Building a just society requires courage, partnership, and generosity. Courageous people who stand up to injustices. Dedicated partners who join our efforts to build a foundation for justice now and for future generations. The generosity of people who support the Public Justice Center on #GivingTuesday and throughout the year.
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The John P. Sarbanes Courage Awards honor clients and others who exhibit tremendous courage in the face of injustice.
Jennifer Rowe demonstrated courage and tenacity in litigating her disability-based discrimination claim, first on her own through the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR) and in the court, without remedy, and now as our true partner in the appellate courts. Although the case is now about whether the court has the jurisdiction to review MCCR’s findings, and not Ms. Rowe’s personal experience, she persists. Ms. Rowe’s advocacy on behalf of unnamed others is an example for everyone and will make way for them to stand up for their civil rights.
“In a better world, disabled people would not have to fight for inclusion. In this one, I’m grateful to the Public Justice Center for believing me when others didn’t, taking my case when others wouldn’t, and guiding me through the elitist and (deliberately) confusing system,” says Jennifer Rowe.
Indigo Null is recognized with a John P. Sarbanes Courage Award for their unstoppable advocacy for the residents of the CopyCat Building. Fighting the illegal rental operations and dangerous housing conditions at their building, Indigo took their case to the Maryland Court of Appeals and then to the General Assembly. In the face of adversity, Indigo found strength in tenant organizing.
Whitney Davis courageously fought her former employer in the courts for more than five years – and prevailed – as the lead plaintiff in Davis v. Uhh Wee, We Care, Inc., a wage theft and disability discrimination case. She persevered through an intrusive deposition and years of litigation made more difficult and more protracted by her employer’s attempts to dodge responsibility. Her tenacity helped achieve a very favorable settlement and was recognized by the court in the form of an incentive award for the time and effort she took to represent the interests of other workers. These outstanding results would not have been possible without Ms. Davis’s courage in standing up for her own rights and the rights of her co-workers!
Deric Strickland and Tonae Watkins were appalled that thousands of Maryland tenants like themselves faced imminent eviction even after applying months earlier for emergency rental assistance in the wake of COVID-19. Mr. Strickland and Ms. Watkins fought their case successfully in court and testified in Annapolis on a bill that would have required a pause in the eviction case when a rental assistance application is pending. Because of their tenacity, SB 384 passed the General Assembly. Although the bill was ultimately vetoed by Governor Hogan, the testimony of Mr. Strickland and Ms. Watkins drew public attention to the importance of eviction diversion and continues to influence legislative discussions around eviction.
The Outstanding Partner Awards go to individuals and organizations whose work makes a difference for our clients and the issues we work on.
Young People for Progress (YPP) has been the leader in the fight for police-free schools in Montgomery County. They organized a large, diverse coalition of student groups and community groups from across the county to apply real pressure to both County Council and the school board on this issue. They ensured that youth led the advocacy on an issue that most directly impacts them: the presence of police in their schools. They demonstrated to local leadership the true power of young people, achieving more progress toward police-free schools than adult advocates alone have ever been able to in Maryland. The PJC was honored to partner with YPP in the coalition, contributing legal and policy support to the campaign.
“The Public Justice Center has been a wonderful and strong partner in local work for schools that listen to student voices and fully support all students rather than criminalize them. It is an honor to be presented with its Outstanding Partner Award,” stated Danielle Blocker, Executive Director of Young People for Progress.
The commitment of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law attorney anneke dunbar-gronke to centering tenants and tenant organizing in advocacy has enhanced the capacity of Baltimore Renters United and Renters United Maryland to advance housing justice. anneke’s indefatigable pursuit of racial equity and human rights has animated additional tenant organizing and policy campaigns, such as cutting the Baltimore Sheriff’s budget for evictions.
Outten & Golden LLP is known for its commitment to providing workers with top-quality representation – and just as importantly, doing so with dignity and respect. The PJC was proud to partner with this outstanding firm in two recent lawsuits, representing eighteen low-wage paratransit drivers denied minimum and overtime wages. The two suits recovered more than half a million dollars for these workers and set important legal precedent. We are grateful to current Outten & Golden attorneys Chauniqua Young, Darnley Stewart, Molly Brooks, Daniel Stromberg, and Hannah Cole-Chu, paralegal Rania Tootla, and former Outten & Golden attorneys Sally Abrahamson and Deidre Aaron for their hard work, dedication, and partnership.
The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC) is pleased to recognize Karen Lash for her outstanding efforts to further the work of the NCCRC and the civil right to counsel movement writ large. Among her contributions, Karen has helped the NCCRC secure sustained funding and ensured that both the NCCRC and the right to counsel are part of the conversation in a variety of access to justice initiatives at the national level.
“Karen has been a passionate advocate for the NCCRC for ages,” said John Pollock, the NCCRC Coordinator. “Throughout her various roles in government and the private sector, she’s made sure that government agencies, policymakers, funders, NGOs, and others know what we do and involve us in their work, which is enormously valuable. She’s been a huge cheerleader both for us and for the civil right to counsel movement, which she’s effectively advocated for at times when she’s held really important positions.”