Category Archives: housing

Annapolis Housing Authority to honor Legal Aid

anitabailey_smallThe Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis will honor Maryland Legal Aid chief attorney Anita Bailey (left) and her staff at the Anne Arundel Co. office later this month with its Martha Wood Leadership Award.

“Your advocacy on behalf of clients . . . [is] only superseded by your willingness to work in partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis to insure that the constitutional rights of your clients are protected and respected,” wrote HACA chief of staff Joseph S. Johnson.

The award will be given by Mayor Joshua C. Cohen at the regular meeting of the Annapolis City Council at City Hall.

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Legal Aid helps solve Howard Co. rental dispute involving Rottweiler

Metropolitan Maryland office staff attorney Sara Wilkinson

Metropolitan Maryland office staff attorney Sara Wilkinson

Maryland Legal Aid helped Hazel Sanders,  70 years old and disabled,  and her Rottweiler service dog obtain an affordable apartment after the management company agreed to drop objections based on the Maryland Court of Appeals decision earlier this year defining pit bulls as inherently dangerous, the Baltimore Sun reported today.

“Sanders reached agreement in mediation last week through the Howard County Office of Human Rights, where she had filed a complaint against Equity Management II for refusing to make an exception to its no-pets policy for a service dog, as federal law requires,” the article said.

Sara C. Wilkinson, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Bureau Inc., who represented Sanders, said the issue of the Court of Appeals case never came up in the four- to five-hour mediation session last Thursday at the Howard County Office of Human Rights, in Columbia,” the report said.

To read the article (behind a pay wall), click here.

Legal Aid honored by Annapolis Housing Authority

Last night, the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis board of directors adopted three “Resolutions of Appreciation” recognizing Maryland Legal Aid staff attorneys Margaret Leonard and Amy Siegel, and Anne Arundel office chief attorney Anita Bailey, individually, and the Anne Arundel County office of Maryland Legal Aid in general, for its “dedicated advocacy and legal services on behalf of the residents of the public housing community”. . . and to “express their sincere appreciation . . .for its commitment and services to the betterment of the lives of the citizens of the City of Annapolis.”

Leonard, Siegel and Bailey were presented with signed and sealed certificates of appreciation by HACA’s executive director Vince Leggett, and HACA’s Board Chairman, Carl Snowden (also the Director of Civil Rights for Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General).

“In presenting the certificates, Mr. Snowden noted that while many might assume that the relationship between HACA and Legal Aid was primarily adversarial, he acknowledged that, to the contrary, HACA enjoys a cooperative relationship with Legal Aid and that Legal Aid has made HACA a better organization through their advocacy in making sure that HACA adheres to federal regulations and other laws in the administration of their programs,” Bailey  said. “To say the least, we were very honored by this recognition.”

Migrant farmworkers’ advocates file complaint with UN

From the Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Caitlin Berberich, managing attorney with the Southern Migrant Legal Services, a project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said that when paralegals visit migrant camps, they are almost always ordered to leave by the landowners — sometimes with threats of police calls or worse. “One grower” in Arkansas, she said, chased “after our interns and our paralegals carrying a chainsaw.” The blade was not turned on, but the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre”moment left an impression.

“We regularly had employers follow them off, escort them off in their cars,” Berberich said of her legal team. “A couple growers we know are notorious for preventing us from having access.” One camp, she explained, has a security detail, its main purpose apparently to escort Berberich’s paralegals off the property.

Berberich’s experiences are not unfamiliar to lawyers, health care workers, and community advocates who have attempted to oversee migrant camps and check in on the tomato pickers, sheep herders, and other migrant workers across the U.S., from eastern Maryland to remote corners of Colorado to whole swaths of the deep South. Often these advocates provide the only ties the migrant workers have to local communities and address vital issues like wage theft and basic health needs like HIV testing.

On Thursday, a coalition of 28 nonprofit legal and social service organizations filed a complaint with the United Nations, alleging that migrant workers have been unlawfully denied access to assistance. The complaint, organized by Maryland Legal Aid with help from the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law, argues that these barriers amount to a violation of human rights law.

To read the entire article, click here.

Tipping the scales in housing court

From an op-ed in The New York Times: It’s easy to tell who’s going to win in eviction court. On one side of the room sit the tenants: men in work uniforms, mothers with children in secondhand coats, confused and crowded together on hard benches. On the other side, often in a set-aside space, are not the landlords but their lawyers: dark suits doing crossword puzzles and joking with the bailiff as they casually wait for their cases to be called.

Millions of Americans face eviction every year. But legal aid to the poor, steadily starved since the Reagan years, has been decimated during the recession. The result? In many housing courts around the country, 90 percent of landlords are represented by attorneys and 90 percent of tenants are not. This imbalance of power is as unfair as the solution is clear.

To read the entire op-ed, click here.

Legal Aid represents disabled woman barred from apartment for wrong breed of service dog

Metropolitan Maryland office staff attorney Sara Wilkinson

Hazel Sanders, an elderly, disabled Howard Co. woman, can’t move into a subsidized apartment because the management of the complex says her service dog–a Rottweiler–is “inherently dangerous” and it won’t allow a service-animal exception to its no-pets policy.

Anne Benaroya, an expert on animal law quoted in today’s front-page Baltimore Sun article, said the policy shows the potentially far-reaching consequences of a recent Court of Appeals ruling on pit bulls that quoted a 2000 study by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The study concluded that Rottweilers and pit bulls made up more than half of human deaths from dog bites.

Legal Aid staff attorney Sara C. Wilkinson, who represents Sanders, said the argument doesn’t hold up, arguing there’s no Maryland law on Rottweilers, her client’s dog has no history of aggressive behavior, and that  “most importantly, federal anti-discrimination law protecting the disabled should trump a brief mention of a 12-year-old veterinary article in a case regarding pit bulls.”

To read the article, click here.

Farmers await assistance from Washington, while U.N. may look at migrant worker conditions

Supervising attorney Nathaniel Norton, client Janet Gonzalez

Delmarva Public Radio interviewed two Maryland Legal Aid experts about the living conditions of migrant farmworkers on the Eastern Shore. In a story about the federal farm bill stalled in Congress. Farmworker Program supervising attorney Nathaniel Norton and Human Rights Program director Reena Shah talk about the way migrants live and their efforts to get the United Nations  involved in human rights abuses. For the link to the interview, click here.