This past June, MVLS congratulated several volunteer attorneys and a strategic community partner who were recognized during the Maryland State Bar Association’s (MSBA) annual Pro Bono Service Awards ceremony, organized by the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC). The ceremony was held on June 16 in Ocean City, Maryland. The Pro Bono Service Awards recognize attorneys, non-attorneys and organizations that have made a significant contribution to the delivery of pro bono civil legal services to Marylanders in need.
“One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is recognizing the selfless contributions of our volunteer attorneys and community partners,” said Bonnie Sullivan, executive director, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS). “With their commitment to helping those who are less fortunate, equal access to justice can be realized. We are honored to collaborate with Mr. Scheeler, Ms. Tillman, the attorneys of Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, and the team at the Maryland Faith Health Network.”
Distinguished Pro Bono Volunteer Award – Mr. Charles Scheeler, Esq.
Mr. Scheeler eagerly accepted the very first vacatur case the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS) Human Trafficking Prevention Project ever placed with a volunteer attorney. Mr. Scheeler demonstrated great generosity with his time, dedicating seven months to this labor-intensive case. In addition, he has advocated to expand the current vacatur law to help survivors of trafficking vacate, or undo, a judgement of conviction for prostitution if they were being trafficked at the time they were arrested.
Retired Pro Bono Volunteer Award – Ms. Elva Tillman, attorney at law
Ms. Tillman has been volunteering with MVLS since 1992, and during this time she has accepted nearly 40 cases, spanning from divorce, custody, adult guardianship, name change and estate planning matters. Since her retirement from the Law Department for the City of Baltimore in early 2017, she has become a valuable addition to MVLS’ Consumer Protection Project clinic. Last year, she volunteered at 33 of the 52 clinics and assisted 72 clients. Photo: from left to right: Ellyn Riedl, staff attorney consumer and housing law, MVLS; Elva Tillman, attorney at law; Pete Lally, consumer protection project paralegal, MVLS.
Law Firm Pro Bono Service Award – Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, LLC
In just over a year, the three members of Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, LLC (SVO) have accepted 34 consumer pro bono cases from MVLS. SVO attorneys help MVLS staff unravel complicated legal issues while training and mentoring new attorneys. Jane Santoni, with more than eight years of volunteering with MVLS, has assisted 28 clients with consumer and foreclosure matters. Photo credit: Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA); Photo: from left to right: The Honorable Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera; Jane Santoni, Matthew Vocci, and Chelsea Ortega, partners, Santoni, Vocci & Ortega, LLC; and Sharon Goldsmith, executive director, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.
Non-Legal or Organizational Involvement Award – Maryland Faith Health Network as part of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative
The Maryland Faith Health Network (MFHN) has greatly expanded access to legal information and services over the past year. The organization sought funding from the Maryland Department of Health to create presentations focused on advanced health care directives, to be provided through churches and other places of worship. MFHN develops the connections and provides logistical support for these presentations, and MVLS provides staff attorneys to demystify estate planning. This project has created substantial connections between faith leaders, who are often the ones consulted during life crises, and free services that can aid the families with their legal needs. Photo: from left to right: Susan Francis, deputy director, MVLS; Suzanne Schlattman, deputy director for development, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Education Fund, Inc.; John Kern advanced planning project coordinator, MVLS