Foundation News

Articles have appeared in the media about the Foundation and its Board Members. Newsworthy events related to the Foundation and its Board Members have occurred as well. A summary of all these articles and events appears below:

Prisoner’s Legal Services of Massachusetts, a 2019 grantee, has filed suit in their grant funded case challenging the Massachusetts law, M.G.L. c. 123, § 35, that authorizes the involuntary civil commitment in Department of Correction prisons of men but not women suffering from alcohol and substance use disorders. Their filing has received press coverage in both the Boston Globe and the local NPR radio station. 

The two stories are linked here, respectively: and

(March 2019)

All 2019 grantees were contacted in February in accordance with the Foundation’s requirements and reported the following with respect to the progress of their case and hours invested during the first quarter of their grant cycle:

The American Immigration Council (“AIC”)

The AIC filed a class action on behalf of persons holding Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) who want to become lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”) through their relationships with qualifying U.S. citizen relatives or employers. The vast majority of these TPS holders have held that status for 15 to 24 years and are fully integrated into their U.S. communities. Through the governmental policy challenged in this case AIC claims that the United States unlawfully denies Plaintiffs the opportunity to adjust from TPS to LPR status which is the first step towards obtaining U.S. citizenship.

AIC filed a motion for a preliminary injunction with the court in November 2018 and is waiting for a decision. Its motions for class certification and a cross motion for summary judgment have been pending for almost six months. AIC is concerned that TPS holders may soon begin losing their TPS status. AIC has not heard nothing yet from the court on any of these pending motions. AIC’s time records show that it is on track to meet its grant obligations.

The National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ”)

NCLEJ filed a class action law suit, Black Love Resists et al v. City of Buffalo, which challenges, among other claims, the Buffalo Police Department’s systematic targeting of communities of color with aggressive and punitive traffic enforcement resulting in millions of dollars in ticket revenues. NCLEJ and co-counsel brought the action on behalf of thousands of individuals as well as the organization Black Love Resists in the Rust, whose members have been harmed by the challenged practices.

 NCLEJ has begun the discovery phase of litigation and participated in the court’s process to determine whether the case can be addressed through mediation. NCLEJ has informed the community about the case and gathered additional facts from witnesses about their experiences with checkpoints, ticketing, and the Buffalo Police Department (BPD). NCLEJ’s time records show that it is on track to meet its grant obligations.

Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (“CGRS”)

In 2018 U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions intervened in an asylum case involving a domestic violence survivor from El Salvador known as Matter of A-B-, certifying the case to himself for reconsideration. In June 2018 Sessions issued a decision in A-B-, reversing a previous grant of asylum to the plaintiff and casting doubt on the viability of all asylum claims based on domestic violence, gang brutality, and other forms of persecution perpetrated by nongovernment actors. CGRS has launched a nationally coordinated public advocacy campaign in support of the litigation.

In August 2018 the CGRS we submitted new briefing to Judge Couch in support of Ms. A.B.’s claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. We also moved to recuse Couch from the case (preserving Ms. A.B.’s due process claims of bias). Judge Couch denied the motion and in October 2018 issued a final denial of her claims for relief. CGRS’ time records show that it is on track to meet its grant obligations.

Prisoner’s Legal Services of Massachusetts (“PLS”)

Prisoners’ Legal Services, a Massachusetts nonprofit legal services office, has prepared to file suit challenging the Massachusetts law, M.G.L. c. 123, § 35, that authorizes the involuntary civil commitment of men suffering from alcohol and substance use disorders to Department of Correction prisons. Massachusetts is the only state in the country where men are civilly committed to a correctional institution for substance use.

PLS has engaged in the fact-finding and client outreach necessary for litigation, including drafting a complaint and motion for class certification. PLS has also worked to educate the legal community, policy makers, and the public about the harm of incarcerating patients suffering from alcohol and substance abuse, through outreach to a legislatively-established commission bar associations, individual attorneys and activists. PLS’ time records show that it is on track to meet its grant obligations.

National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (“NIPNLG”)

NIPNLG moved to intervene in proceedings before the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (BHA) of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (the “Department”). The BHA proceedings involve the Berks County Residential Center (BCRC) Petition to Appeal the Department’s non-renewal of its operating license. BCRC is an immigration detention center that imprisons minor children and their parents. Without a license as a child residential facility, the BCRC, which detains immigrant parents and children together, cannot operate. NIPNLG represented detained minor children D.G.A. and R.D.A.M. and detained adults G.C.G. and R.N.

In October 2019 NIPNLG, along with co-counsel, filed a brief to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in support of detained families’ right to intervene in this licensing dispute. NIPNLG is awaiting a decision on its petition. NIPNLG’s time records show that it is on track to meet its grant obligations.

(February 2019)

The Public Interest Law Center provided an update on their 2018 grant:

"A Philadelphia law requires that a landlord must provide tenants with a Certificate of Rental Suitability when they sign a lease. These Certificates, which are issued by the Department of Licenses & Inspections (L&I), require landlords to affirmatively verify their properties are suitable to be lived in, and can only be issued when L&I determines there are no outstanding code violations. When a landlord fails to comply with this requirement, renters do not owe rent. In short, landlords must make their properties habitable before they collect rent from tenants.

Landlords, however, often ignored the law. Making matters worse, their attorneys would sue tenants for that rent in Philadelphia’s Municipal Court. The Public Interest Law Center, a 2018 grantee of the foundation, sought to disrupt that business model, and end this practice once and for all. The Law Center filed a 2017 class action complaint, Baker v. Ross, alleging that a landlord attorney’s complaints for this back rent were not just in contravention of Philadelphia law, but were in violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Given the state of the lawyer-defendant’s finances, the parties entered into successful settlement talks before a Magistrate Judge. That eventual settlement included the payment of damages to the tenant class, and lawyer-defendant’s end to the practice of suing for money when his landlord clients had not complied with the Certificate of Suitability law. Moreover, the Board of Judges of the Municipal Court took independent action to solve the problem, enacting court rules to end the practice for all lawyers, not just the defendant here.

In September 2018, the District Court conditionally certified a class. In February 2019, with no objectors and no opt-outs, the District Court found the settlement fair and reasonable, gave final approval to the settlement, and certified the class." (February 2019)

As part of its High Impact Litigation Project, the McDowell Foundation, in conjunction with the law firm Drinker Biddle, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, and New Economy Projectfiled a federal class action lawsuit charging the NYC Transit Authority, an arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, with systemic due process violations. The civil rights action challenges the Transit Authority for seizing people’s state tax refunds to collect on alleged default judgments for NYCTA violations, some going back 20 years or more, without legally-required notice or opportunity to review documentation that would support the Transit Authority’s actions (February 2019).

