Baltimore Law Prof. Gilda Daniels Testifies on Voting Rights Before Congressional Subcommittee on Elections

On June 11, University of Baltimore School of Law Prof. Gilda R. Daniels testified before the Elections Subcommittee of the House Committee on House Administration. The theme of the hearing was how to ensure free and fair access to the ballot for all Americans.

Daniels, who is also litigation director for the Advancement Project National Office, served as deputy chief in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, during the Clinton and Bush administrations. She is the author of Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in America, published in 2020.

Professor Gilda Daniels
Prof. Gilda Daniels

Daniels began her written testimony by describing how the coronavirus pandemic led to expanded voting opportunities in the 2020 election, such as mail-in balloting, early and Sunday voting, and drop-box ballot collection. Voter turnout indeed increased, and voted fraud was virtually nonexistent, even after exhaustive investigation of allegations.

While voting rights advocates were hopeful that this experience would lead to expanded ballot access moving forward, the opposite has happened, especially in majority Republican states. Baseless allegations of fraud, Daniels wrote her in testimony, “have been used to fuel a tsunami of anti-voting legislation meant to roll back not only the gains made in the 2020 election but those made in the last few decades.” She argued for “federal legislation that protects the right to vote.”

In her written testimony, Daniels provided a history lesson on voter suppression and federal government efforts to expand voting rights. The 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder “eliminated preemptive federal protections under the Voting Rights Act” of 1965. And sure enough, following that decision some states implemented voting restrictions such as voter ID, which disproportionately impacted people of color. Daniels thoroughly documented numerous examples of contemporary voter suppression in her testimony, as well as litigation efforts to combat these restrictions.

In her conclusion, Daniels argued that federal legislation is needed to dampen voter suppression practices — such as reassigning precincts without notifying voters — at the state level. Expanded early voting, voting by mail, and drop-box return options all expand voting access, she wrote. “Congress must address the lack of uniformity in the myriad of ways to cast a ballot, and ensure that uniform methods are set and enforced,” she wrote.

Daniels also urged the committee to make voter registration easier. And finally, she wrote,
“Congress must adopt an explicit right to vote in the Constitution. Without an affirmative right to vote,” she said, “states will continue to pass legislation that disenfranchises communities of color.” She said states should not be allowed to use baseless claims of voter fraud to justify a voter suppression strategy, and should instead be required to prove the existence of such fraud.

“In a democracy … the right to vote is central and elections must be conducted fairly,” she wrote. “Only after we achieve these goals will we have a true democracy and experience a more perfect union.”

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Baltimore Law’s Prof. Bessler Joins Bryan Stevenson on June 14 Panel Discussing Lynchings and Racial Violence

University of Baltimore School of Law Prof. John Bessler will be part of an online panel June 14 discussing racial violence in the United States, with a particular look at the 1920 lynchings of three young Black men in Duluth, Minn.

The free virtual event, organized by the Minnesota Humanities Center, commemorates one of the most horrific moments of racial violence in Minnesota history—the June 15, 1920 lynchings of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie in Duluth—and explores the history of racially motivated violence and our nation’s efforts toward truth, justice, accountability and racial reconciliation.

Professor John Bessler
Prof. John Bessler

The event also will feature Bryan Stevenson, renowned civil rights lawyer, founder and executive director of Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), and author of Just Mercy. He will be interviewed by Jerry Blackwell, CEO of Blackwell Burke and one of the lead prosecuting attorneys in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Bessler and Prof. Duchess Harris, of Macalester College, will provide historical context about the legacy of lynching — defined as the extra-judicial killing of human beings suspected of committing crime — and racial violence in America, including a discussion of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which occurred 100 years ago this month.

Adding to the discussion will be U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel, whose book Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodward and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring, reveals the heroic origins of the legal crusade to destroy Jim Crow and the entrenchment of racism through the tradition of states’ rights.

Register and learn more here.

