Local Professionals Honored for Volunteer Service

October 06, 2013

HYATTSVILLE, Md. – Three local attorneys and a Washington D.C., law firm received this year’s Pro Bono Legal Service Awards for outstanding volunteer legal service to low-income individuals from the Washington region. The awards were given on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, at a brunch following the annual Red Mass for justices, judges, diplomats, lawyers and government officials.

The honorees are volunteers with the Archdiocesan Legal Network, a program of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Each year the Legal Network offers free legal assistance to nearly 3,000 individuals, all of whom are below the poverty line. Through the generosity of volunteer attorneys, legal assistance is offered at several locations in the District of Columbia and suburban Maryland. In addition, the Network offers free legal education seminars to the community. In this last fiscal year, 3,435 pro bono hours were donated by the Legal Network’s corps of over 625 attorney volunteers representing over 50 large and small law firms as well as sole practices. These hours were self-reported as of Aug. 18, 2013, and the Legal Network expects additional hours to be reported in the coming weeks and months. Attorneys also self-reported the value of these hours to be $1,686,767.

“Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has challenged us to help those people at the periphery of society to feel the warmth of Christ’s love,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. “The legal needs of the poorest in our midst are being met because members of the Archdiocesan Legal Network have given their time and talent to those in need, providing hope, consolation and strength during difficult and uncertain times.”

The Pro Bono Legal Service Awards are given each year by the John Carroll Society, a spiritual, intellectual, social and charitable organization for Washington-area Catholic professionals and business men and women in service to the Archbishop of Washington.

This year’s honorees are:

  • Attorneys at Crowell & Moring LLP are committed supporters of the Archdiocesan Legal Network. The firm has been a longtime supporter of the Legal Network and has devoted hundreds of pro bono hours to clients on cases involving child custody and visitation, domestic violence and landlord-tenant issues. Susan M. Hoffman and John E. McCarthy, Jr., both partners at Crowell & Moring, have generously given their time to the Advisory Council. The firm has hosted the Legal Network’s annual spring volunteer reception for the past three years and conducts at least four shifts of telephone client intake for the Legal Network every week.
  • Michael McGonnigal, Esq. is a Clinical Assistant Professor at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law as well as the supervising attorney of the Advocacy for the Elderly Clinic. The clinic represents senior citizens in family law, consumer, landlord-tenant and other civil law matters. McGonnigal accepts an average of 10 to 15 pro bono clients each year from the Legal Network. He also conducted a seminar on wills/probate for the Legal Network and has urged his colleagues who supervise legal clinics at The Catholic University of America to accept pro bono cases from the Legal Network.
  • Charles J. “Tim” Engel III, Esq. accepted a very complicated and protracted pro bono case from the Legal Network that involved estate and contract matters as well as a cross-complaint. He devoted over 100 hours of pro bono service to this matter, ultimately winning the case for the Legal Network’s client who was the defendant and cross-claimant.
  • Meritta S. White, Esq., a sole practitioner and a strong advocate for the poor, has accepted pro bono cases from the Legal Network over the past three years. One of her biggest victories was against a utility company that had grossly overcharged a poor consumer for services. She also has represented Legal Network clients in foreclosure cases in the District of Columbia. Additionally, White assists the Legal Network in reviewing many of its cases to determine their legal merit and appropriateness for case placement.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 96 Catholic schools, located in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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