Click here to read more about the case at our blog

Legal Aid of the District of Columbia where Barbara served as the Director of its Appellate Project prior to her death on January 2, 2009, sent its over 10,000 contacts an email on the tenth anniversary of her death recognizing her social justice work and the efforts of the Foundation to commemorate and continue those efforts. Legal Aid’s email was as follows (January 2019): 

Dear Friends of Legal Aid:

Today marks a somber anniversary for many of us at Legal Aid and in the appellate legal community. It has now been exactly ten years since the profoundly-respected, deeply-admired Barbara McDowell, who founded our Appellate Advocacy Project, died from brain cancer at the far too young age of 56.

Barbara was famous for once arguing two cases in front of the Supreme Court in one day when she was at the United States Solicitor General’s Office. At Legal Aid, she argued numerous cases at the DC Court of Appeals, winning significant legal victories involving housing, public benefits, domestic violence and the rights of the poor. The District is undoubtedly a fairer, more just place thanks to Barbara's tireless efforts.

After her death, Legal Aid named the Appellate Advocacy Project in Barbara's honor. Her husband, Jerry Hartman, an alumnus of the Legal Aid Board of Directors, has generously supported the Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project by creating Legal Aid’s Barbara McDowell Endowment Fund for Appellate Litigation. Jerry also founded The Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation, which not only makes grants to social justice organizations to support systemic litigation, but also takes on its own cases through a Pro Bono Initiative in conjunction with Jerry's former law firm, Drinker Biddle, where he was a partner for many years prior to his retirement in 2017.

I am humbled to continue the Project's work today. We recently ensured that a young mother received the life-saving kidney/pancreas transplant she needed after her treatment was originally denied by the District's Medicaid agency. Today, especially, we remember Barbara as we continue her quest to use the appellate process to make justice a reality for the District’s neediest residents.


Jonathan Levy
Director, Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
1331 H Street, NW | Suite 350
Washington, DC 20005 | 

For 2019 the Foundation made grants at its September 2018 annual meeting to five organizations totaling $150,000. The list of the five grantees and the cases for which they received grants appears here. (September 2018)

The Foundation received from the 2018 Grantees their year-end reports. A list of the reports appears here. (September 2018) 

The Foundation received 53 applicants for 2019 grants. The selection process will take place over the Fall culminating in the annual Board meeting in September 2018, when the final selection of five or six recipients for 2019 will take place. (September 2018)

In 2016 and 2017, Alabama’s Department of Human Resources began the implementation of a federal law regarding work requirement for food stamp recipients. In their implementation of the law, the Department provided very complicated notices which did not present adequate information to individuals receiving food stamps leading to tens of thousands of people being terminated from the program. After almost two years without relief, Legal Services of Alabama, a 2018 Grantee, with the support provided by the McDowell Foundation, filed suit against the Department on November 30, 2017.

In response to suit the Department filed a Motion to Dismiss to which Legal Services of Alabama responded in January of 2018. Although the trial court reviewed the motion, it decided to withhold a full hearing or decision on the matter pending settlement negotiations. A settlement conference is currently planned between the parties in early July which Legal Services of Alabama believes will result in changes to policies that will lead to many people being reinstated and policies being changed for future applicants. (May 2018)

Children’s Rights, a 2018 grantee of the Foundation, filed in June 2017 a class action lawsuit, M.B. v. Corsi, in Missouri, a state where foster children are prescribed powerful and potentially dangerous psychotropic medications in the absence of an effective system of oversight. The case presents a direct challenge, the first of its kind, to a state’s longstanding failure to ensure the safe administration of psychotropic and antipsychotic medications to children in state foster care.

In January 2018, the Judge denied almost the entirety of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the case, and shortly thereafter issued a revised scheduling order that places the case on an aggressive path to trial in January 2019. The case is now in the fact-finding discovery phase. The parties have exchanged requests for document production and interrogatories and the Court has entered a protective order allowing the exchange of confidential information. Children’s Rights has defended the depositions of our Next Friends and we began our depositions of the State’s witnesses in March 2018. We also filed our motion for class certification in March 2018, and hope to have resolution of that issue by late spring. We are now engaging experts in the fields of child welfare and psychiatry to opine on the issues raised in the case, and will disclose those experts to the Defendants by June 2018. (May 2018)

The Bazelon Center, with the generous support of the Barbara McDowell Foundation, and its co-counsel filed a class action lawsuit, Georgia Advocacy Office v. State of Georgia, in October 2017 alleging that the State of Georgia denies equal educational opportunity to and unnecessarily segregates thousands of students with disabilities by placing the students in the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports Program (GNETS). As a result of placement in GNETS, students with disabilities receive a separate and inferior education and are denied the opportunity to be educated with their non-disabled peers in neighborhood schools in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Plaintiffs recently filed a brief opposing Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. In that brief, Plaintiffs set forth in detail why the State’s arguments that its officials are not responsible for operating or administering the GNETS program and that, in any event, that GNETS does not violate the ADA’s Integration Mandate should be rejected. A decision from the court is expected shortly, after which work on discovery and class certification will begin in earnest. (May 2018)

The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), a 2018 Grantee of the Foundation, is moving closer to filing suit to establish nationally the constitutional right of foster children to attorney representation. CAI is working with the assistance of outside pro bono counsel, local counsel, and the National Association of Counsel for Children. CAI is reviewing responses received pursuant to its recent public records act request to state and local officials, while completing other pre-filing discovery and related tasks; it hopes to file the complaint before the end of June 2018. (May 2018)

Shriver Center Defeats Motion to Dismiss

HOPE Fair Housing Center and other plaintiffs represented by grantee, the Shriver Center, and the law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC is challenging the City of Peoria’s selective enforcement of its nuisance ordinance by targeting African-Americans and survivors of domestic violence that allegedly perpetuates Peoria’s long-standing racial segregation. The Court denied on May 14, 2018, the City’s motion to dismiss plaintiffs for lack of standing. (May 2018)

The Foundation published its first Annual Report detailing its accomplishments over the past year. See the report here (March 2018).