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Baltimore Law Prof. Hatcher’s Work Cited in Congressional Testimony About Protecting Veterans’ Survivor Benefits

Two members of Congress recently submitted written testimony to leaders of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, citing exploitive child welfare practices exposed by University of Baltimore School of Law Prof. Daniel Hatcher.

Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Illinois, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, co-authored the May 24 letter to call attention to the practice of state child welfare agencies taking veterans’ survivor benefits from youth in their care and using those monies to offset the cost of their care, rather than save the funds for the children’s later use.

“This practice likely contradicts the expectations of the Veteran parents and amounts to charging the surviving children of Veterans for their own room and board, an obligation not imposed on other children in foster care,” the letter states. “We are working to stop this practice at the federal level, and we hope that the Committee will join us in protecting these benefits for the children of Veterans.”

Prof. Daniel L. Hatcher
Prof. Daniel L. Hatcher

In their letter, the congressmen ask the committee to consider three steps to limit this practice. They would like the Committee to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to collect data about these practices; to work with veterans affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that child welfare agencies notify adults connected to the youth what is happening with their benefits; and finally, to seek legislation that would prohibit states from using veterans’ benefits to offset their cost of care, and instead preserve those funds for the youth to use as they age out of the child welfare system.

The congressmen cite a recent three-part investigative series conducted jointly by National Public Radio and The Marshall Project that exposed this practice. Hatcher was quoted extensively in this series, sharing his continuing research into the exploitive practices of social welfare agencies charged with caring for abused, neglected, disabled and orphaned children. He detailed many of these abuses in his 2016 book, The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens. His next book, (In)Justice Inc., which continues his investigation into these kinds of practices, is forthcoming from University of California Press.

Listen to the NPR stories that aired on April 22, April 28 and May 3. Read The Marshall Project story that was published April 22.

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The University of Baltimore School of Law Honors 2021 Alumni Award Recipients in Virtual Celebration

Every year, The University of Baltimore School of Law honors the extraordinary accomplishments of its graduates through the Distinguished Alumni Awards program. On May 20, law school Dean Ronald Weich and alumni board president Jasmine Pope, J.D. ’18, hosted the first-ever virtual alumni awards celebration.

“We are thrilled to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of some of our shining stars and to capture them here in this program,” says Weich in the video. “The extraordinary contributions of University of Baltimore School of Law alumni rising to the occasion make us all proud.”

Award recipients are chosen by the UB Law Alumni Board. This year, the board received and reviewed nearly 40 nominations.

2021 Alumni Award Recipients

  • The Dean’s Award was awarded to Barry M. Chasen, J.D. ’80, founder and shareholder of ChasenBoscolo. This award, chosen at the discretion of the dean, recognizes outstanding contributions and extraordinary service, commitment and dedication to the School of Law community and to the legal profession.
  • The Byron L. Warnken Alumni Award, named after the legendary professor known as “Mr. UB,” recognizes a graduate who has enhanced the reputation of the School of Law and the legal profession by consistently demonstrating excellence in their practice through high ethical standards, commitment to community service, and commitment to mentoring law students and fellow attorneys. This year’s recipient is Isabel Mercedes Cumming, J.D. ’93, inspector general for the City of Baltimore.
  • The Distinguished Judicial Award was awarded to Hon. Stuart R. Berger, J.D. ’84, who currently serves as a judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The award recognizes a graduate who has demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the rule of the law and the administration of justice and who is considered a role model in the legal community and in the Maryland judiciary.
  • The Rising Star Award recognizes a recent graduate who is already making significant leadership and service contributions to the legal community and to the School of Law. This year’s recipient is James R. Torrence, Jr., J.D. ’17, a member of the Baltimore City Council.
  • The Judge Robert M. Bell Award recognizes a graduate who has demonstrated commitment to public service and social justice during their legal career. This year’s recipient is Jill J. Myers, J.D. ’81, professor and director of the Western Illinois University School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration.
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FDA’s Move to Ban Menthol in Smoking Products Will Save Lives of Black Americans, Says Baltimore Law Alumna

This blog post was written by Baltimore Law alumna Portia White, J.D. ’02, vice president for strategic partnerships at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Recently, in response to a citizen petition and subsequent lawsuit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made the long-awaited decision to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. This historic move will save lives, especially those of Black Americans, and has the potential to be the most impactful action taken in the United States to reduce youth smoking initiation.

