MLA Spotlight: Senior Staff Attorney Louise Carwell

For 33 years, Senior Staff Attorney Louise Carwell from Maryland Legal Aid's Baltimore City Housing Unit has advocated forclients in the areas of foreclosure prevention, tax sales, consumer protection, debt collection, and chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy cases before the Maryland District and Circuit Courts and the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland.

In addition to being an extraordinary litigator, Louise is also a passionate teacher, presenter, and lecturer as adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Bankruptcy and Creditor's Rights); the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (Consumer Protection); and Stevenson University (Bankruptcy). She often makes presentations to judges, attorneys, educators, students and the general public on topics including bankruptcy, access to credit, consumer protection, foreclosure prevention, and other debtor and creditor matters.

Louise's responsibilities at MLA include not only advocating for and representing clients, but also training and working with other MLA case handlers on foreclosure, bankruptcy and consumer law matters. She is a valuable resource to colleagues from other legal services organizations, judges, and private practitioners who seek her advice and guidance on a wide range of consumer issues. Most recently, Louise was selected to serve on the board of Maryland's Better Business Bureau, where she lends her expertise in consumer law and perspective on protecting the rights of low-income Marylanders.

Louise has been recognized by her colleagues for being a stalwart legal advocate and resource for members of the legal community and is considered to be a leading consumer advocate in Maryland. She was the recipient of the Access to Justice Award, presented by the Women's Law Center of Maryland in 2009; the Legal Champion of the Year Award, presented by theMaryland Consumer Rights Coalition in 2014; and the Charlie Award, named after former MLA Executive Director Charles H. Dorsey, Jr. This award is given each year to recognize the extraordinary contributions made by a staff member to further MLA's mission of serving the civil legal needs of Maryland's most vulnerable citizens.

Cheryl Hystad, former Executive Director of Civil Justice, Inc. and Maryland Legal Aid's former Director of Advocacy shared, "Louise is a recognized expert in foreclosure prevention and was involved in helping victims of predatory lending and individuals facing foreclosure years before the seriousness of the problem was recognized by others. She is one of a very small number of people who focused on foreclosure problems prior to 2007 and who worked in the trenches helping individuals and families keep their homes."

Out of the thousands of cases/issues that Louise has handled, she recaps one of her most memorable cases as well as a project she worked on with her colleagues that enabled her to continue to grow and learn in her field:

Staff Attorney Theda Saffo and I worked with a client who had lost her Section 8 voucher due to a terrible landlord. Theda was quickly able to get the client's Section 8 voucher reinstated and she and I wrote the Complaint for Violation of the Automatic Stay and the Discharge Injunction that we filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court. The client and I tried the case before the Court over a three-day period. We won and received actual and punitive damages for the client and a large award of attorney's fees for Maryland Legal Aid.

My most notable project was in the area of sales tax. Several years ago, my Maryland Legal Aid colleagues and I worked together to address the ever worsening problem of Marylanders facing tax sales of their homes. Since then, the group's efforts resulted in several pieces of state legislation and media attention to help expand protections for Maryland homeowners.