Debra Gardner joined the PJC as its Legal Director in January 2000. Since then she has participated in a wide range of impact litigation and other advocacy, including serving as the PJC’s lead in various national and company-wide collective and class actions concerning wage and hour violations and employment discrimination. She was also lead counsel in Thompson v. Dallas (No. 24-C-09-2775), in which the Circuit Court for Baltimore City enjoined the Maryland Department of Human Resources to provide food stamps, Medicaid and temporary cash assistance to poor applicants throughout Maryland within 30 days as required by state and federal law. Among her other responsibilities, she directs the PJC’s Appellate Advocacy Project, coordinates PJC’s effort to achieve a right to counsel under the Maryland constitution in civil matters involving basic human needs, and has coordinated the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel.
Before joining the PJC, Debra worked in poverty law at Maryland Legal Aid for over fifteen years, first as a staff attorney and then as the Chief Attorney of its Midwestern Maryland office in Frederick. She also worked at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute for approximately one year in 1983-1984. During her time at Legal Aid, Debra handled substantial impact litigation as well as a large volume of direct service litigation in housing, consumer, domestic, child advocacy, and public entitlements. She has been a trainer and mentor in substantive law, ethics, advocacy skills and legal supervision skills since early in her career.
Debra graduated from the Northeastern University School of Law in 1982 and received her A.B. cum laude in economics and French literature from Mount Holyoke College in 1979. She is licensed to practice in Maryland and Massachusetts and is admitted to the federal courts in those jurisdictions as well at the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First and Fourth Circuits.