Even though we’ve made tremendous progress in driving down smoking rates, the fact remains that half of all youth smokers, and nearly 90 percent of Black youth smokers, use menthols. This is far from shocking, given that menthol numbs the throat and masks the harshness of cigarette smoking, which makes it easier for kids to try cigarettes and eventually get hooked.

Portia White
Portia White

Menthol also makes cigarettes more addictive and harder to quit. The bottom line is that because of menthol, more young people start smoking and fewer smokers quit, and that’s especially the case among Black Americans, who have been targeted by the tobacco industry in a clear example of institutional racism. The FDA’s move to prohibit menthol flavoring in cigarettes takes away one of the tobacco industry’s sharpest tools to addict youth to its deadly products.

In taking action against flavored cigars, the FDA has also made a bold move in protecting young people. More than 1,400 kids under age 18 try cigars for the first time every single day in the U.S., and research shows that flavored cigars are driving this initiation. With the decision to prohibit these products, the tobacco industry will no longer be able to lure kids with cigar flavors like melon, cherry and honey berry.

While we certainly must celebrate this tremendous victory for racial and health equity, we need to be prepared for the tobacco industry to pull out all the stops to fight this decision and delay the forthcoming rule-making process. We can expect the industry to push false claims that prohibiting these products will subject Black Americans to more abuse by law enforcement.

This is nothing more than fear-mongering by an industry whose products claim 45,000 Black lives each year in the U.S. Luckily, there is deep support for prohibiting menthol cigarettes among Black civil rights and public health organizations, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a bipartisan group of state and territorial attorneys general, and scientific experts in the fields of tobacco use and addiction.

Nevertheless, it will be critical in the coming weeks and months for members of the Black community to stand up and speak out in support of protecting youth over tobacco industry profits. Be sure to follow the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram to stay up-to-date as we continue this fight.

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Legal Community Mourns Loss of R. Roland Brockmeyer, Baltimore Law Alumnus and Champion of the Underdog, at 86

The Baltimore legal community is mourning the passing of R. Roland Brockmeyer, a University of Baltimore School of Law alumnus who overcame childhood deprivation to become an advocate for the less fortunate. Mr. Brockmeyer died of heart failure on May 9, 2021, according to a Baltimore Sun obituary. He was 86.

R. Roland Brockmeyer
R. Roland Brockmeyer

Orphaned at age 8, he spent a few years in St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum on Reisterstown Road before being taken in by a foster family. His love of reading made up for gaps in his formal education, and he passed the GED exam while serving in the Air Force. Mr. Brockmeyer worked his way through junior college and took evening classes at Baltimore Law, earning his J.D. degree in 1964.

According to colleagues and family members, Mr. Brockmeyer did a lot of pro bono work and took on clients who were indigent, or whom other lawyers would not assist. “He was a great guy and the complete package,” Baltimore attorney William H. “Billy” Murphy told The Sun. “He loved people, and he worked day and night for his clients. He was honest as the day is long, and his work was his bond.”

Mr. Brockmeyer established a scholarship at the law school for evening students who needed financial assistance with tuition. In 1997, the law school student lounge was named for him.

“I knew and admired Roland Brockmeyer,” said law school Dean Ronald Weich. “He was a fine lawyer and a distinguished UB alumnus. I appreciated his unwavering support, including his generous support for our new law school building.”

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Ransomware Attack Exposes Urgent Need to Harden Critical Infrastructure, Says Baltimore Law Cybersecurity Expert

Last week’s ransomware attack on a major gasoline pipeline serving the East Coast has again revealed vulnerabilities in the nation’s critical infrastructure. Here is some perspective on the issue from Jerry Bodman, an adjunct professor at The University of Baltimore School of Law who teaches Cybersecurity Law, Cyberspace Law, and Information Privacy Law. Bodman is senior counsel and privacy officer at Dragos, a Maryland company focusing on industrial control system cybersecurity. 

