Devin Carpenter and her son were living in a home with unsafe conditions. The home had multiple violations cited by the City of Baltimore, but the landlord refused to make any repairs and somehow still had a valid rental license. Ms. Carpenter believed that this license was issued fradulently and asked that the City revoke the license until repairs were made. She displayed tremendous courage by testifying in front of the City Council and sharing her experience of unsafe living conditions. She advocated for safer housing and increased rental inspection accountability measures, not only for herself and her son, but for all the other Baltimore City tenants in similar situations.
Awura-Aduza Cummings-Martin suffered financially due to COVID, fell behind on rent, and relied on COVID-19 eviction prevention funds to become current on her rent. Then, she became an advocate for other renters: taking time out of her week to speak out in Annapolis to ask legislators to fund ongoing eviction prevention efforts beyond the pandemic-related rental assistance. As COVID-related eviction protections expired, Ms. Cummings-Martin was a voice for renters dealing with setbacks that put them at risk of eviction.
Antoine Hudnell, the father of two children, stood up to a landlord who refused to address serious health and safety conditions in the property. The landlord retailiated by filing for eviction. At trial, Mr. Hudnell was unrepresented, and the judge did not give him an opportunity to tell his story or properly present his defense. The PJC took his case on appeal and won in a preliminary motion to dismiss the case due to procedural defects (i.e., the legal procedures were not followed). We are still working with him to fight for repairs so that he and his kids can stay in their home and are not harmed by the unsafe conditions.
Sharnae Hunt was illegally evicted by her landlord two days before Thanksgiving 2022. Because of an “error” by her landlord, Ms. Hunt came home from work to find that all her belongings had been removed from her unit and thrown carelessly into the street. Her landlord acknowledged the error and returned her keys, but the damage had already been done; the landlord’s agents had damaged, broken, dirtied, and even stolen her belongings – including precious keepsakes her son had made, her Social Security card, and bank information. Her son’s pet turtle has been missing since the eviction. Ms. Hunt did not want such a traumatic event to happen to anyone else in Maryland. She joined Renters United Maryland in advocating for a proposed bill in the 2023 legislative session that would have given tenants the right to reclaim their property up to seven days after an eviction. Ms. Hunt testified passionately and effectively, telling every grisly detail and letting state legislators know that she is but one of many tenants who deal with this cruel process every year. Instead of simply allowing her landlord to make her whole and putting it behind her, she worked diligently to make housing more equitable for Maryland tenants. While the bill did not pass in 2023, Ms. Hunt has joined Renters United Maryland to bring this bill back in 2024.
The plaintiffs in Aguilar et al. v. David E. Harvey Builders, Inc. et al. deserve special recognition for their courage and persistence in fighting for their unpaid wages over the last five years. They bravely brought a lawsuit in 2018 after they worked for various weeks on a construction project without any compensation at all. Their pursuit of justice culminated in a week-long federal trial in May 2023, at which each of the plaintiffs – Angella Aguilar, Luis Baires, Carlos Chavarria, Blanca Ferrer, Jacinto Garcia, Fabricio Marroquin, Antonio Martinez, Wilson Panozo, Freddy Veizaga Prado, Jose Feliciano Revelo, and Jose Antonio Torres – provided compelling direct testimony and withstood cross-examination from two sets of defendants. The plaintiffs were able to share their stories on the stand and proved that workers can and will bring unscrupulous employers to court. In late October 2023, a federal judge ruled that both the general contractor and subcontractor were liable for paying the workers their unpaid wages, plus double damages, almost $95,000 in total. Read more here.
Darryl Evans and Andre Simmons were shocked when their food and cash assistance benefits were stolen from their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card accounts by an unknown individual or group through skimming theft. Their trauma was compounded when they learned that the Department of Human Services (DHS) was not replacing stolen benefits for thousands of Marylanders like themselves who were the victims of theft. This nationwide crisis has left the victims, including families with young children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, unable to afford food, rent, and utilities, driving them deeper into poverty. Mr. Evans and Mr. Simmons showed immense courage in advocating for state legislation to require DHS to replace stolen food and cash assistance benefits for victims of EBT card theft and enhance security protections for the cards. Further, they overcame numerous obstacles to testify virtually at the bill hearing before the legislative committee. As a result of Mr. Evans’ and Mr. Simmons’ tireless advocacy for justice and of sharing their personal experiences with benefits theft, the legislation is now law. More than 26,000 households have been reimbursed for more than $15 million in stolen benefits, and EBT cards now have new security features.
