I truly do not have words sufficient to thank you. You knew exactly what you were doing, and you did it beautifully. You really did. You’ve also restored some of my faith that there are actually good people out there. I absolutely love people that do spectacular work.
Mr. J., MLA Client
Jayne immediately arranged to be present at MLA’s Anne Arundel/Howard office the morning of the hearing. She also configured a way to set up a safely-distanced, private computer station for the client to hear, see and be seen, and fully participate in his Zoom-based administrative hearing. This involved connecting video through an MLA laptop, connecting to audio and the microphone through the client’s cell phone, and ensuring the hearing was closed captioned. Jayne went out of her way to find a creative solution which ultimately helped Mr. J. Attorney Siegel won Mr. J.’s case, and he was provided subsidized housing and is no longer experiencing homelessness.
In September 2019, Mr. M. was represented by Miriam Sincell, Chief Attorney of MLA’s Allegany/Garrett office, in an appeal to the Circuit Court of Allegany County. The Court affirmed the ALJ’s decision. MLA appealed Mr. M.’s case to the Court of Special Appeals in January 2021. The Court of Special Appeals also affirmed the ALJ’s ruling.
Undeterred, MLA filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Court of Appeals. It was MLA’s contention that Mr. M. had a statutory right to counsel at the administrative hearing and that the ALJ, in denying Mr. M’s request for counsel, deprived him of his procedural due process rights.
The Court of Appeals issued its opinion in December 2021, and specifically interpreted the plain language of the statute to grant a patient in forced medication cases the right to counsel upon request. The Court “[concluded] that in this case the ALJ erred in declining Mercer’s request to be represented by counsel at the administrative hearing.” The Court further clarified that in these cases, “due process requires, at a minimum, verification that an individual was properly advised and knowingly and voluntarily waived the right to request counsel and elected to proceed unrepresented.”
“Maryland Legal Aid has consistently maintained that a patient’s right to request and to have the use of counsel in these cases is a clear due process safeguard within the statutory scheme intended to protect the fundamental liberty interest against forced psychotropic medication.”Chief Attorney Miriam Sincell
Pro Bono Keeps Families Together
Mr. G. came to Maryland Legal Aid (MLA) for help with a custody modification for his two daughters (ages 10 and 7). A prior custody order was put into place in May 2019, and gave residential custody to the daughters’ mother. The client received visitation in the summer and every weekend during the school year.
Mr. G.’s daughters were living with him over the summer following the custody order. In August 2020, however, there was a visitation exchange where the mother’s brother and several other men physically assaulted Mr. G., resulting in significant injuries. The mother’s brother was arrested and convicted of assault, but appealed and was released on bail.
Stressed and fearful of another attack, Mr. G. asked his daughters’ mother to change the pick-up location to a public place where the client would feel safer, such as the children’s school or a police precinct, but the mother refused. Mr. G. was unable to see his daughters because their mother was demanding he pick them up from her house, a potentially unsafe location. Mr. G. believed that he would be attacked again if he went to her home. He moved to be closer to his daughters. When he came to MLA he had been denied access to his children for more than six months.
With assistance from Pro Bono Attorney Richard Lebovitz, after two hearings, Mr. G. was awarded sole legal and primary physical custody of his daughters. He and his two young daughters are under one roof, reunited, and safe.