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Zafar Shah, Attorney

Zafar Shah

Zafar Shah is an attorney in the Human Right to Housing Project. Prior to joining Public Justice Center in 2011, he investigated employment, housing, and language access discrimination cases at the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. His prior work involved transnational workers’ rights at Centro de los Derechos del Migrante and immigrant workers’ rights at Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance.

In 2008 Zafar graduated with exceptional service honors from the American University Washington College of Law, where he was a Public Interest/Public Service Scholar and worked two semesters in the International Human Rights Law Clinic. He also interned for Legal Aid Society of New York, Farmworker Justice, CASA of Maryland, and Center for Justice and International Law. He was a recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of New York Public Interest Fellowship and the National Lawyers Guild’s Haywood Burns Memorial Fellow for Social and Economic Justice.

Zafar currently serves on the Section Council for the Delivery of Legal Services Section of the Maryland State Bar Association and is co-chair of the Legal Impact Network Housing Working Group. From 2007 to 2009 Zafar co-chaired the National Lawyers Guild’s United People of Color Caucus. He also served as a volunteer attorney with Kids In Need of Defense from 2010 to 2017.

A Baltimore City resident since 2006, Zafar found the perfect job at PJC, where he brings direct client services, high impact litigation strategies, community partnerships, and legislative advocacy into a single focus on the empowerment of politically and socially marginalized communities. He holds a range of interests outside his work on housing and tenants’ rights: energy equity, community organizing, digital divide and technology literacy, and diversity in the legal profession. He was raised in north Texas and received his B.A. with special honors in 2003 from the University of Texas at Austin.

Phone: (410) 625-9409 x237

Ronnie Reno

Ronnie Reno joined the Public Justice Center as a staff attorney in the summer of 2010 after retiring as a partner in the Baltimore office of Venable LLP, where he spent almost his entire legal career. At Venable, Ronnie specialized in commercial real estate law, and his clients included real estate developers, homebuilders and commercial mortgage lenders. Since arriving at the PJC, the majority of his work has been in connection with the PJC’s Human Right to Housing Project.

Ronnie has served on the Board of Managers for Haverford College and has been a Goucher College trustee since 1978. He served for many years as the legal advisor to the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He is also one of the founders of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.

Ronnie was raised in Baltimore. He received his BA from Haverford College and his JD from the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating from law school, Ronnie clerked for the Hon. William Henderson of the Maryland Court of Appeals. He also served for two years as an Assistant Maryland Attorney General.

Phone: (410) 625-9409 x247

Carolina Paul

Carolina Paul joined the PJC in June 2018, and serves as Managing Paralegal in the Human Right to Housing Project. Before she came to the PJC, she conducted Medicaid outreach and enrollment for Baltimore County families. Carolina has worked in direct service and outreach in education, healthcare, and transportation. She is excited for the opportunity to translate these skills to a legal setting. Carolina grew up in Baltimore and graduated from the University of Chicago.

Phone: (410) 625-9409 x271

Charisse Lue joined the Public Justice Center in 2018. She serves an attorney in the PJC’s Human Right to Housing Project. She is also a member of the board of the Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County. Prior experience includes working as an advocate for the homeless and survivors of domestic violence, as well as for the Office of the Attorney General for the Red Line and Purple Line projects.

Phone: (410) 625-9409 x245

Matt Hill

Matt Hill is an attorney and team leader of the Human Right to Housing Project at the Public Justice Center (PJC). The Human Right to Housing Project seeks to protect and expand tenants’ rights to safe, habitable, affordable, and non-discriminatory housing and to fair and equal treatment by Maryland’s landlord-tenant laws, courts, and agencies. Matt has represented hundreds of tenants facing eviction and substandard housing conditions, advocated to create Baltimore City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund with a dedicated funding source, acted as lead or co-counsel in a number of appeals involving landlord-tenant law, represented multiple classes of tenants in class actions challenging predatory landlord practices, advocated successfully to change Maryland and Baltimore City laws to strengthen tenant protections, and served as co-counsel in a HUD complaint and settlement that requires Baltimore County to dismantle policies that had perpetuated racial segregation and discriminated against persons with disabilities.

Prior to his working on the housing team, Matt was the Francis D. Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow at the PJC. In that capacity, he represented parties and amici in state and federal courts on various poverty law and civil rights issues in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the Court of Appeals of Maryland and the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. Matt clerked for the Honorable Deborah S. Eyler on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. He earned a J.D., summa cum laude, from American University’s Washington College of Law and a B.A., summa cum laude, from Loyola College. Before attending law school, Matt taught eighth grade at Mother Seton Academy in Baltimore City.

Matt serves as a commissioner on Baltimore City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. He has received the following awards and honors: 2018 Lorraine Sheehan Memorial Award from the Community Development Network of Maryland; 2017 Dickens Warfield Fair Housing Advocacy Award, Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc; 2011 Housing Justice Award, Housing Justice Network, sponsored by National Housing Law Project; 2011 Maryland Access to Justice Commission Outstanding Program of the Year Award to Tenants in Foreclosure Project of Public Justice Center.

Phone: (410) 625-9409 x229

Levern Blackmon

On August 8, 2020, we lost our beloved colleague Levern Blackmon. Levern first came to the PJC in 1996 through PJC’s Tenant Advocacy Training Project, which trained him as a volunteer lay advocate to represent tenants on the District Court’s rent docket. In 1998-1999 he was able to continue his work as an AmeriCorps volunteer. In 1999, Levern was hired as the Tenant Advocate/Case Manager. Levern represented and counseled thousands of tenants concerning tenant/landlord relations and secured tens of thousands of dollars for tenants from rent escrow accounts. In September 2002, Levern was appointed as the first paralegal for the PJC’s new Prisoners Project. In 2005, Levern began splitting his time between representing prisoners and tenants. He then returned to representing tenants full time as part of the Human Right to Housing team from the PJC’s office at the District Courthouse on Fayette Street.

Levern was also the recipient of the 2005 William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award, which is awarded to a non-attorney who has demonstrated outstanding service in Maryland representing the rights and legal needs of the poor or by expanding access to justice for such persons.