The North East Housing Initiative (NEHI) – under the leadership of Executive Director Garrick Good – has worked tirelessly to make the promise of community-controlled, permanently affordable housing a reality in Baltimore City. Since 2016, the PJC has partnered with NEHI and other members of Share Baltimore to ensure that community land trusts in Baltimore City receive the operational support and funding that they need to advance a mission rooted in housing justice, racial equity, and community control of land. Dozens of families have become community land trust homeowners through NEHI, and hundreds of additional opportunities are planned. We are proud to recognize NEHI’s vision and tenancity in achieving systemic change.
Partners for Dignity & Rights has been an invaluable resource to Baltimore City communities working to advance human rights and economic justice. Human Rights Development Program Director Peter Sabonis provides legal advice, policy expertise, and technical support to the movement advancing permanently affordable housing through community land trusts in Baltimore. The PJC is proud to partner with Partners in Dignity & Rights to advance housing justice in Baltimore.
“If you look across the nation, you will find few legal service programs that combine direct service, systemic litigation, and legal support to the organizing and mobilizing that builds power. The Public Justice Center is in that rarefied class. We are privileged to partner with them.” – Peter Sabonis.
The Outstanding Partner Awards go to individuals and organizations whose work makes a difference for our clients and the issues we work on. In 2021, the Public Justice Center recognizes Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP, UNITE HERE! Local 7, Murphy Anderson PLLC, Dr. Tim Thomas, Greater Baltimore Democratic Socialists of America, Stout Risius Ross, and MOMCares.
“Outstanding” does not begin to describe the truly incredible work of the attorneys at Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP, who worked with the PJC to sue Maryland officials to reverse a decision to prematurely terminate the federally financed unemployment insurance benefits available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorneys Meghan Casey, Paul Caiola, and Hannah Perng, along with law clerk Tory Trocchia and paralegal Julie Pfanstiel, successfully reversed the State’s early termination decision, enabling tens of thousands of Marylanders to continue to receive life-sustaining benefits and bringing more than one billion dollars of federal monies to the state. We enjoyed working with such smart and tenacious advocates, and we are truly grateful for their outstanding partnership!
UNITE HERE! Local 7, and Roxie Herbekian in particular, were instrumental and invaluable partners on the path to victory to restore federal pandemic unemployment benefits in Maryland. Their incredible commitment to their members and unemployed workers throughout Maryland, and their determination to fight regardless of the outcome, were inspirational. They were instrumental in helping identify workers willing to advocate for their own financial security and that of other unemployed Marylanders. They also kept members and others informed about the status of the litigation, effectively using virtual platforms to host events, and coordinated with the press to amplify the victory.
Murphy Anderson PLLC lives up to its reputation for being “lawyers serving the public interest.” Their attorneys Mark Hanna, Roseann Romano, and Adam Breihan worked tirelessly on an important case alleging wage theft and discrimination against a large business and achieved a significant victory for the workers. The PJC was proud to partner with such dedicated, smart, and passionate advocates. As just one example of how Murphy Anderson PLLC lives its values, the firm generously donated a portion of their attorneys’ fees to the PJC. We appreciate their financial support as well as their legal partnership.
Dr. Tim Thomas of the Urban Displacement Project at the University of California, Berkeley created The Eviction Study’s Baltimore Map, a dynamic and interactive visualization, highlighting which neighborhoods are at the highest risk of scheduled evictions and eviction removals and illuminating race and gender disparities in the eviction crisis. To collect the local data, he partnered with Dr. Malcolm Drewery, a professor at Coppin State University; Linda Morris, an attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project; and Dr. Meredith Greif, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Thomas’ work proved essential in our advocacy for an eviction right to counsel in Baltimore City and the and the state’s access to counsel legislation.