The ransomware event at Colonial Pipeline, based on public reporting, was related to their payment system on the information technology (IT) network. In an abundance of caution they shut down the operational technology (OT) network in order to safeguard pipeline operations. 

Jerry Bodman
Jerry Bodman

In the past, industrial asset owners and operators were less concerned about ransomware, as it was deemed an IT problem that should concern banks, hospitals or governments, but not critical infrastructure. This event has highlighted the fact that the cybersecurity gap between IT and OT is real, and that IT threats can have tangible effects on operations.

The government and private sector must work together to harden critical infrastructure, share information more effectively, and improve resiliency. Improving security of our critical infrastructure won’t be done overnight, but it can be achieved through a focused effort.

This is a critical time for the nation, and technology-focused lawyers will be playing an important part to shape the process, policy, law and implementation of the plans that will need to be developed to respond to this threat.

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Baltimore Law’s Ernesto Villasenor to Serve as Diversity and Inclusion Delegate to ABA Law Student Council

University of Baltimore School of Law Rising 2L Ernesto Villaseñor will serve as the Delegate for Diversity and Inclusion on the American Bar Association Law Student Division 2021-2022 Council (LSD).

In an announcement from the organization, Villaseñor describes his interest in the role. “The LSD is more than just a group within the American Bar Association,” he says, “it’s a door into law school advice, career guidance, perks, networking, and opportunities for growth throughout your law school endeavor, and beyond. It is also a space to raise unmet needs that would help you succeed in your law school career … and work with the LSD to help fulfill those needs that would benefit you and fellow students across the country.” 

Ernesto Villasenor
Ernesto Villasenor

A native of Compton, CA, Villaseñor describes himself as a “first-generation Lawtino.” He is also the incoming vice president of The University of Baltimore School of Law’s Students for Public Interest (UBSPI). “After working in public interest, nonprofit leadership and governmental spaces for more than 10 years,” he says, “I want to connect those experiences as an aspiring public defender and be a zealous advocate for those who I will fight on behalf of. 

“My goal is to strengthen the connection between public interest work and our law school, helping bring more opportunities for law students while serving our communities. As the next ABA Delegate of Diversity and Inclusion, I want to bring bold leadership and uplift the underrepresented voices among the law student body at [Baltimore Law] and across the nation, creating pipelines for leadership and representation in decision-making spaces,” he says.

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New Scholarship Established for the Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law at The University of Baltimore School of Law

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) – Maryland Chapter has funded a new scholarship for the Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law. Starting in Fall 2021, students enrolled in the program can begin to receive the award. This new scholarship is funded by the AAML-Maryland Chapter’s three-year commitment of $3,000 per year.

The goal of funding the scholarship is to improve the practice of family law and to encourage attorneys to enter this critical practice area. Scholarship awards are based on need and fund availability for students who enroll full-time in the certificate program and who remain in good academic standing in program coursework.

Since 2015, the Maryland Chapter of AAML has endowed the Cheryl Lynn Hepfer Family Law Award at The University of Baltimore School of Law to recognize students who show promise as family lawyers by excelling in a range of family law coursework and experiences at Baltimore Law. This new gift reflects the chapter’s commitment to AAML’s mission, “To encourage the study, improve the practice, elevate the standards, and advance the cause of matrimonial law, to the end that the welfare of the family and society be protected.”

Professor Barbara Babb
Professor Barbara Babb

Prof. Barbara Babb, program director, explained the importance of this new scholarship for attorneys interested in the Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law. “Since the program’s launch in 2017, we have heard from our applicants and students that the greatest barrier to enrollment and completion of the program is financial. This scholarship funding allows us to ease the financial burden on our students. It also permits us to encourage more attorneys to use the program to sharpen their skills and to develop a holistic, family-centered approach to the practice of family law. This is truly an investment in improving the future of family law practice.”

