Bar Bulletin

June, 2004

"Maryland Bar Announces 2004 Pro Bono Service Awards"

By Sharon E. Goldsmith

Once a year, the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland has the unique privilege of recognizing lawyers, judges and others in the legal profession for distinguished pro bono service to the community. This year, nine recipients will be awarded the Maryland Pro Bono Service Awards. These honorees have worked zealously to help a stranger, assist a distressed neighborhood and ensure that equal access to justice is a reality for those who would otherwise have slipped through the cracks. The dedication, persistence and compassion exhibited by these lawyers, law firms and organizations determined to make a difference set an example for the legal profession. At the Maryland State Bar Association’s (MSBA) Annual Meeting in Ocean City on June 19, the Maryland Pro Bono Service Awards will be presented to the following recipients. Here are some of their stories.

Individual Lawyer Awards
Hillary Galloway Davis of the Law Offices of Davis and Associates knows how challenging it is to find lawyers willing to represent incarcerated indigent men and women even for relatively simple civil matters. This fuels her motivation to represent these clients, which she has done for over 15 years. The cases are referred through the non-profit organization Alternative Directions. One of the most difficult obstacles for those attempting to reenter society after a period of imprisonment is the overwhelming arrearages for child support. Because of Davis’s individual pro bono representation, the Court of Appeals ruled in Wills v. Jones that a responsible parent who is incarcerated may adjust the child support modification while in prison. This landmark change in the law has made a significant difference for hundreds of (former) inmates who can now seek employment and realistically work on supporting their children.

Like most counties, Harford County has its share of domestic disputes, particularly those in which at least one party cannot afford an attorney. In those instances, lack of access to funds frequently means lack of access to justice. But the Harford County Bar Foundation, a local pro bono referral program, knows that it can rely upon attorney David McGill to represent clients who cannot otherwise afford to hire legal counsel in some of its most difficult divorce and custody cases. The clients frequently have mental health issues as well. Rather than turn the clients away, McGill manages to steer them through the process with extraordinary patience and professionalism. In 2003 alone, McGill accepted 15 cases on a pro bono basis through the program.

Young associates at large law firms are under substantial pressure to perform and maintain their billable hour requirement. In that sense, Michael Hecht of Venable LLP is no exception. Yet Hecht’s dedication to pro bono work is exceptional. In one child custody case, he represented a client for over two-and-a-half years, ultimately not only obtaining a positive result but also teaching his client how to stand up for herself and pursue certain legal remedies on her own. In addition to cases referred by the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), Hecht works on federal criminal cases, veterans’ issues and contract matters for several local churches. Hecht estimates that he spends 250 hours per year on various pro bono issues.

Since the late 1980s, Michael Pretl has helped the Community Law Center develop common law nuisance suits to improve the quality of life for Baltimore City residents. He worked on his first vacant housing case in Harlem Park in 1988 and eventually obtained the appointment of a receiver to transfer the property to a party who would develop it into a home for three families. He has also helped draft articles of incorporation and bylaws for several non-profit organizations, acquired 501(c) (3) status for other entities, helped another organization reorganize its debt, filed zoning appeals on behalf of neighborhood associations and prevented foreclosure in a flipping case. The General Counsel for the American Urological Association has continued his volunteer community work for so long due to his unwavering commitment to revitalizing poor Baltimore neighborhoods and instilling a sense of economic and social viability in the inner city.

Alex Fee Memorial Award
This award, co-sponsored by the MSBA Young Lawyers Section, is named after the two-year-old son of an outstanding pro bono lawyer, Ed Fee.

Susan Euteneuer typically represents insurance companies. Her expertise has, therefore, proven invaluable to low-income people either seeking insurance or appealing denials of coverage. In one instance, Euteneuer represented a mentally-ill teenager in an effort to obtain adequate coverage for treatment and health-related services so the family could keep the child with them in their home. Her experience with the teen convinced her to design a plan for educating mental health care professionals regarding insurance coverage and benefit many more individuals in need. The attorney from Hodes, Ulman, Pessin & Katz also uses her legal knowledge and skills to assist non-profits with insurance issues.

Sharon E. Goldsmith is Executive Director of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.



Publications : Bar Bulletin: June, 2004

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