Children’s Rights in conjunction with its 2018 grant from the Foundation brought a case, M.B. v. Corsi, in Missouri challenging the treatment of children in foster care. In a victory for the 13,000 children in Missouri’s foster care custody, a federal judge in January 2018 denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the case. The Court found that Plaintiff children have a plausible substantive due process claim based on the State’s failure to maintain comprehensive medical records, including with details of psychotropic medications administered, and its failure to implement a system for flagging outlier prescription practices, such as too many different drugs, too much of any given drug, or the administration of drugs to those who are too young. The Court also found that Plaintiff children have a plausible procedural due process claim because they possess a strong liberty interest in not being unnecessarily administered psychotropic medications and additional procedural safeguards may be required. (January 2018)

Drinker Biddle and Disability Rights North Carolina filed a lawsuit on May 24, 2017 to address the failure of the State of North Carolina to provide appropriate behavioral health services to citizens with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) so that they do not suffer segregation or institutionalization. In December of 2017, the North Carolina Superior Court denied the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ claims that people with I/DD are being improperly segregated or institutionalized, or placed at risk of segregation or institutionalization. Discovery and depositions in the case are ongoing. (December 2017)

The Foundation, the Ropes and Gray law firm, Children’s Rights, and Disability Rights Iowa filed suit in November 2017 on behalf of boys confined to Iowa’s Boys State Training School who have significant mental illnesses. The lawsuit asserts that these boys, aged 12 to 19, do not receive the mental health treatment needed to fulfill the facility’s mission of providing a program which focuses on appropriate developmental skills, treatment, placements and rehabilitation. Instead of providing this necessary mental health treatment, the facility to control boys incarcerated there relies upon potentially harmful psychotropic medications administered without appropriate oversight or consent, solitary confinement, and full-body mechanical restraints. The case is ongoing. (November 2017)

Deborah Chiumento has resigned from the Foundation’s Board to devote her time to a new job and her family. The Foundation appreciates has past service. The Foundation will be naming a new Director. (October 2017)

For 2018 the Foundation made grants at its September 2017 annual meeting to six organizations totaling $150,000. The list of the six grantees and the cases for which they received grants appears here. (September 2017)

The Foundation received from the 2017 Grantees their year-end reports. A list of the reports appears here. (September 2017)

The Foundation received 56 applicants for 2018 grants. The selection process will take place over the next few weeks culminating in the annual Board meeting in September, when the final selection of five recipients for 2018 will take place. (August 2017)

Maggie Menditto has started working as the Administrator for the Foundation as an independent contractor. Maggie, a recent graduate of Oberlin College, will assist the Foundation with respect to its social media contacts and fundraising. Maggie will develop the Foundation’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as write the Foundation’s blog. Maggie worked previously in development for the Alliance for Justice. (June 2017)

Jerry Hartman, attorneys from Drinker Biddle, and Disability Rights North Carolina filed a lawsuit challenging the State’s practices of segregating and institutionalizing individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The complaint states that DHHS is failing North Carolinian citizens with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) by forcing thousands to remain in institutions or segregated from their families and communities because of a fractured and inefficient system of care. The case was filed on behalf of five plaintiffs with I/DD who are subject to improper segregation or are at risk of segregation, whose experiences demonstrate that DHHS has failed people with I/DD who face continual challenges to maintaining stable engagement in their communities. The lawsuit aims to change the practices that result in thousands of North Carolinians being denied their right to live in a non-segregated community setting due to the State of North Carolina and DHHS’s failure to meet its required statutory and constitutional obligations to people with I/DD. (May 2017)

The Foundation anticipates having over $125,000 for 2018 grants. (May 2017)

Jerry attended his 50th college reunion at Columbia College in New York in June 2016 and a news item written in the alumni magazine, Columbia College Today, published in April 2017 had information about Jerry and the Foundation. The article appears here. (April 2017)

Jerry Hartman, the President of the Foundation, drafted and circulated to the Foundation’s Board a “Strategic Plan” for the Foundation which suggested future levels of donations to social justice organization, the engagement of an Administrative Consultant to advise the Foundation in its affairs, and the engagement of consultants to plan for the long-term future of the Foundation when the current President no longer holds that position. (April 2017)

The Foundation received from the 2017 Grantees their six-month reports. A list of the reports appears here. (April 2017)

Jerry Hartman retired as a partner at Drinker Biddle in January 2017 where he had maintained an active employment law practice. Jerry will now be running the Foundation as President while residing at Drinker Biddle in Washington and managing the Foundation’s High Impact cases coordinating with attorneys at Drinker Biddle. (January 2017)

Jerry Hartman sent the letter shown here to past recipients of grants from the Foundation to solicit proposals for partnering with Drinker Biddle on litigating high impact pro bono cases. (January 2017)

In September 2016, Board member Judge Mary Ellen Williams resigned. Greg Castanias, a partner at the Jones Day law firm, where Barbara was a partner was elected in November 2016 to replace Judge Williams by a vote of the Board. Greg Castanias’ biography appears here. (November 2016)

For 2017 the Foundation made grants at its September 2016 annual meeting to five organizations totaling $125,000. The list of the five grantees and the cases for which they received grants appears here. (September 2016)

The Foundation received from the 2016 Grantees their year-end reports. A list of those reports appears here. (September 2016)

The Foundation anticipates having over $100,000 for 2017 grants. (June 2016)

The National Center for Law and Economic Justice (“NCLEJ”) sent a letter to Drinker Biddle on May 31, 2016, thanking Drinker Biddle for its efforts in conjunction with the Barbara McDowell Foundation in a ground-breaking case securing visual aids and assistance for visually impaired individuals seeking to apply for food stamps in New York City. The letter also thanked Drinker Biddle for turning over to NCLEJ attorneys’ fees it obtained in the litigation in the amount of $204,079. The letter appears here. (May 2016)

Bisnow, a Washington, DC business publication, did a story on the fifth anniversary event celebrating the life and legacy of Barbara McDowell and the pro bono work of Drinker Biddle done to support the Foundation. That story appears here. (February 2016)

Children’s Rights which received grants from the Foundation in 2015 and 2016 for its lawsuit, M.D. v. Perry, a case involving abused and neglected children, achieved a significant victory which is reported here. (February 2016)