The only program of its kind nationally, the online certificate program was developed in collaboration with an advisory committee of preeminent family law attorneys and judges in Maryland, many of whom are members of the Maryland Chapter of AAML. Program faculty include distinguished practicing attorneys and judges who are leaders in family law. The Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law offers a firm grounding in the core skills and knowledge essential to the practice of family law and insights into the day-to-day practice of this dynamic area of the law from those who are at the leading edge of the field.

The University of Baltimore School of Law is recognized widely for the quality and breadth of its family law courses, clinical and experiential offerings, family law center, and the Family Law Area of Concentration within the J.D. program. The certificate program is housed in the school’s Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC), a nationally renowned center of advocacy, legal education and community-based action dedicated to transforming the family justice system, improving family courts, and connecting courts to communities. CFCC works to ensure that the practice of family law in Maryland, the nation, and around the world improves the lives of families and the health of communities.

To learn more about eligibility for the scholarship, please contact the Office of Admissions at familylawadmissions@ubalt.edu or call (410) 837-4469.

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University of Baltimore School of Law Announces 2021 Public Interest Fellowship Student Recipients

The University of Baltimore Students for Public Interest (USBPI) program has announced its 2021 summer public interest fellowship recipients. These 13 current students will work in public interest organizations serving communities that are underserved and underrepresented in the legal system.

Marie Jensine Marcelino

Through the generosity of the Maryland Legal Services Corp. and donations from alumni and friends, UBSPI provides fellowships to students working at public-interest organizations that otherwise could not afford to compensate them for their important work.

“Without these fellowships, many students would be unable to afford an unpaid summer position with these public interest organizations. I’m proud that UB students will help these organizations make an even greater impact in our community,” said law school Dean Ronald Weich.

For 27 years, the UBSPI program has inspired students to serve as leaders in the public interest community. The program has previously supported work at Maryland Legal Aid, House of Ruth, Advancement Project, the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Disability Rights Maryland, the Maryland State’s Attorney Office, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Alexandria Hodge

Marie Jensine Marcelino, a second-year law student, will be a fellow with CASA de Maryland this summer.

“I am interested in public interest law because I want to serve those who do not have easy access to the justice system,” said Jensine Marcelino.

CASA de Maryland is a community-conscious organization working to advocate and expand opportunities for Latinx and immigrant people in Maryland by providing workforce development, citizenship and legal services to its clients.

Alexandria Hodge, a first-year law student, will serve as a fellow for the Office of the Maryland Attorney General and will work specifically with the Maryland Department of Education.

“This public interest fellowship allows me to professionally advance my personal commitment to advocate for the needs of children and young people in a truly meaningful way,” says Hodge.

Together, the 13 fellows listed below will complete over 5,000 hours of public interest legal work with their respective organizations.

2021 Summer Public Interest Fellowship Recipients

Ouranitsa Abbas
Current 1L Student
Maryland Office of the Public Defender – Baltimore City

Amelia Bradshaw
Current 1L Student
St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center

Amanda Daly
Current 1L Student
State’s Attorney Office of Baltimore City

Alexandria Hodge
Current 1L Student
Maryland Office of the Attorney General – Department of Education

Marie Jensine Marcelino
Current 2L Student
CASA de Maryland

Kyle Kirwan
Current 1L Student
Maryland Office of the Public Defender – Baltimore City

Vidhi Kumar
Current 1L Student
Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County

Devita Mohandeo
Current 1L Student
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Services

Megan Nally
Current 1L Student
Senior Legal Services

Kaitlin O’Dowd
Current 1L Student
Maryland Office of the Public Defender – Baltimore Juvenile Division

Braden Stinar
Current 1L Student
Maryland Office of the Public Defender – Baltimore City

Ernesto Villaseñor, Jr.
Current 1L Student
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County

Faith Zellman
Current 1L Student
State’s Attorney’s Office of Baltimore City

The University of Baltimore School of Law’s public interest fellowship program is made possible thanks to the generosity of alumni, friends and community partners. Support our students here.

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