Assistant U.S. AG Tony West addresses Equal Justice Council breakfast

Tony West, assistant attorney general of the civil division in the U.S. Dept. of Justice (left, with Maryland Legal Aid executive director Wilhelm Joseph), spoke at the 13th Annual Equal Justice Council Awards & Recognition Breakfast at Camden Yards May 20. “I’m especially glad to join you in honoring the important work of the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau and Equal Justice Council this morning,” West told 175 judges, lawyers, law professors, political leaders and other legal professionals. “You provide this community with needed legal services, you secure access to justice by facilitating access to our courts, you provide hope to many who have lost it. In short, you make real the promise Adlai Stevenson spoke of when he observed that ‘the essence of democracy is the dignity of [the individual].’”

West also spoke about the “courage to care.”

“It’s the courage of Odella Oliver, a senior paralegal here at the Bureau, whose persistence in demonstrating that the Social Security Administration had been wrong in terminating a client’s benefits ensured that a 10-year-old child suffering from severe mental disability would continue to receive her childhood SSI disability benefits,” West said. “Or staff attorney Melissa Kilmer who helped protect an elderly client from falling victim to a simple mortgage fraud scheme that could have resulted in foreclosure of the woman’s home. Or any of the award recipients we honor this morning whose examples are inviting all of us to be our best selves.”

Others on hand at the annual event included Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Baltimore City Circuit Court judges Pamela J. White (the event’s emcee) and Robert B. Kershaw, Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. This year’s award recipients: F. Paul Bland, Michelle J. Dickenson, Neil E. Duke, and Goldman & Minton P.C. (Champion of Justice awards); Erek Barron (Equal Justice Associates’ Leadership Award); Quinn, Gordon & Wolf (Pacesetter Award); DLA Piper US LLP and Venable LLP (Trailblazer awards); and George W. McManus Jr. (Executive Director’s Award).

The Equal Justice Council, co-chaired by Andrew Jay Graham and Benjamin Rosenberg, is the private-bar fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid. Photo: Eric Stocklin.

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