On January 21,2016, the Foundation celebrated with a cocktail party the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Foundation and the pro bono efforts of Drinker Biddle undertaken in connection with the support of the Foundation. The introductory remarks of Jerry Hartman made at that celebration appear here. A video showing the pro bono work done by attorneys at Drinker Biddle under the auspices of the Foundation appears here. Finally, the talk given by United States Court of Appeals Judge for the Secord Circuit Jose Cabranes recounting the life and work of Barbara McDowell appears here. Judge Cabranes’ presentation was a wonderful remembrance of Barbara. (January 2016)

The Foundation will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of its founding on January 21, 2016, with a cocktail reception hosted by Drinker Biddle. Over 1,000 individuals were invited to the reception. United States Court of Appeals Judge for the Second Circuit, Jose Cabranes, will be the featured speaker. Barbara clerked for Judge Cabranes when he was a district court judge. The event honors the grants made by the Foundation and its high impact pro bono program undertaken with the support of Drinker Biddle. A copy of the invitation to the event appears here. (December 2015)

The Foundation’s Board of Directors voted at its annual meeting in September 2015 to amend the Foundation’s By-laws to add two additional Board members, Judge Mary Ellen Coster Williams and Doug Hallward-Driemeier. The Board’s formal vote to add the two new board members occurred in October 2015. The biographies of those two new Board members appear here as well as under the tab on the main page of the website entitled, “About.” (October 2015)

For 2016 the Foundation made grants at its September 2015 annual meeting to six organizations totaling $100,000. The list of the six grantees and the cases for which they received grants appears here. (September 2015)

The Foundation received from the 2015 Grantees their year-end reports. A list of those reports appears here. (August 2015)

In 2011, in the case, Knox v. Mississippi, the Foundation through lawyers at Drinker Biddle, in conjunction with the American Bar Association Death Penalty Project and Mississippi civil rights organizations and law firms represented sixteen individuals on death row, who did not receive adequate post-conviction collateral review hearings. Significant results were achieved for some of those sixteen individuals as follows:

The Mississippi Supreme Court granted full relief to another Knox plaintiff, Michelle Byrom. The court’s order, issued March 31, 2014, granted Ms. Byrom’s motion to file a successive petition for post-conviction relief, and then overturned her conviction and death sentence. The unanimous court acknowledged that its decision was “extraordinary and extremely rare” but did not explain its rationale. The decision came just days after the Mississippi Attorney General had requested that the court set an execution date by March 27th for Ms. Byrom.

Instead, the court agreed to review startling new evidence of her innocence which had attracted national media attention. Ms. Byrom had been represented by the same inadequate state post-conviction office that negligently represented other Knox defendants. Had she received competent representation, this evidence might have been discovered years earlier. Following the court’s decision, Ms. Byrom agreed to plead no contest in exchange for her release. The court sentenced Ms. Byrom to time served, and she was released on June 26, 2015, after spending 16 years in prison, 14 of those on death row. Numerous stories appeared in the press reporting on this case and they appear here. Additional news story about her release available here.

Of the original 16 plaintiffs in the litigation, further litigation occurred with respect to eight of them in addition to Michelle Byron. The other seven original plaintiffs were executed. Richard Jordan, after denial of his appeal to the United States Supreme Court with three Justices dissenting, is awaiting a determination of his clemency petition. Willie Manning was granted post-conviction relief vacating his conviction and sentence and granted a new trial. This relief was based upon his initial post-conviction petition. Steve Knox had his proceedings stayed indefinitely by the Mississippi Supreme Court to allow consideration of his motions for funding and discovery. Alan Walker was granted leave by the Mississippi Supreme Court to file a successor post-conviction petition based on post-conviction inadequate assistance of counsel. The case was remanded on that issue.

Blayde Grayson achieved a significant victory when the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an opinion holding a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel in state post-conviction proceedings. The Mississippi Supreme Court held that he had inadequate counsel but it was not prejudicial. His motion for access to experts was granted. Jeffrey Harvard’s motion for leave to file a successor post-conviction petition was denied by the Mississippi Supreme Court but it apparently did not raise the issue of post-conviction ineffective assistance of counsel. Stephen Powers was granted the right to file a federal habeas petition prior to the conclusion of the Knox litigation. Thong Le had his post-conviction relief denied by the Mississippi Supreme Court but is likely proceeding with federal habeas proceedings. (August 2015)

The Foundation anticipates having over $100,000 for 2016 grants. (June 2015)

The Foundation received from the 2015 Grantees their six-month reports. A list of those reports appears here. (April 2015)

The Foundation received a report from the Legal Aid Justice Center, a 2012 grantee, giving an update on the case for which it received a grant. The Report appears here. (November 2014)

The Foundation has awarded five grants for 2015. A list of those grantees appears here. (September 2014)

The Foundation received from the 2014 grantees their year-end reports. A list of those reports appears here. (September 2014)

The Foundation received 30 applications from prospective grantees for its 2015 awards. (August 2014)

Barbara McDowell served as president of the Shaw Communities Ministry and worked on its college Scholarship program. Kesiah John-Paul was one of the scholarship students that Barbara supported. With her scholarship assistance, Kesiah attended New York University School of the Arts. Upon graduation in June of 2014, Kesiah joined the cast of the Book of Mormon on Broadway. Attached here is the Playbill announcing Kesiah joining the case and her thank you letter to Jerry Hartman for her scholarship support.

(July 2014)

Barbara McDowell’s legacy continues. Her contributions at Legal aid were recognized in a recent Legal Aid blog discussing an important case that Legal Aid won. The blog said as follows:

In a case of first impression, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision on June 6, 2014, awarding full unemployment benefits to our client who was fired after repeated incidents of domestic violence that interfered with her workplace.

The case, E.C. v. RCM of Washington, Inc., clarifies when a job loss is “due to domestic violence,” under the 2004 domestic violence provision of the D.C. Unemployment Compensation Act (amended in 2010). The court held that the provision should be interpreted broadly to protect victims when domestic violence was a “substantial factor” in their job loss. In reaching this conclusion, the court recognized that victims of domestic violence often exhibit behaviors that, while intended to placate their abusers, may simultaneously undermine certain employer codes of conduct.

The victory in E.C. represents the hard work and dedication of Legal Aid’s public benefits, family law and appellate teams. And, as with all of our appellate victories, this case is a great tribute to Barbara McDowell and the work we do in her name. Some of Barbara’s earliest cases at Legal Aid were in the area of unemployment insurance, advocating for the Court of Appeals to more clearly define the state of mind requirement for gross and simple misconduct cases and establishing a line of case law that ensures that claimants in unemployment (and other) administrative trials got a fair chance to present their cases on the merits. Additionally, she also worked on several important cases on behalf of women attempting to escape domestic violence. E.C. is therefore a special tribute to Barbara, as it advances the rights of domestic violence survivors pursuing unemployment insurance, an essential safety net benefit.

