Despite only being on the volunteer panel since 2017, Manny Turnbell, an attorney at The Holland Law Firm, has already assisted over a dozen MVLS clients with their consumer cases. Recently, he took a complicated landlord/tenant case for a client who lives in Texas and couldn’t travel to Maryland for the hearing. Through his advocacy, he was able to convince the court to let her testify by video conference and achieved a favorable outcome for the client. Often, MVLS has to contact volunteers to ask them to take on a case but Manny is one of our volunteers who will actually reach out and let staff know he’s ready for another case.
Manny has also served as a wealth of knowledge for MVLS by providing an excellent training on landlord/tenant claims filled with useful and straightforward information, and by answering questions about CLUE matters. Read on to hear more from him about why pro bono matters!
- Why do you choose to volunteer with MVLS?
There are tens of thousands of debt collection cases every year in Maryland. They are brought by large sophisticated companies, represented by attorneys who appear in the same courtrooms every week. I volunteer because consumers caught up in collection cases don’t have much of a chance without an attorney. Even people who have a defense are often pressured into settling, or lose because they don’t know the law, or don’t make the right arguments or have the right evidence. That just doesn’t seem fair.
- Do you have any stand out stories?
It’s tempting the just say “yes – read the Court of Appeals decision in Smith v. Wakefield LP” – Smith was an MVLS referral – I argued his case in the District and Circuit courts and my firm took it to the Court of Appeals, and won.
But here’s a story more characteristic of what volunteering does for people. I represented an ex-tenant. She left her apartment because of mice that the landlord couldn’t seem to get rid of. She sued the landlord to get her security deposit back, but she didn’t have a lawyer, and she lost. The trial was profoundly unfair to her. Years later the landlord sued her for back rent. I defended her – again raising the poor condition of the apartment. The court was hostile, apparently believing that rent escrow was the only remedy for bad conditions. The plaintiff wanted to argue that, because she lost the security deposit case, my client couldn’t defend herself on the grounds of property conditions. After four court appearances, the Judge forced us to settle the case – but there’s no doubt that, without representation, my client would have had a judgment against her in the full amount.
- What is your favorite part about volunteering with MVLS?
Well, winning is always nice! But the best part is knowing that I’ve made a difference – that I’ve changed what is usually a very one-sided case into something more equal, where my client will know, win or lose, that they had someone on their side.
- Why should other attorneys do pro bono?
It’s your opportunity to use your skills and experience as a lawyer to make a difference in someone else’s life. MVLS provides amazing support to its volunteers, and you’ll never be truly alone on a case. MVLS has cases for a wide range of legal specialties – whether you’re at home with deeds and estates, or you’d like to get trial experience, there are cases – and clients – waiting for your help.