Something that the Bill of Rights does not talk about, though, is what the government must do—for example, that it must provide education or access to health care, or housing, or unemployment benefits or food. This is where human rights come into play. For a person to live in dignity, all of these things are necessary and connected and government has a duty to fulfill these things for its people. This is what Maryland Legal Aid believes, too.
For more than 100 years, Maryland Legal Aid’s work has been about upholding the principles and values behind human rights. Maryland Legal Aid’s human rights framework enables our advocates to fight for and assert clients’ rights in new international and regional forums, and bring the conversation about social and economic rights to the forefront of legal advocacy.
- Human Rights Brochure PDF
- Universal Declaration on Human Rights Website
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Website