Greater Baltimore Democratic Socialists of America (GBDSA) works to empower renters and stands up publicly and loudly for housing justice in Baltimore and Maryland. As a member of Baltimore Renters United, GBDSA advocates for justice in public transportation, housing, education, and other public services in Black working-class neighborhoods. During the last year, GBDSA organized tenants, helped plan rallies, and supported campaigns to advance housing justice—for example, helping defeat a security deposit bill (21-0022) in the City Council that would have harmed tenants and advocating for renter protections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stout Risius Ross has been a key partner in providing data and expertise that has raised the national profile of the eviction crisis as well as supported civil right to counsel efforts around the country—including in Baltimore City and Maryland. Stout’s meticulous, thorough reports on the costs and benefits of providing a right to counsel have helped convince policymakers in many jurisdictions to enact such a right. Stout staff have graciously and tirelessly served as a resource to advocates all over the country looking for help and guidance with thinking through data or cost considerations. Finally, Stout’s interactive tool providing easy-to-read, 50-state data about the number of at-risk tenants and predicted eviction rates, which it developed in cooperation with the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, has helped drive policy reform at the federal, state, and local levels.
MOMCares and Executive Director Ana Rodney have been allies in collaborating with the PJC on legislative advocacy to improve maternal health care and expand access to doula care. Ana is a doula, former co-chair of RHEAM, and an appointed member of the Maternal Mortality Review Board for Baltimore City. In her work, Ana provides birth and postpartum doula support to mothers navigating a high-risk pregnancy or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) involvement after a traumatic birth outcome.
The John P. Sarbanes Courage Awards honor clients and others who exhibit tremendous courage in the face of injustice. In 2021, the Public Justice Center recognizes Dominique Andrews, S.B., Kevin Baxter, Jennifer Graham, Daniel Mason, and Alonzo Mitchell – the six plaintiffs in D.A. v. Hogan; Mia Ballou and Monique Dillard; and Shalonda Glascoe.
Dominique Andrews, a plaintiff in D.A. v. Hogan, showed immense courage in her honesty about how unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic caused her to change job paths to have a better chance to make ends meet for her family. Dominique joined five other plaintiffs in the case to fight the early termination of federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Together, they demonstrated bravery in trusting the attorneys to represent them in a case whose success was uncertain and in sharing personal details of how a loss of these benefits would affect their lives with the Court and in news interviews. Their courage and candor impressed the Court and was essential to the victory.
S.B., a plaintiff in D.A. v. Hogan, showed immense courage by being open about how his unemployment during the pandemic impacted his family and pushed them to the brink of homelessness. S.B. joined five other plaintiffs in the case to fight the early termination of federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Together, they demonstrated bravery in trusting the attorneys to represent them in a case whose success was uncertain and in sharing personal details of how a loss of these benefits would affect their lives with the Court and in news interviews. Their courage and candor impressed the Court and was essential to the victory.
Kevin Baxter, a plaintiff in D.A. v. Hogan, showed immense courage in speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs in several interviews and at a news conference, where he spoke openly about his personal experiences. Kevin joined five other plaintiffs in the case to fight the early termination of federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Together, they demonstrated bravery in trusting the attorneys to represent them in a case whose success was uncertain and in sharing personal details of how a loss of these benefits would affect their lives with the Court and in news interviews. Their courage and candor impressed the Court and was essential to the victory.
Jennifer Graham, a plaintiff in D.A. v. Hogan, showed immense courage in disclosing the mental health implications of the early loss of federal unemployment benefits on her life, including in news interviews. Jennifer joined five other plaintiffs in the case to fight the early termination of federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Together, they demonstrated bravery in trusting the attorneys to represent them in a case whose success was uncertain and in sharing personal details of how a loss of these benefits would affect their lives with the Court and in news interviews. Their courage and candor impressed the Court and was essential to the victory.
Daniel Mason, a plaintiff in D.A. v. Hogan, showed immense courage in revealing the mental health ramifications of losing federal unemployment benefits early. Daniel joined five other plaintiffs in the case to fight the early termination of federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Together, they demonstrated bravery in trusting the attorneys to represent them in a case whose success was uncertain and in sharing personal details of how a loss of these benefits would affect their lives with the Court and in news interviews. Their courage and candor impressed the Court and was essential to the victory.
