Monthly Archives: September 2009

Legal Aid flack tapped for bar award

surkiewiczCommunications director Joe Surkiewicz will receive the Maryland Bar Foundation’s 2009
Legal Excellence Award for the Understanding of the Law at a reception in Annapolis next week. Surkiewicz, a former Daily Record legal reporter and freelance writer, writes the “Of Service” column in the Daily Record.

Social workers join Legal Aid

Getting social work support for Maryland Legal Aid clients in Baltimore  has been a priority for at least 10 years–and this fall, it became a reality: Four University of Maryland School of  Social Work graduate students–candidates for  master’s degrees–began working in the Administrative Law Unit of Legal Aid in September under the supervision of  Liz Pickus LCSW-C, a professor at the UM School of Social Work.

“This is the first time the School of Social Work has placed students in a law firm, and so it is an experiment,” said chief attorney Cornelia Bright Gordon. “Our staff have requested assistance with home visits, photography of housing conditions, application assistance of all sorts, landlord negotiation, medical appointment and case worker coverage, and much, much more. The social workers will be supporting the entire Baltimore City general practice, including, and especially, at intake.”

Managing partners to discuss legal needs of low-income Marylanders

The Equal Justice Council (the private bar fundraising arm of Maryland Legal Aid) will hold its third annual Managing Partners’ Meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 8 a.m. The event, hosted by Miles & Stockbridge, will focus on the challenges facing low-income Marylanders with civil legal problems and how the legal profession can meet the demand. Managing partners of the area’s 50 largest firms will join Court of Appeals Judge Robert M. Bell and EJC members for the discussion. For more information, email or call 410/951-7759.

Baltimore schools challenged over permanent expulsions

Legal Aid staff attorney Nicole Jassie

Legal Aid staff attorney Nicole Jassie

After Maryland Legal Aid successfully challenged the permanent expulsion of three Baltimore City school students, the Baltimore Sun reports that the school system is softening its stance on permanent expulsion for students under 16 involved with arson or explosives.

Nicole Jassie, a Legal Aid attorney, said she believes the Baltimore school system may have violated the Maryland Constitution when it told students they no longer had access to a public education,” said today’s article, “Debate simmers over student expulsions.” “She points out that the state guarantees chidren a free and adequate education and makes school attendance mandatory up to the age of 16.”

Jassie also pointed out that the policy contrasts with the criminal justice system. “Even teenagers who are convicted of serious crimes are allowed to go to a jail school,” the article said. “While a few school systems don’t let a very small percentage of students back in their schools after serious incidents, most systems transfer students to alternative schools and then allow them to return.”

To read the entire article, click here.

Last week, Assistant Director of Advocacy for Children’s Rights Janet Hartge and Jassie appeared on the Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM. Hartge debated Baltimore City schools’ Jonathan Brice about its permanent expulsion policy.

ACORN sting alarms Maryland nonprofits


A front-page Sun article looking at how nonprofits are reacting to a video of ACORN workers dispensing advice to a couple posing as a prostitute and a pimp included an interview with Acting Chief Counsel Peter Sabonis. “It’s a general warning to everyone,” Sabonis said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we’ve had enemies of our program come in here in all of our offices and try to show we’re violating our congressional restrictions and using our money illegally.” To read the article, click here.

Carwell to receive Woman’s Law Center award

Legal Aid Housing/Consumer Law Unit senior attorney Louise Carwell

Legal Aid Housing/Consumer Law Unit senior attorney Louise Carwell

Maryland Legal Aid Housing/Consumer Law Unit senior attorney Louise Carwell will be presented the Access to Justice Award by the Women’s Law Center in recognition of her nearly 25 years of helping vulnerable individuals in myriad consumer cases, including predatory lending and foreclosure. Other recipients are Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Glendora Hughes, general counsel of the Maryland Commission on Human Relations .

Presentations will be November 3 at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, 300 Light Street at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $80 for members and $90 for non-members. Call 410-321-8761 X14 or email for more information.