• Sometimes volunteers are in it for the long haul. Since 2007, Todd E. Chase of DLA Piper (USA) has been volunteering his time to St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center. Chase has taken on the arduous task of helping steer them through the legal waters involved with the sale of some property that had become a major millstone for the agency. Due directly to the pro bono efforts of Chase, St. Ambrose has been able to stop the hemorrhaging and, in turn, invest those resources to expand its other programs, specifically its Foreclosure Prevention Program which provides legal and other support to hundreds and hundreds of families facing foreclosure.
• Alison Velez Lane provides volunteer assistance in many capacities. Lane regularly takes on both pro bono and reduced-fee cases for Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. She also has taken the time to translate a number of key forms into Spanish as well as mentoring newer attorneys. In the fall of 2008, Lane conducted a legal workshop for non-lawyer executives of community-based non-profit organizations. The workshop was a great opportunity for small non-profit organizations to get free expert advice from a lawyer experienced with 501c(3) governance issues. This, in turn, helped the small non-profits better serve their low-income constituents.
• As the head of the regional office for the Baltimore Corporate and Finance Group, Kelly Tubman Hardy has a lot of demands on her time. In spite of this, pro bono work is still one of Hardy’s top priorities. She believes it is important to make time to help individuals of limited means and those who are underrepresented in the legal system. Hardy has dedicated enormous amounts of time to serving Baltimore’s Hispanic community. She does this primarily through Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services and her work with the Maryland Immigrant Rights Coalition. Hardy’s dedication, generosity of spirit and compassion have enabled her to positively affect the lives of literally hundreds of people in Baltimore.
Alex Fee Memorial Award
• Michael W. Siri, of Bowie & Jensen, LLC, is known for going above and beyond the call of duty. According to one of his colleagues, Siri “consistently handles more pro bono cases than anyone else in the firm.” Just in the past year, Siri has handled four separate cases dealing with homeowners in foreclosure. In addition, Siri also finds the time to help organize programs to ensure that other attorneys take on pro bono cases.
• In domestic violence, sometimes, just when the victim thinks things cannot get worse, the abuser files a criminal charge against the victim. If the victim loses, she could spend time in jail regardless of everything that has been done to her. This is where Michael J. Belsky, Esq., a principle in the Baltimore law firm of Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner, PA, comes in. Belsky has been volunteering with the House of Ruth for the last eight or nine years by taking on the most egregious of their criminal cases. “If I have a skill that can be put to some good,” Belsky states, “why not use it for some good?”
• Whenever clients of the Mid Shore Family on Family Violence need legal help they approach the law firm of Jennings & Treff. Since July 2003, Jennings & Treff has been representing pro bono clients in their family law and domestic violence cases. Year in and year out, Sharon Jennings and Jennifer Treff could be counted on to provide not only the expert legal advice so often out of reach for these clients but also the respect they so desperately need. The attorneys and staff at Jennings & Treff take the time to listen to their clients and treat them all with respect and understanding, regardless of their ability to pay.
Special Project Award
• Barbara Jorgenson, Esq., Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A., and Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County, has been the driving force behind the Pro Bono Family Law Clinic since its inception over nine years ago. From the outset, Jorgenson believed in the importance of mentoring attorneys new to the practice of family law. The Pro Bono Family Law Clinic meets monthly to discuss strategies, review case law and exchange ideas and experiences. Each volunteer attorney participating in the Clinic commits to taking two cases. Jorgenson is in very large part the reason this program has been so successful in helping so many.
• Since 1998, Priority Process Servers has made it possible for hundreds of Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) clients, represented by volunteer attorneys, to receive process service services without charge. Michael Daigneault recognized that it would be extremely difficult for many MVLS clients to meet all the out-of-pocket expenses for which they are responsible and generously waived the fees for them. Without Priority Process Servers’ generous donation of this service, many clients would not be able to achieve full legal representation.
We want to thank the recipients of these 2009 Maryland Pro Bono Service Awards and salute them for the tremendous work they do in communities around the state. We also want to especially thank their co-workers, colleagues and, in a couple of cases, their clients for taking the time to think enough of these deserving volunteers to nominate them for these awards.
Jon Moseley is Director of Volunteer Services & Community Outreach for the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.