Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, the largest provider of pro bono civil legal services to Marylanders, announced today the recipients of its 2021 Celebrate Pro Bono Awards, which recognize Maryland-based attorneys, Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and community partners who volunteer their time and resources to help Marylanders navigate civil legal challenges that involve family, housing and tax situations, among other legal issues. The award recipients will be honored during MVLS’s annual Celebrate Pro Bono award ceremony on Wednesday, October 13 from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore.
“We are honored to recognize this year’s volunteers who generously give their time to help neighbors who are experiencing stressful legal issues that impact their families, homes and livelihoods,” said Susan Francis, executive director, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS). “This year’s award recipients rose above even during a global health crisis to prioritize the needs of those who are experiencing financial hardships. Because so many of our volunteers and community partners demonstrated their strong commitment to justice for all during the pandemic, we created additional awards to truly recognize the exceptional honorees this year. I look forward to congratulating all of them at this year’s Celebrate Pro Bono event.”
Celebrate Pro Bono Award Recipients
Anthony Ashton, MVLS’s Board President and MVLS’s Executive Director, Susan Francis, will present awards during the Celebrate Pro Bono reception.
- Law Firm of the Year: Stewart Law & Associates, LLC
With this award, MVLS recognizes the law firm that has provided significant services to the organization’s clients either by representing many individuals or using significant firm resources for one client. Sheila Stewart is a dedicated volunteer who has taken eight contested family law Judicare cases this year. Since joining MVLS’s volunteer panel in 2018, Ms. Stewart has helped 24 clients with family law and expungement cases.
- Volunteer of the Year: Danielle M. Mikoy, Esq.
MVLS presents this annual award to a volunteer lawyer who has contributed the most to its pro bono program through either individual client representation or expansion of the delivery of pro bono legal services. Ms. Mikoy is one of MVLS’s most dedicated volunteers in its Judicare program, handling complex and time-consuming contested custody and divorce cases. This year, Ms. Mikoy accepted four Judicare cases.
- Partnership of the Year (2): Maryland Society of Accounting and Tax Professionals (MSATP) and Rebuild Johnston Square Neighborhood Organization
MVLS gives this award to individuals or organizations that have uniquely contributed to the mission of MVLS.
MSATP has been a tremendous partner to MVLS’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC), helping to significantly expand its volunteer pool, as well as increase state-wide visibility of MVLS and its work. By supporting MVLS’s volunteer trainings, MSATP provides continuing professional education (CPEs) for CPAs and enrolled agents, creating even more incentives to volunteer for a case. MSATP hosts MVLS’s LITC tax controversy trainings at their offices, and as a result, MVLS’s volunteer pool has grown significantly with new volunteers from the far reaches of the state.
Rebuild Johnston Square Neighborhood Organization Executive Director Regina Hammond approached MVLS about aggressive development happening in East Baltimore. Residents voiced concerns about being displaced as property taxes across the community began to rise. Through Ms. Hammond’s leadership, MVLS is educating residents about estate planning, housing credits, and the My Home, My Deed, My Legacy homeowner clinics.
- Clinic Volunteer of the Year: Lawrence J. (Larry) Macklin, CPA, Esq., AEP
Larry Macklin displays a true commitment to pro bono, and this has been especially evident during the pandemic. Mr. Macklin participated in the August 2020, October 2020 and February 2021 remote My Home, My Deed, My Legacy clinics. With every clinic, he offers full representation to each of his clients, regardless of how difficult or complex the case appears to be. In these clinics he has accepted five clients with 13 distinct issues for full representation. In addition to Mr. Macklin’s service to the homeowner clinics, he has been a volunteer with MVLS since 2003, accepting more than 40 cases.
- Young Lawyer of the Year: Chelsea Ortega, Esq.
MVLS’ Young Lawyer of the Year recognizes a young attorney who contributes a significant amount of time to help low-income Marylanders. Chelsea Ortega is essential to the Consumer Protection Program (CPP) and its clinic, especially when the court reopened in person in March of 2021. Chelsea accepted 28 consumer cases this year, including several landlord-tenant cases. Additionally, Chelsea is co-chair of MVLS Community Advocacy Network (CAN) where she participates in CAN events and conducts outreach to her own network to help inspire other young attorneys to participate in pro bono service.
- Mentor of the Year: Richard Lee Adams, III, Esq.
In addition to representing his own pro bono clients, Richard (Ricky) Adams has been a loyal mentor with MVLS since 2018. He has mentored fellow MVLS volunteer attorneys in 10 estate planning and administration cases since that time, including numerous cases during the pandemic. Ricky’s continued willingness to serve as a mentor during these challenging times is greatly appreciated.
- COVID-19 Response Award: Jennifer E. Jaimes, Esq.
Ms. Jaimes has a strong commitment to helping Marylanders facing financial hardship, accepting family law cases in many different counties throughout the state, including Baltimore, Baltimore City, Carroll, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s. She has been particularly instrumental in taking on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases, where children are facing deportation. Speaking both English and Spanish, Ms. Jaimes works with many Spanish-speaking clients who represent a significantly underserved population in need of pro bono legal services.
- Special Recognition Award (2): Juanita Wills, Esq. and Joseph E. Stolz, Jr., Esq.
Ms. Wills showed incredible dedication and perseverance handling a particularly complex estate administration case so her client could have housing stability in the future. Ms. Wills dedicated 320 hours to the client’s case, which involved securing the deed of the home in the client’s name to apply for much needed property tax credits to support home improvement needs.
Mr. Stolz, a dedicated volunteer with MVLS, has been a member of the organization’s volunteer panel since 2014. In this time, he has accepted 44 complex child custody and divorce cases. He has provided legal representation to Western Maryland residents who might not otherwise have the legal help needed to resolve their cases.
To learn more about the 2021 Celebrate Pro Bono event and to see a list of the organizations whose sponsorships make the event possible, please visit www.mvlslaw.org/cpb2021/.
About Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS)
For 40 years, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) has been serving Marylanders facing financial hardships by offering free legal services and full representation for their civil legal cases. MVLS matches clients with volunteer lawyers, tax professionals and staff attorneys who represent them in a wide range of consumer finance, family and housing situations, including foreclosure, bankruptcy, and income tax disputes, estate planning, divorce/custody, deed changes, and criminal record relief. MVLS advocates for racial equity in Maryland’s legal system and works in concert with community partners to move closer to achieving this goal for future generations. For more information about MVLS, please visit www.mvlslaw.org.