Every October, the American Bar Association marks the last week of October with a national celebration of pro bono. Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) is proud to announce that the following attorneys and partners will receive a 2023 pro bono award at our local Celebrate Pro Bono Awards Ceremony on October 17, 2023. MVLS’ awards are given to volunteers and partners who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to pro bono and to our community; their service makes the ideal of justice for all a reality.
Volunteers of the Year
Volunteer of the Year
Daniell G. Casson
A volunteer since 2014, Danielle’s unwavering support of MVLS’ family law and estate administration clients has been an inspiration. Accompanying clients during some of the most difficult moments of a family law dispute or following the death of a loved one is no small task, and Danielle has taken 12 estate or deed change cases, 2 custody cases, 1 guardianship case, and 1 mortgage foreclosure case in the past year alone.
Law Firms of the Year – this year’s award goes to two outstanding firms:
The Law Offices of Curtis Cooper
Curtis often answers the call for MVLS’ most challenging family law cases. This year alone, he helped clients navigate child support, child custody, name changes, and adult guardianship. His clients and colleagues alike appreciate his steady and persistent approach to pursuing the best outcome for them and their families.
Jennifer is an incredible asset to the MVLS volunteer panel, serving clients across a broad range of issues including custody, divorce, deed change, and student loan debt. Jennifer Jones consistently goes above and beyond in her cases, recently devoting an incredible 119 hours of service to represent one of her client.
Young Volunteer of the Year
Sara Y. Lucas
Since joining MVLS volunteer panel in 2020, Sara has been a star volunteer. This year alone, she took on an impressive 16 pro bono cases in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, deed change, and birth certificate change. Sara often opts to helps non-English speaking clients, as their cases can be harder to place.
Appellate Advocacy Awards – this year’s special recognition for appellate advocacy goes to two award winners:
Andrew Levy of Annette DeCesaris, Attorney at Law
After winning a family law case, Andrew was dismayed to learn that the judge ordered his pro bono client to pay the opposing party’s attorneys fees on the basis that his client had received free representation. Recognizing that this ruling was not just unfair, but that it would have a devastating impact on pro bono work, Andrew dedicated himself to appealing the decision.
Brown, Goldstein & Levy
Upon hearing about the appellate case that Andrew was taking on, Brown, Goldstein & Levy’s Anthony May offered to draft an amicus brief on behalf of MVLS and other legal services organizations across the state. The brief supported Andrew’s argument about the bad precedent that the lower court’s opinion would set. The firm’s expertise in appellate law was incredible, as was the time volunteered to prepare and submit the brief.
Special Recognition Award
Since his retirement, Ed has dedicated his time to assisting with pro bono estate planning and administration cases. In the past year alone, Ed has accepted an outstanding 25 of these cases – and he consistently reaches out to do more. For clients, resolving estate planning and administration issues often is the key to housing and financial stability for themselves and for their families.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Lawrence G. Coppel
For fifty years, Larry practiced law at Gordon Feinblatt where he made a name for himself and the firm. Throughout his impressive career, and to this day, Larry maintains his commitment to providing pro bono representation and to supporting MVLS’ work across the state. Larry has handled 185 MVLS cases, the vast majority of which were bankruptcies which, once resolved, provide incredible relief and a fresh start for his clients. Larry’s leadership and service as an MVLS board member, president, and current advisory board member continue to influence MVLS’ ability to deliver on our mission.
10 Year Award – for taking at least one case with MVLS every year since 2013.
20 Year Award – for taking at least one case with MVLS every year since 2003.
Frank E. Turney
10+ Cases – MVLS recognizes the following volunteers who took 10 or more pro bono cases during fiscal year 2023:
Samuel C. Baldwin
Monica R. Basche
Danielle G. Casson
Rob Goldman of Rob Goldman Legal Solutions
Constance M. Hare
Victoria M. Lee
Sara Y. Lucas
Sarah L. Nadolny, Esq. of Mulinazzi Law Office
Community Partner Award
Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF)
With shared values and aligned missions, the work that MVLS and JOTF do together is transformative. Since 1996, JOTF has worked to increase the marketable skills, income, and economic opportunities of low-skill, low-income workers and job seekers in Maryland. To achieve this vision, JOTF leverages its efforts in three ways: advocating for specific public policies, conducting research, and delivering job skills training combined with case management support and job placement services. In 2022, JOTF and MVLS worked together in Annapolis, successfully advocating to make it easier for people with prior criminal records to move beyond their past and step into the future. MVLS’ legal insights were instrumental to JOTF’s success in passing a law which reduced waiting periods for expunging certain criminal convictions – called the Redeem Act. The Redeem Act, which went into effect on October 1, can help an estimated 1.5 million Marylanders by removing barriers to employment, housing, and beyond. Together, we put policy to work, with MVLS and JOTF jointly educating nearly 70 job trainees through the BetterU program, assisting 35 trainees with expungements, and reaching more than 100 Baltimore City residents through community-based intake at JOTF’s brake light clinics, community meetings, and community resource events.
In Memory of Donald P. McPherson III
MVLS was saddened by the sudden loss of volunteer and advisory board member Don McPherson in 2022. Don served on the MVLS board of directors from 1991 to 2010 and led the board from 2002 to 2003 as president. He later joined the advisory board, where he served up until his passing. During his career, Don represented 205 pro bono clients with MVLS in cases related to landlord-tenant disputes, contracts, foreclosures, and estate planning. Don was a servant leader, and his fellow advisory board members and friends remember him as steadfast, kind, generous, and committed. Learn more about Don’s legacy at https://mvlslaw.org/remembering-donald-p-mcpherson/.
About Celebrate Pro Bono: MVLS’ annual Celebrate Pro Bono awards ceremony recognizes the exceptional contributions of our volunteers and community partners. An anticipated 200 attorneys, judges, financial professionals, community leaders and friends will gather on October 17, 2023, at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum to recognize volunteers and community partners for their pro bono service, and the impact they have made on their fellow Marylanders. Attorney General Anthony G. Brown is expected to attend to congratulate the award winners. More information, tickets, and sponsorships are online at www.mvlslaw.org/celebrate-pro-bono.