Rianna Eckel Interviewed by Food and Water Watch, “Advocates Urge Expanded Public Hearings About Baltimore’s Water and Sewer System”

Rianna Eckel, Baltimore Water Outreach Coordinator with MVLS is quoted in the latest press release from Food and Water Watch. The Baltimore Regional Water Governance Task Force is deemed with creating awareness and ultimately recommending a new plan of governance, and they want to hear from you! Learn more about how you can get involved below.

Baltimore City’s DPW Announces Over 75,000 Residents to Receive Water Bill Debt Relief

MVLS has been advocating for years for Baltimore City’s residents’ access to affordable water.  

On Thursday, Baltimore City announced that over 75,000 residents of Baltimore City and Baltimore County will be able to receive financial relief on their upcoming water bills. The aid will be prioritized to residents who are already participating in financial water assistance programs, like Water4All, and the State Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). Single-family residents who live in low-income housing will be prioritized next. Eligible residents do not have to do anything to access the relief and should receive credit for outstanding water bills.  

Access to this debt relief is critical to making water more affordable for residents of Baltimore. MVLS staff are actively participating with the Baltimore Right to Water Coalition, which advocates for affordable water bills, a fair dispute process, and equitable access to decisions about Baltimore’s water system. If you or someone you know is currently seeking water assistance, please visit DPW’s website for more information on current programs. 

“Board Anti-Racism Work: Perspectives from an Executive Director and Board President” Article Published by the MIE Journal

The Management Innovation Excellence for Legal Aid Journal published MVLS Executive Director Susan Francis and Board President Alexandria Montanio’s article about implementing anti-racist policies at the board level for your organization in their Spring 2023 issue.

“I’ve come back this year to further the challenge to my fellow small shop (and big shop) legal services organization throughout the country. The work we have performed at the staff level is important and ongoing, but what I want to encourage now is for more of you to engage in this work with your boards.”

Susan Francis

If you are an MIE Member, you can read the full article below.

“What Justice Looks Like” by Susan Francis

We as a society talk a lot about loving our neighbor, being kind to strangers, jumping in to lend a helping hand to someone in need. And yet, we often don’t make the connection that playing our individual roles in pursuing justice can be just as important and profound and immediate as helping a family after a house fire or helping someone cross a busy street.  

George Floyd’s interaction with the police cost him his life. Black individuals in our country are far more likely than their white counterparts to have an encounter with a police officer that leads to criminal charges, incarceration, or worse, as well as a devastating future with little hopes of stable housing or sufficient employment. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 24 percent of all arrests in America are related to drug offenses. The American Civil Liberties Union found that Black individuals are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana. This is despite the facts that that white and Black people use marijuana at an equivalent rate AND that white people make up 75% of the population and Black people make up just 14% according to the 2022 U.S Census. Those are truly shocking numbers. 

When we think about justice, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how one can plug in as an individual to help. While you and I may not be able to fix overpolicing and overincarceration with the tools available to us today, we can – as attorneys, advocates and supporters – take action right now. 

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service Elects Venable attorney, Emily J. Wilson, Esq., to its Board of Directors  

BALTIMORE (July 27, 2023) – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the largest provider of pro bono legal services to low-income Marylanders, today announced the election of Venable’s Emily J. Wilson, Esq. to its Board of Directors.  

MVLS’ Board of Directors is responsible for governance and directing the organization’s strategic plan to deliver life changing pro bono legal services to Marylanders with limited income. Board members support the mission of MVLS by investing in the program and volunteering to support clients, staff, and community partners.  

“We’re all really looking forward to working with Emily as we continue to champion MVLS’ excellent pro bono services and support the MVLS staff in their critical works” said MVLS Board President, Alex Montanio. “Emily complements our existing Board members with her great balance of enthusiasm and a thoughtful understanding of the systemic challenges MVLS clients face. We are confident the Board and the organization as a whole will benefit from her insight and we appreciate the continued partnership with Venable, whose attorneys have been long-standing supporters of MVLS.” 

“I am incredibly passionate about the extensive pro bono work that I have done in other contexts, and I would love to bring that same passion to the work that MVLS does,” said Emily. “I’m also very excited by the opportunity to become deeper entrenched in the Maryland legal community and be part of something that brings lawyers together from across the state.” 

Emily is an Associate at Venable, where she primarily handles complex commercial litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts, though she also appears frequently before state public service commissions and often assists utilities and energy companies in navigating state regulatory regimes. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Sibstrong, which develops initiatives to support siblings of individuals with developmental disabilities. Emily earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law. 

About Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service   

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) removes barriers to justice through free civil legal help, community engagement and advocacy for equitable laws. The organization 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, divorce/custody, deed changes, as well as income tax disputes, estate planning and criminal record relief. MVLS advocates for racial equity in Maryland’s legal system and works in concert with community partners to move toward a fair legal system that is free of injustice and equitably serves underrepresented Marylanders. For more information, visit mvlslaw.org.  

Community Advocacy Network Announces New Co-Chairs

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service’s Community Advocacy Network (CAN) is delighted to introduce our new co-chairs for 2023-2024, Anthony May and Dylan Elliott, who bring their unbridled passion to CAN leadership. Anthony is an MVLS board member and has served in several CAN leadership roles. Dylan is a recent University of Maryland Law School graduate and participated with CAN as a law student.

As CAN enters this exciting phase, we extend our deepest appreciation to our outgoing Chair, Chelsea Crawford, for her unwavering commitment to service. Under her leadership, CAN has made significant strides in empowering newer attorneys, law students, and enrolled agents to create a positive impact in the communities we serve. 

According to Chelsea, “Since 2018, MVLS CAN’s mission has been to nurture young attorneys in their pursuit of equal justice through pro bono service. I have been a proud steward of that mission as Co-Chair and am thrilled to hand the reins over to Anthony May and Dylan Elliott, whose commitment to pro bono service is inspiring. MVLS CAN has a bright future ahead and will continue to thrive under their leadership.”

Anthony and Dylan shared, “We are thrilled to be following in Chelsea’s immeasurable footsteps as the incoming CAN co-chairs. MVLS is an incredible force, touching the lives of so many people who need and deserve representation in civil legal matters. We hope to continue the amazing work CAN has accomplished under Chelsea’s leadership and continue to grow CAN into an even more integral part of MVLS and the pro bono legal services community in Maryland.”

With the arrival of our new co-chairs, MVLS CAN looks forward to another exciting year of volunteering, networking opportunities, professional development, and community engagement.