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Deb Gardner wins Benjamin L. Cardin Distinguished Service Award








On December 5, 2011, the Maryland Legal Services Corporation honored Public Justice Center Legal Director Deb Gardner with the Benjamin L. Cardin Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented to “an outstanding public interest lawyer who is regularly involved in providing, promoting or managing civil legal services to the poor.”

Deb is consistently described as one of the most dedicated and inspiring advocates for people who live in poverty. She pushes attorneys to aim higher and dig deeper, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the hurdles our clients face. She is a leader and a mentor when it comes to developing novel legal theories and strategies to empower our clients, and she is persistent in following the fight through to the end. Since joining the PJC in 2000, she has:
  • Led the Appellate Advocacy Project and supervised the Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellow.
  • Worked in close partnership with attorneys from Wilmer Cutler Pickering, LLP and as co-counsel with the Honorable Stephen H. Sachs, to research, develop, and file the case of Frase v. Barnhart before the Maryland Court of Appeals. It was the first appeal to seek the right to counsel in civil cases.
  • Co-created and facilitated the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel.
  • Served as the PJC’s lead counsel on several significant cases involving hundreds to hundreds of thousands of people, including Fox v. Tyson and Trotter v. Perdue (both addressing wage and hour discrimination) and Thompson v. Dallas (addressing delays in emergency benefits applications).
  • Led the litigation, training and supervising attorneys on the start up of the Prisoner’s Rights Project in 2004, which has addressed the inhumane conditions of confinement at Baltimore City Detention Center.
  • Serving as Legal Director, she worked closely with the PJC’s Workplace Justice Project; expanded the Tenants in Foreclosure Initiative and the Access to Health & Benefits Project; and led successive McKinney Vento suits to protect the rights of homeless children to stay in school.
One member of the Administrative Office of the Courts recently described Deb as a font of vision and knowledge about the best ways to expand access to justice to people living in poverty in Maryland. We don’t think we could have said it any better.
Congratulations, Deb!
Read about all of the MLSC award winners here, including Mitchell Mirviss. Mitch was PJC's co-counsel in the Baltimore City foster care case Dallas v. L.J., and he continues to serve as lead counsel for the case.

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