(June 2014)

Jerry Hartman on April 29, 2014, at Legal Aid’s Annual Dinner accepted Legal Aid’s Servant of Justice Award on behalf of Barbara. Members of the Foundation’s Board attended the dinner, including Sally Gordon, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, who made the award presentation, Jeff Lamkin, Dr. Hayley Coker, Sarah Wilson, and Deborah Chiumento. Sally Gordon's remarks in making the award presentation appear here. A video of Sally's presentation speech appears here. Jerry’s remarks accepting the award appear here. A video of Jerry's acceptance speech appears here. A memorandum from Drinker Biddle Chairman Alfred Putnam, Jr. and Executive Partner Andrew Kassner sent to Drinker Biddle lawyers and staff appears here. A letter from Hon. José A. Cabranes, judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, concerning the award appears here.

(April 2014)

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia has awarded posthumously Barbara McDowell its Servant of Justice Award to be presented by Sally Gordon, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, on April 29, 2014 at Legal Aid’s annual dinner. Jerry Hartman will accept the award for Barbara. Professor Gordon was Barbara’s roommate at Yale Law School and a dear friend. It is expected that 700 persons will attend the dinner, including numerous member of the federal and District of Columbia judiciary and family and friends of Barbara. A copy of the dinner program announcing the award appears here. A press release issued by Drinker Biddle about the Legal Aid Society dinner appears here.

(April 2014)

The Foundation received from the 2014 Grantees their six-month reports. A list of those reports appears here. (April 2014)

Drinker Biddle obtained significant achievements in exposing the unfair treatment of death row prisoners while collaborating with individuals from the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project and counsel from Mississippi.

The collaboration began in the spring of 2009, as part of the firm’s pro bono litigation initiative in memory of Barbara McDowell, Washington D.C. Partner Jerry Hartman’s late wife and a well-known public interest lawyer. A complaint was filed with the Mississippi Chancery Court, asserting claims of a systemic failure to provide effective assistance of counsel by attorneys who represent death row prisoners in their post-conviction proceedings in Mississippi. (Knox v. Mississippi, Mississippi Supreme Court No. 2010-CA-00814)

While the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of our Complaint, important gains were nonetheless achieved through the litigation by publicly exposing years of unfair treatment of death-row prisoners.

Our complaint was the impetus behind two important Mississippi Supreme Court decisions that current and future death row prisoners will undoubtedly rely upon in bringing their individual successor post-conviction petitions challenging their convictions and sentences of death. In Stevens v. Mississippi, decided prior to Knox, the Mississippi Supreme Court provided the very remedy we were seeking in Knox, i.e., consideration of an ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel claim. The decision in the Knox case affirmatively established for the first time in a published Mississippi Supreme Court decision that a prisoner on death row can assert state ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel claims in a successor post-conviction petition even if he/she had not raised such a claim in an earlier petition.

Following the Stevens and Knox decisions, the court went a step further in the individual case of another Knox plaintiff, Blayde Grayson. This time in a published opinion, the court said “today we make clear that PCR petitioners who are under a sentence of death do have a right to the effective assistance of PCR counsel.”

On December 12, 2013, the procedure identified in Knox and the substantive law developed in Stevens/Grayson came together, resulting in a grant of relief for another Knox plaintiff, Alan Walker. In Walker v. State, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the same office that represented all Knox plaintiffs had provided ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel to Mr. Walker. The court granted Walker’s motion to file a successive claim for post-conviction relief and ordered a hearing to examine the merits of his claims. The relief granted by the court in Walker is the precise remedy sought by the plaintiffs in Knox.

Less than four months after its decision in Walker, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted full relief to another Knox plaintiff, Michelle Byrom. The court’s order, issued March 31, 2014, granted Ms. Byrom’s motion to file a successive petition for post-conviction relief, and then overturned her conviction and death sentence. She will now receive a new trial. The unanimous court acknowledged that its decision was “extraordinary and extremely rare” but did not explain its rationale. The decision came just days after the Mississippi Attorney General had requested that the court set an execution date by March 27th for Ms. Byrom.

Instead, the court agreed to review startling new evidence of her innocence which had attracted national media attention. Ms. Byrom had been represented by the same inadequate state post-conviction office that negligently represented other Knox defendants. Had she received competent representation, this evidence might have been discovered years earlier. A copy of the Mississippi Supreme Court’s Order is attached. Numerous stories appeared in the press reporting on this decision and they appear here.

(March 2014)

The Foundation has awarded six grants for 2014. A list of those grantees appears here. (September 2013)

The Foundation received from the 2013 Grantees their year-end report. A list of those reports appears here. (September 2013)

The National Immigrant Justice Center, a 2012 Grantee, received support for a case, Cece v. Holder, in the Seventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. On August 9, 2013, the court adopted the National Immigrant Justice Center’s position on the definition of “particular social group” as applied to gender-based asylum claims and in closer accordance with international refugee law. This decision should have extremely positive implications for social group-based asylum cases, particularly those involving gender-based claims and individuals fleeing non-governmental persecution. The court clarified that the breadth of a social group definition is irrelevant to the viability of the argument, and reaffirmed that a social group can be based on “a shared past experience or status [that] has imparted some knowledge or labeling that cannot be undone.”

The decision is described in the National Immigrant Justice Center’s Final Report for 2012 grantees which appears here.

(August 2013)

The Public Justice Center, a 2011 Foundation grant recipient, settled a case very favorably that it brought against the State of Maryland concerning delays in processing Medicaid applications for adults who are blind or disabled. This settlement is described in the Public Justice Center’s Final Report for 2011 which is posted on the Foundation’s website listing 2011 grants. The final report appears here.

(May 2013)

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, a 2011 recipient of a 2011 Foundation grant, recently prevailed in a case it brought against the City of Dallas. That case, Big Hart v. City of Dallas, concerned restrictions by the City on private organizations offering food to poor and homeless people in public places; the restrictions made it virtually impossible for the groups to operate, jeopardizing vital access to food and other supports for thousands of poor people in Dallas. After trial, the judge held that the city’s enforcement of restrictions on plaintiffs, two religious food sharing organizations, violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA) and enjoined its enforcement in its entirety. The Court’s decision appears here.

