Melissa Mackiewicz (left) receives a 2012 Maryland Pro Bono Service Award from Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and PBRC Executive Director Sharon E. Goldsmith.
Melissa Mackiewicz, litigation associate at DLA Piper LLP, continually asks herself how she can couple her legal skills with her personal interests in order to help others. Taking that question to heart, she has accepted more than one hundred pro bono engagements over the past ten years, devoting over one hundred pro bono hours annually.
Her history of pro bono service is varied, accepting cases from legal services organizations as diverse as the American Bar Association to the Maryland SPCA to Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS).
Between 2003 and 2005, Mackiewicz served as pro bono counsel to the City of Baltimore as part of Project 5000. Then-Mayor Martin O’Malley vowed to take control of abandoned, derelict homes in some of Baltimore City’s roughest neighborhoods. Before seizing a property on behalf of the city under Maryland’s arcane property tax foreclosure laws, it was first necessary for Mackiewicz to determine all individuals and entities that had an interest in the property and notify them that a foreclosure action had been filed against their interest in the property. This process was essential to bring each foreclosure to final judgment but was also extremely tedious. Mackiewicz successfully prosecuted more than 50 property tax foreclosure cases, thus clearing and acquiring title to those properties on behalf of the city to allow for the renovation of those blocks and revitalization of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Since 2008, Mackiewicz has served as the coordinator of the partnership between DLA Piper’s Baltimore Office and the House of Ruth Maryland, one of the nation’s leading domestic violence centers which helps thousands of victims of domestic violence and their children find the safety and security that so many of us take for granted. Mackiewicz trains other attorneys on strategies for interviewing and gaining the trust of clients, as well as investigating and prosecuting their cases to obtain protective or peace orders.
Additionally, she recruits and mentors others in her office, providing the support many need to undertake their first protective order case. Mackiewicz has handled or supervised dozens of such cases over the years and has a remarkably high success rate.
Mackiewicz has also become very involved in issues at the core of our criminal justice system. In 2009, she first began working on the challenges to the practice of mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for children under the age of eighteen. Mackiewicz participated in a two-year project sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children, advocating for some of the over 2,300 individuals nationwide serving LWOP sentences. She conducted research to identify potential candidates for executive clemency or statutory post-conviction relief and drafted memoranda advocating for specific relief.
Today, Mackiewicz can be found giving back to her community by taking a difficult case on an emergency basis from MVLS just two days before trial or putting her Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice to work by serving as an adjunct teacher and guest lecturer to government classes in area high schools. She also devotes her time to the local boards on which she serves, including the Salvation Army of Greater Baltimore, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Baltimore, and Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.
Mackiewicz’s commitment to pro bono work is unwavering.
When asked what drives her to continue to give back, she states, “I enjoy the variety of my pro bono work and knowing that I can make a difference in someone else’s life. I recognize – but am routinely being reminded – that having a lawyer can change everything for a pro bono client.”
Mackiewicz is the recipient of a Pro Bono Service Award from the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland in 2012. Also in 2012, Mackiewicz received the President’s Pro Bono Service Award from the Florida State Bar for her out-of-state pro bono work. She was named one of Maryland’s Leading Women by the Daily Record in 2012 and was most recently chosen by Super Lawyers as a 2013 Maryland Rising Star.
Carey Moore is the Communications Manager of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.