Awardees will be Recognized at Annual Celebrate Pro Bono Volunteer Reception on October 15 at the American Visionary Arts Museum 

News Release, Andrea D. Martin Consulting, LLC

BALTIMORE – August 14, 2019 –Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the largest provider of pro bono civil legal services to low-income Marylanders, announced today the recipients of its 2019 Celebrate Pro Bono Awards, which recognize Maryland-based attorneys who donate their time and resources to help low-income residents navigate civil legal challenges that involve family, housing and workforce re-entry situations, among other civil legal issues. The award recipients will be honored during MVLS’s annual Celebrate Pro Bono award ceremony on Tuesday, October 15 from 6-8:30 p.m. at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

“Recognizing all of our dedicated volunteer attorneys, and especially those who continue to go above and beyond for our clients, is truly one of my most favorite times of the year,” commented Bonnie Sullivan, executive director, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS). “I encourage all Maryland lawyers – whether you’re just starting your career as an attorney, an established attorney in a law firm, or corporate counsel – to experience new opportunities through pro bono work. Many of our honorees had reservations in the beginning, but are now flourishing in our volunteer network. I look forward to congratulating our 2019 Celebrate Pro Bono award recipients at this year’s event.”  

Celebrate Pro Bono Award Recipients 

The Hon. Mary Ellen Barbera, E. Hutchinson Robbins, Jr., president of MVLS’ board of directors, and Susan Francis, MVLS’s new executive director, will present awards during the Celebrate Pro Bono reception. 

Law Firm of the Year:Santoni, Vocci, & Ortega, LLC
With this award, MVLS recognizes the law firm that has provided significant services to the organization’s clients either by representing many individuals or using significant firm resources for one client. Santoni, Vocci, & Ortega, LLC, a Baltimore County firm, is being recognized for its extraordinary commitment to pro bono. Since 2017, Santoni, Vocci, & Ortega has provided pro bono legal assistance to 76 consumer cases.

Volunteer of the Year: Franzella Hayward Starkey
MVLS presents this annual award to a volunteer lawyer who has contributed the most to its pro bono program through either individual client representation or expansion of the delivery of pro bono legal services. Based in Wicomico County, Ms. Starkey was selected for her willingness to support MVLS clients in a variety of legal issues including, bankruptcy, adoption, custody and divorce. Since joining MVLS’s volunteer panel in 1996, she has accepted 91 cases.

Partnership of the Year: Betsy Simon of Z-HAP™ 
MVLS gives this award to individuals or organizations that have uniquely contributed to the mission of MVLS. Based in Baltimore City, Ms. Simon is being recognized for this award for her continued advocacy for older adults. She is an integral part of the success of MVLS’s Advanced Planning Project and its new My Home, My Deed, My Legacy homeowner campaign.

Young Lawyer of the Year: Anthony May

MVLS’ Young Lawyer of the Year recognizes a young attorney who contributes a significant amount of time to help low-income Marylanders. Based in Baltimore City, Mr. May is being recognized for his willingness to assist MVLS with a variety of legal issues, willingness to learn new areas of law, and through his leadership in the legal community.

Community Impact Award: Leonard Kelly

Based in Washington County, Mr. Kelly is being recognized for his long-term commitment to MVLS and the Washington County community. With his help at the Circuit Court for Washington County, more than 10,000 clients have received pro bono legal assistance over the past 15 years.

Special Recognition Award: Bonnie Sullivan 
Ms. Sullivan is retiring at the end of September after 13 years of service to MVLS and will be presented with this special award for her commitment and dedication to pro bono legal services.

MVLS celebrates all of the attorneys on its volunteer panel and features them in its annual report. Volunteers who took a case each year for the past 10 and 20 years are featured on the organization’s website. Volunteers who took more than 10 cases in the past year, are also recognized on the organization’s website

To register for the 2019 Celebrate Pro Bono event or to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please visit

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...