(May 2013)

On April 2, 2013, Susan Stern, the Deputy Director of Administration at the National Housing Law Project, wrote Jerry Hartman a note sharing an article featured in the Wall Street Journal. The note and article read as follows:

Dear Jerry,

Wanted to share this article with you that was featured in the Wall Street Journal online yesterday, announcing the Rural Housing Services decision to constructively change its collection policies against former homeowners who have been affected by the foreclosure crisis. We are extremely grateful to The Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation for helping to make these changes and our advocacy possible.

As we mentioned in our interim report, we still plan to pursue litigation against RHS for those former homeowners who were excluded from the benefits of these policy changes.

Thanks again for your and the Foundation’s support of these efforts,


USDA to Overhaul Mortgage-Collection Efforts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is pulling back on its efforts to collect money owed by borrowers in foreclosure.

Through its Rural Housing Service, the USDA issues and guarantees mortgages to low- and moderate-income rural Americans.

The agency's collection practices were the subject of a page-one article in The Wall Street Journal in May 2012.

The USDA enjoys many advantages not available to private lenders. It doesn't need permission from a court to start collecting on unpaid debts, and in some cases can seize government benefits and tax refunds from borrowers before their foreclosures are completed.

After foreclosure, the USDA can go after unpaid balances, even in states that limit such actions by private lenders.

Under a new policy, the USDA will stop pursuing borrowers for unpaid loan balances after foreclosure if the borrowers can demonstrate that they are unable to pay the debt. The policy applies to loans issued or guaranteed by the Department after Oct. 22, 2012.

The Treasury Department collected $45 million in delinquent USDA mortgage debt from borrowers in fiscal 2011, up from $23 million in fiscal 2007. At the end of fiscal 2011, $779.2 million in delinquent USDA mortgage debt was awaiting collection, up from $420.7 million in 2007.

"After an extensive review of its debt-collection policies, USDA concluded that it could decrease the administrative burden on Treasury by writing off post-liquidation balances for those who cannot pay them," a USDA spokesman said. The new policy will allow the USDA to more quickly resell foreclosed homes, saving money for taxpayers, he added.

The move will more closely align the USDA's policies with those of other government agencies, such as the Department of Housing and Urban and Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which generally don't pursue borrowers for debt left after foreclosure.

Housing groups applauded the agency's move, but said the USDA should have gone further.

"It does not make sense for the federal government to continue to cause a hardship to families who have lost their homes due to circumstances beyond their control," said Gideon Anders, an attorney with the National Housing Law Project, which has sued the USDA on behalf of borrowers seeking loan workouts. "I'm pleased that they have done this, but I am not pleased and am disappointed by the fact that they have not stopped all collections against individuals already in the system."

A USDA spokesman declined to say when the change took effect, what basis the USDA will use to determine whether borrowers are unable to repay their debt or why the change in policy only applies to borrowers who took out loans before the October date.

The USDA started making loans to farmers in 1949, then expanded its program to other rural residents. A 1990 law allows it to guarantee mortgage loans issued by banks. The agency is a small player in the mortgage market, but loan volume has climbed since the mortgage crisis began in 2007.

The agency guaranteed $16.9 billion in loans in fiscal 2011, and issued $1.1 billion in direct loans.

(April 2013)

The Foundation received from the 2013 Grantees their six-month reports. A list of those reports appears here. (April 2013)

The Drinker Biddle High Impact Project operates under the auspices of the Foundation. On March 25, 2013, a class lawsuit was filed by a team of Drinker Biddle & Reath lawyers from its Washington and Philadelphia offices in partnership with a team of lawyers from the National Center for Law and Economic Justice to obtain relief for blind and visually impaired individuals in New York City who do not obtain adequate information from New York City and New York State agencies about their Medicaid or Food Stamp benefits. The class is suing the New York City Human Resources Administration, the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, the New York State Department of Health, and the Commissioners of these agencies. See here for further information about this very noteworthy lawsuit.

(March 2013)

The Foundation has awarded five grants for 2013. A list of those grantees appears here. (September 2012)

The Foundation in conjunction with its grant review process sent a questionnaire to grant applicants asking why their organizations had applied for a grant. The overwhelming response was that there are very few foundations supporting social justice litigation. These responses demonstrate the importance of the Foundation’s grants. A sample of the responses from organizations appears here. (September 2012)

The Foundation received from the 2012 Grantees their year-end reports. A list of those reports appears here. (August 2012)

The Foundation has received 65 grant applications for awards for 2013. This is a significant increase over prior years. Grants will be announced at the end of September 2012. A total of $50,000 in grants will be awarded. (August 2012)

The Foundation has retained a consultant to help it with the soliciting of grant applications for 2013. The application deadline is August 1, 2012. The Foundation's Board meets in September to select recipients of grants.

(June 2012)

Rating criteria for evaluating grant applications were developed by the Foundation's Board in conjunction with Daniel Lezotte, an industrial psychologist, Ph.D., who is Midwest Regional Director for APTMetrics, a company that develops tests for employers. See the tab on the website entitled, "Applications."

(December 2011)

The Outreach Ministries program at Westmoreland Church where Barbara belonged published the following article in the Church's bulletin about the fund established at the Church in Barbara's honor:

Barbara McDowell Fund Helps Find Jobs for Those in Desperate Need

Westmoreland’s beloved Barbara McDowell fought hard for social justice and the disadvantaged. After her passing, her husband, Jerry Hartman, established a fund at the church to carry on her work. Outreach Ministries has invested the principal in this fund and plans to distribute the earnings annually. This year’s earnings were $3,000 and they were donated to Jubilee Jobs, a charity in DC that helps people in poverty, often homeless or just out of prison, find jobs. Jubilee Jobs has been in existence for over 30 years. Last year, it found jobs for over 700 people in this area, no mean feat. This is important work, especially needed in these economic times. OM is seeking to establish a long lasting relationship with Jubilee Jobs with them perhaps becoming one of our Core Ministries in the future. While Barbara McDowell worked directly with Shaw Community Ministry, helping Jubilee Jobs is very much in keeping with the devotion she showed to those in desperate need.

