MLSC Announces 2023 Award Recipients

Register to attend the November 16 MLSC Awards reception

Each year, Maryland Legal Services Corporation brings together Maryland’s legal services community to recognize people and organizations that have contributed significantly to the provision of legal services and access to justice for low-income Marylanders. MLSC is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2023 Annual Awards.

The Arthur W. Machen, Jr. Award is presented to an attorney or a judge who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to increasing access to justice and improving the civil legal services delivery system for low-income Marylanders.

Elva E. Tillman, who retired as a principal counsel, chief solicitor in the Baltimore City Department of Law, will receive the Arthur W. Machen, Jr. Award. Since 1992, Ms. Tillman has been a volunteer with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, where she provided over 670 hours of pro bono service during her working career. Since retirement, she has continued volunteering, serving 283 more clients at the MVLS Consumer Protection Clinic. She has also volunteered extensively for other legal services organizations, including Senior Legal Services and the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. Through her work and her many volunteer activities, she has had a remarkable and lasting impact on her profession and on the public.

The Benjamin L. Cardin Distinguished Service Award is presented to an outstanding public interest lawyer whose career has been dedicated to providing, promoting or managing civil legal services to low-income Marylanders.

Joanna Armentrout Shapiro, the longtime director of the Frederick County Family Law Clinic, is the 2023 recipient of the Benjamin L. Cardin Distinguished Service Award. Ms. Shapiro has counseled many thousands of low-income self-represented litigants, often repeatedly throughout complex cases, helping them understand the law and prepare for their day in court. She developed a Client Notebook to help litigants manage their situation and effectively seek pro bono or limited scope legal help. She has worked tirelessly to advocate for those in need, recruiting members of the local bar, and connecting litigants with health, safety, and other resources. She has also trained paralegal students from the local community college and presented her methods nationally.

The Rising Star Award is presented to an attorney who has practiced law for 10 years or less and has significantly contributed to expanding access to justice by serving the civil legal needs of low-income Marylanders or advancing the delivery of civil legal services.

In 2023, MLSC will present two Rising Star Awards. One will be presented to Reba Letsa, a fourth-year employment associate with Baker Donelson, who serves as a board member and pro bono volunteer with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. She has helped MVLS with the revision of personnel policies and serves as the board recruitment and retention committee chair. She also takes a wide variety of pro bono cases and serves with MVLS’s “My Deed, My Home, My Legacy” project.

Aja’ Mallory, a senior staff attorney with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, will receive the second Rising Star Award. Hired in 2020, Ms. Mallory has rapidly become an expert in consumer and housing issues, managing the MVLS Consumer Protection Clinic, assisting nearly 1,000 clients, and training and supporting volunteers. She has provided training and spoken at local and national conferences, pushed for consumer legislative reform, and provided a public voice to advocate for those caught in Baltimore City’s tax sale system.

The William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award is presented to someone who is not an attorney and has demonstrated outstanding service representing the civil legal needs of low-income Marylanders or expanding access to justice.

This year, MLSC will present the William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award to two individuals.  One will be presented to Catherine McGuire, Deputy Director of the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library.  She has worked for many years to empower public library staff to provide legal reference to the public as a form of access to justice. She was a key leader in the Law on the Frontlines program with the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, which, over the past five years, has trained over 1,200 public library staff across every county in Maryland. Over her 20-year career with the State Law Library, she has not only served the bar, the bench and the public, but she has developed a legacy of enabling other nonlawyers to serve the public as well.

The second recipient of the Marbury Award is Jennifer Vido, the Executive Director of the Harford County Bar Foundation. Since joining the organization in 2015, she has created organizational stability, reinvigorated the local bar, developed a spirit of goodwill among service providers in the county, and established new programs to serve residents. Her tireless and cheerful advocacy on behalf of HCBF and the people it serves have led to an increased number of attorney and non-attorney volunteers who are drawn by her contagious enthusiasm and passion for helping others.

The Herbert S. Garten Public Citizen Award is presented to an entity or organization that is not regularly engaged in the delivery of civil legal services to low-income Marylanders but has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to increase access to justice.

The Herbert S. Garten Public Citizen Award will be presented to MAC Inc. in Salisbury, one of the five oldest Area Agencies on Aging in the United States. For years, MAC Inc. has been instrumental in making sure seniors on the Lower Shore of Maryland receive needed legal services, partnering with Mid-Shore Pro Bono to provide monthly elder law clinics as well as hosting an annual Senior Law Day. Through the partnership, over 500 low-income seniors have met with volunteer attorneys to receive advice and other services including wills, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, and deeds.

To register for the 2023 Awards Reception, which will be held on Thursday, November 16 at 6:00 pm at Westminster Hall in Baltimore, click here.