Alonzo Mitchell, a plaintiff in D.A. v. Hogan, showed immense courage in detailing the physical health consequences of losing federal unemployment benefits early. Alonzo joined five other plaintiffs in the case to fight the early termination of federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Together, they demonstrated bravery in trusting the attorneys to represent them in a case whose success was uncertain and in sharing personal details of how a loss of these benefits would affect their lives with the Court and in news interviews. Their courage and candor impressed the Court and was essential to the victory.
Mia Ballou and Monique Dillard showed courage, tenacity, and readiness to help others in standing up to their landlord’s multiple attempts to evict them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sisters living in the same unit, Ms. Ballou works hard to pay the bills and care for Ms. Dillard, who has several medical issues. They have been on the brink of eviction twice because of pandemic-related loss of income. We helped them apply successfully for rental assistance under the Center for Disease Control’s order, and their eviction hearing was scheduled while they were waiting on funds to pay their past-due rent. We filed an emergency motion to reserve judgement under the CDC order, which delayed their eviction. Then, their landlord refused to accept rental assistance funds from Baltimore City, so the sisters worked with us to get relocation funds. Throughout the months-long process, the sisters have shared their story publicly in the hope that it will help people in the same situation.
Shalonda Glascoe’s persistence in the face of multiple eviction actions and public scrutiny demonstrates courage and is an inspiration. Ms. Glascoe rents her home in Baltimore and fell behind on rent when she lost income during the pandemic. We represented Ms. Glascoe against several eviction actions, including her landlord’s attempt to evict her by not renewing her lease rather than claiming failure to pay rent. The judge ultimately ruled in her favor and renewed her lease because of a local law that protects tenants from an eviction filings within six months of a complaint about serious habitability defects; she and her landlord had recently settled a dispute over unsafe living conditions in her home. Without representation, Ms. Glascoe likely would not have been able to raise a defense against her landlord. She has spoken to the press, including the Washington Post and the Baltimore Brew, and at a legislative hearing about the importance of having counsel in eviction cases to assert and defend tenants’ rights. By speaking out publicly, she helped pass the eviction right to counsel bill in Baltimore City.
October 29, 2021 ~ 5:30-8:00 p.m.
The Garage at R. House
301 W. 29th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
Registration ended on October 15, but we may have tickets available closer to the event. Add your name to the wait list.
Join us for networking, beer, wine, dinner, and a celebration of John’s upcoming retirement and his nearly 20-year tenure as Executive Director of the Public Justice Center.
Beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres, and a light dinner reception
Presentation honoring John Nethercut
Dessert reception to follow
Parking: Free parking is available in the Baltimore Police Department lot on the corner of 29th Street and Remington Avenue. Enter the parking lot from Remington Avenue. Garage parking (paid) is available at Remington Row, with entrances on 28th and 27th Streets.
Suggested Attire: Dressy casual. For example, wear dresses, skirts and dressy tops, dressy pants outfits, coats or blazers with a dress shirt or casual button-down shirt and slacks; ties optional.
Our COVID-19 safety measures include:
The Garage at R. House is a large industrial space featuring high ceilings, a retractable garage door, an HVAC system with continuous fresh air exchange, and an outdoor area for mingling. We selected the venue for these features and its capacity. The Garage at R. House can accommodate a group larger than we are inviting; we are purposely limiting registrations to make this event as safe as possible.
Record and submit a short video (about 30 seconds or less) by midnight on October 24. We’ll share clips of submitted videos at the event, on our website/social media, and with John as a keepsake. Need ideas for what to say in your video? Describe John and his leadership of the PJC in five words or less. Share a favorite memory. Talk about John’s biggest impact on the PJC and our mission. Not feeling tech savvy? Share your thoughts in writing.
Contribute to the John Nethercut Fund, created to honor John’s nearly 20 years as Executive Director of the Public Justice Center. John is particularly proud of the PJC’s approach to legal advocacy, and this fund will support our capacity to respond to injustice with multiple legal strategies (litigation, advocacy, collaboration) and build power among those most affected by injustice to fight for their rights.