(November 2011)

One of our grantees, the National Immigrant Justice Center, after receiving a 2011 grant has had an excellent result which it described as follows:

On November 14, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) issued an important decision to remand the case of Perdomo v. Holder, 611 F.3d 662 (9th Cir. 2010) to the Immigration Judge. In this case, the respondent was seeking asylum based on her fear that she would be subjected to harm in Guatemala, in part, because she is a woman. Her claim was denied by an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration appeals. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, however, strongly signaled that asylum seekers might be able to win asylum due to harm they fear on account of gender and remanded the case to the Board of Immigration appeals to decide the legal question in the first instance. As amicus curiae, NIJC urged the BIA to find that Guatemalan women constitute a particular social group for purposes of asylum. NIJC argued that gender is an immutable characteristic and, as such, constitutes a particular social group without additional factors. The systemic violence against women in that country and the nature of the harm feared by women in Guatemala establish the nexus between the particular social group and the persecution feared – giving rise to a viable asylum claim.

While the remand to the Immigration Judge does not produce the precedential decision that NIJC sought, this decision leaves open the possibility the BIA will issue a precedent decision in the future finding gender to constitute a particular social group. In early November, NIJC filed an amicus brief with the BIA making similar arguments in a case with much stronger facts and a more advantageous procedural posture. NIJC’s contribution to the Perdomo case may have influenced the Board away from a negative decision, leaving the door open to establish the precedent we seek using better litigation vehicles.

(November 2011)

On November 3, 2011 a story appear in Legal BisNow about the Barbara McDowell High Impact Pro Bono Initiative.  That story said:

A First for Civil Rights

For the first time in history, there's a civil suit against a prosecutor for racial discrimination in jury selection. The Equal Justice Initiative is teaming up with the Barbara McDowell High Impact Pro Bono Initiative on the lawsuit, filed late last month. We snapped Drinker Biddle's Jerry Hartman in his office; he founded the Barbara McDowell Initiative with the support of the firm to honor of late wife, a public interest attorney who frequently argued before the Supreme Court. The complaint alleges that Alabama DA Doug Valeska excluded 82 percent of qualified black jurors in death penalty cases; one of the districts in his purview has the state's highest death sentencing rate.

Preparing the complaint took more than a year and hundreds of hours sifting through data, Jerry tells us. He hopes the case becomes a deterrent for future jury discrimination; since the discrimination is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, they also hope to eventually get the DOJ involved. We snapped Maureen Hardwick chatting with Jerry about future of the Initiative. The Barbara McDowell and Gerald Hartman Foundation just distributed grants in the amount of $50K to five pro bono organizations doing social justice lit (whittled down from 20 applications), and is working on its second round of fundraising--the goal is to reach $3M by the end of 2013.

(November 2011)

The Foundation has awarded six grants for 2012. A list of those grantees appears here. (September 2011)

The Foundation received from the 2011 Grantees year-end reports. A list of those reports appears here. (September 2011)

The Foundation has received 19 grant applications for its 2012 awards to be made on September 30, 2011. The Foundation expects the total amount of its 2012 grants will be $50,000. (August 2011)

The Foundation elected three new Directors to its Board: Jeffrey Lamken, Deborah Chiumento, and Sarah Wilson. Their biographies appear on this website under the tab that says, "About." (May 2011)

Jerry Hartman was elected by the Board as President to replace Sarah Gordon. (May 2011)

Sarah Gordon, President of the Foundation, resigned because of the press of her responsibilities as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She will remain as a Director. (May 2011)

The Board adopted an investment policy which appears here. (May 2011)

The Board elected Jeffrey Lamken, Deborah Chiumento, and Jerry Hartman as members of its Investment Committee to be responsible for making investment recommendations for the Foundation. (May 2011)

The Foundation received from its 2011 Grantees their six-month progress reports. (April, 2011)

The Foundation achieved an important milestone. Funds in the Foundation for the first time exceeded one million dollars. This means that in 2011 the Foundation will make total grants of approximately $50,000. (March 1, 2011)

In the March 2011 issue of the Washington Lawyer there was a story about the Appellate Legal Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society. The story appears here. (March 2011)

A story appeared in LEGAL BISNOW about the Barbara McDowell High Impact Litigation Project started at Drinker Biddle and the work of Barbara McDowell at Legal Aid. The story appears here. (January 19, 2011)

Jerry Hartman gave a talk at Westmoreland United Church of Christ about the life and work of Barbara McDowell. A recording of that speech appears here. (January 2, 2011)

Jerry Hartman was nominated by his law firm, Drinker Biddle, for a national pro bono award given by the legal newspaper, The National Law Journal. The nomination by the chairman of Drinker Biddle appears here. (December 2010)

Foundation grant recipients from the National Immigrant Justice Center attended a production in Chicago of the hit play, “Feast,” at the Albany Park Theater Project. Foundation Director, David Feiner, is the Producing Artistic Director of the Albany Park Theater Project. A link to the Albany Park Theater Project can be found at (October 2010)

The Foundation made its first grants on September 30, 2010, to seven organizations. The Foundation intends to make grants annually by no later than September 30 of each year. The Foundation hopes that funds available for grants will be increasing each year in the future. The Foundation will be embarking on fundraising efforts. To be considered for a grant, the grant application must be received by August 1st of the year in which the grant is being made. Applications for grants can be submitted earlier. The process for submitting grants is described on this website. (September 30, 2010)

In September 2010, Jerry Hartman was honored with the Legal Times Washington Champion Award by the National Law Journal for his work as director of the Barbara McDowell Pro Bono Initiative (September 30, 2010)

Jerry Hartman was elected as a member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Washington, D.C. (September 30, 2010)

In July 2010, Jerry Hartman was interviewed by the Washington Post for a story in its business section. The following story appeared:

Charitable giving highlights: Created the Barbara McDowell Pro Bono Initiative and the Barbara McDowell and Jerry Hartman Foundation; gives scholarship each year to a high school student in the Shaw community of Northwest Washington. …

Barbara had a strong belief in doing social justice programs in the District and beyond. She had an incredibly illustrious career as a lawyer, having been at the Justice Department and a recipient of the prestigious Rex E. Lee Advocacy and Public Service Award.

Instead of going back to private practice, she went to work at the D.C. Legal Aid Society for a very modest salary. …

I wanted to create a high-impact pro bono program at my firm in her name. …

What we do is try to find cases or matters that involve systemic problems. We spend a lot of time identifying cases that fit in the kind of issues that would've fit with Barbara's notion of social justice programs.

