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MLSC to honor former executive director Erlichman with Bell Medal

Susan Erlichman, former longtime executive director of the Maryland Legal Services Corp., will receive the Robert M. Bell Medal for Access to Justice at the 40th annual MLSC Annual Awards Reception.

Susan Erlichman, former executive director of the Maryland Legal Services Corp. (File photo)

The event, scheduled for Nov. 14 at Westminster Hall in Baltimore, recognizes people and organizations yearly that have contributed significantly to the provision of civil legal services and access to justice for low-income Marylanders.

The Bell Medal will be given out for only the fifth time since 2004. It is MLSC’s highest honor and is presented to members of the bench or bar who have displayed an extraordinary commitment to furthering access to justice for low-income Marylanders.  Prior recipients include Robert M. Bell, Joseph Curran Jr., Herbert S. Garten and Professor Michael A. Millemann.

Erlichman retired in 2021 after a 32-year career of service to the organization, including 17 years as its executive director.

Under her leadership, MLSC’s annual budget more than tripled, growing from $6 million to more than $20 million, allowing MLSC to increase the number and size of its grants to meet an ever-increasing need statewide. She also helped to create a partnership with the Administrative Office of the Courts to build and grow Maryland’s Judicare Family Law program.

Erlichman was instrumental in developing collaborations with city, state and private agencies, resulting in innovative service delivery models, including embedding lawyers in workforce development projects to help remove barriers to employment.

She led MLSC through extraordinary world events – from the Great Recession in 2008 to the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic – leaving MLSC in a stronger position than ever before to produce positive lasting results for Marylanders in need. Her dedication and advocacy on behalf of Maryland’s civil legal aid delivery system will have positive affects for years to come.

Frank Turney of the Law Offices of Frank E. Turney, P.A. in Catonsville will receive the Arthur W. Machen Jr. Award. Since 1999, Turney has been an active volunteer with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, serving hundreds of clients, mostly with Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief or other debt-related issues. Going beyond standard pro bono commitments, he has provided training and mentorship to other attorneys, helps MVLS staff with tricky issues, and takes particularly challenging bankruptcy cases. In 2016, he helped MVLS launch a Bankruptcy Bypass Program to help seniors and others with debt relief in situations where bankruptcy is not a good option.

Kristine Dunkerton, the recently retired executive director of the Community Law Center in Baltimore, is the 2022 recipient of the Benjamin L. Cardin Distinguished Service Award.  Dunkerton has invested 25 years at Community Law Center, starting as a staff attorney and spending 17 years as the executive director. She has spearheaded litigation and other legal strategies to combat vacant and nuisance properties; developed programs at CLC to fight predatory, deceptive, and discriminatory real estate practices, and to promote pro bono service to benefit nonprofit clients; drafted legislation including the Community Bill of Rights, taught law students and served on numerous boards, committees and commissions.

In this first in-person awards ceremony since the beginning of the pandemic, MLSC will present three Rising Star Awards.

Timothy Chance, the Tangled Title attorney at Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, serves clients and supports volunteer attorneys in untangling the complexities that arise when a homeowner dies, and the heirs never successfully transfer title to the home. These expensive, lengthy cases are particularly devastating to the intergenerational transfer of wealth in communities of color, and Mr. Chance has educated legislators, the media and other attorneys, and supported a program that has served in nearly 1,000 estate planning, administration, and deed change cases in the past two years.

Anthony May, an attorney with the law firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, is known for his commitment to representing marginalized people, including school children with disabilities who were being subjected to inappropriate restraints as well as school staff with disabilities who needed accessible technology. Mr. May previously served as the Public Justice Center’s Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr., Appellate Advocacy Fellow, where he argued in state and federal appellate courts on anti-poverty and civil rights cases. He has also served as president of the MVLS Community Advocacy Network.

Kayla Williams is a supervising attorney with Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County. Hired to develop and manage the Tenant Representation Program, she has recruited, trained, and managed pro bono and staff attorneys who represent tenants in rent court dockets in multiple counties. A graduate of the MSBA Leadership Academy, Ms. Williams moderated a panel of judges addressing The Changing Face of Landlord & Tenant in a Post-Pandemic World at a recent MSBA conference. Respected by bar and bench, she has increased legal access for many in her community.

Jacqueline Jones, longtime paralegal at Senior Legal Services in Baltimore will receive the William L. Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award.  Ms. Jones joined SLS in 2010. In the past 12 years, she has touched the lives of clients, community partners, and attorneys alike, demonstrating genuine concern, empathy, and a commitment to serving every person with whom she interacts. Her current and former co-workers, professional colleagues, and community partners attest to her years of creative, dedicated service; collaboration; home visits; clinics and programs; and generally serving as the glue within her organization across multiple directors.

MLSC’s mission is to ensure low-income Marylanders have access to stable, efficient and effective civil legal assistance through the distribution of funds to nonprofit legal services organizations. Since the Maryland General Assembly established the organization in 1982, MLSC has made grants totaling more than $370 million to help provide services in more than 4 million legal matters for Maryland’s families in areas of family, housing, consumer, employment and other civil legal matters.