The first large case we did was the death penalty matter in Mississippi, challenging the process in which 60 individuals were ultimately sentenced to death. We're not challenging the death penalty directly but rather the process to see if these individuals had a fair opportunity to challenge the competency of their counsel who didn't raise questions about their mental capabilities.

I had received some very nice letters from the inmates on death row, many of whom were presumably mentally retarded, thanking me for pushing this forward. It was really touching.

We're also working with the D.C. Legal Aid Society in investigating and analyzing amendments to the food stamp program to see if District residents are receiving fully what they're entitled to in the Food Stamp Act. …” (July 5, 2010)

On April 15, 2010, Beth Harrison, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Washington, D.C., wrote Jerry Hartman a note describing Barbara’s work at the Legal Aid Society. That note captures the essence of the reasons why the Foundation was started and reads as follows:

Dear Jerry,

 These are the notes that Barbara gave me back in 2005 on a brief that we were working on together for a case in the 5th Circuit concerning the voucher program and utility allowances. Barbara had started at Legal Aid only recently and knew very little (at that time) about these programs. The utility allowance rules are sufficiently esoteric that it takes many legal services attorneys awhile to really understand them. One of Barbara’s contributions to the case was helping the lead attorneys explain the rules in a way that the panel (also likely to be unfamiliar with these details) could understand.

I was very impressed by Barbara’s detailed and insightful comments on the brief. Most of my reviewers (on this and other appellate briefs) would give me redline comments. Barbara was terrific at taking a step back to capture the big picture. My experience with her on this brief was similar to my experiences working with her later at Legal Aid. She was brilliant, an excellent writing and strategist, but also completely unassuming, respectful and deferential – a rare combination indeed.

She also was generous with her time, as I think these detailed comments illustrate. I remember another time early in my tenure at Legal Aid when I was looking for case law to support a particular proposition. The argument in court was the next day and I went to Barbara for ideas. She couldn’t come up with anything offhand, but promised to think about it. A few hours later she brought me a case that she had dug up. Of all things she had on her own to do list, she had taken the time to find it for me.

I am confident there are many attorneys at Legal Aid, but also everywhere Barbara worked, whose practice will be influenced by their work with Barbara for years to come. She taught all of us so much about being strong advocates in the appellate arena. She also was a model for being a smart and successful woman and a mentor to younger attorneys. I was blessed to know her and work with her.

Yours truly,


The blog of the Legal Times ran a story about the formation of the Foundation. Click here for the full story.

The Washington Business Journal did a story about the initiation of the Barbara McDowell in April of 2009. Click here for the full story.

The Legal Times published a tribute in June of 2009 to lawyers who died in the preceding year and had made an outstanding contribution to the Washington legal community. One of those lawyers was Barbara McDowell. The Legal Times’ tribute said as follows:

After arguing 18 cases at the Supreme Court for the U.S. solicitor general, Barbara McDowell could have had her pick of law firms. But she decided to use her litigating skills to help the poor, by launching lawsuits with impact beyond individual clients. McDowell, director of appellate advocacy at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, died on Jan. 3 at age 56. But her legal vision will live on at Drinker Biddle & Reath, where her husband, Jerry Hartman, is a partner. He'll head a pro bono initiative in her name. "She really was the voice of the downtrodden in the appellate area in the D.C. Court of Appeals," said Hartman. — Tony Mauro

Drinker Biddle on April 14, 2009, issued a press release announcing the formation of the Barbara McDowell Foundation. Click here to view the press release.

The Barbara McDowell Foundation was created by Jerry Hartman, Barbara’s husband, and Drinker Biddle in April 2009. The memorandum below from Alfred Putnam, Chairman of Drinker Biddle, describes the formation of the Foundation:


TO: All Offices
 FROM: Alfred W. Putnam, Jr.
 Andrew C. Kassner
 DATE: April 6, 2009
 RE: “High Impact” Pro Bono Initiative to Continue the Work of Barbara McDowell

As many of you will recall, our partner Jerry Hartman’s wife, Barbara McDowell, lost her year-long battle with brain cancer in early January of this year. Barbara was one of the country’s leading appellate advocates, first as a partner at Jones Day and then in the Solicitor General’s Office, having argued 18 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States before 2004. In that year, however, she left that distinguished practice behind and joined the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia as its First Appellate Director. In that capacity, she handled more than seventy cases on a broad range of issues and became the leading voice for the poor and disadvantaged in the appellate courts of the District of Columbia.

Jerry has advised the Managing Partners that he would now like to devote a significant portion of his time to continuing Barbara’s work and has invited the Firm to join him in this undertaking. This suggestion – and Barbara’s example – struck a chord, which is to be expected given our firm’s long history of commitment both to pro bono representation and to public service. In fact, we should probably express that thought in the plural and speak of more than one firm because that commitment has been a hallmark not only of Drinker Biddle & Reath but also of Gardner Carton & Douglas and Shanley & Fisher and other firms or groups with which we have combined over the past few years.

The Managing Partners responded to Jerry at their March 24th meeting by endorsing his suggestion of a new “High Impact” Pro Bono Initiative designed to continue and honor Barbara’s work. The Initiative will undertake matters that are deemed likely to have a significant impact on important social justice concerns facing indigent persons or charitable or civic groups who are unable to afford the services of an attorney. The overall mission of the Initiative is the enhancement of the economic, health, social conditions, and civil liberties of low-income and disadvantaged people. A fuller description is provided in the attached initial implementation plan. As noted therein, the Initiative will be administered as part of the Firm’s overall Pro Bono Program and consistent with the policies and procedures we apply to such matters.

The Managing Partners have asked Jerry to lead this Initiative in 2009. Initially, he will be attempting to identify appropriate cases – whether in the form of a class action or an individual case that could have important precedential impact – that can only be undertaken by a firm of our size and resources and which fit the mission. We hope that attorneys in each of our offices will want to join in this very unique effort for a law firm that will become a continuing and integral part of the firm’s Pro Bono work. Jerry plans to continue his employment discrimination practice, but he will be devoting substantial time to this Initiative and has considerable experience with complex litigation not only from his many years in private practice but also from the time he spent in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

If you have an interest in participating, please send Jerry an email. Similarly, if you know of any project that you think would fit within the aims of the Initiative, please send the suggestion to Jerry. We believe that this Initiative will greatly enhance the Firm’s already robust Pro Bono efforts and we thank Jerry for his willingness to undertake the task. We also can think of no better way to honor Barbara’s memory than to continue her work in this fashion.