From the 2010 News Archive
After 15 Years Prof. Ifill, Former Students Win Harford Co. Case
More than 15 years after University of Maryland School of Law Professors Sherrilyn Ifill
and Richard Boldt
and their students began working with a community in Havre de Grace on a dispute against the construction of a rubble landfill
to be built just 25 feet from a historic landmark and in the center of a rural working-class community in Harford County, the Maryland Court of Appeals in a 5-2 decision ruled in favor of the community working with the School of Law.
Since the School of Law became involved in the case in 1994, approximately 100 students in Professor Ifill’s Legal Theory and Practice (LTP) course have provided significant support for the residents of Gravel Hill and Webster Village, including working on zoning issues, environmental permitting, historic landmark designation, and endangered species research. Maryland Law students were instrumental in obtaining county historic landmark status for the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, after their research at the National Archives confirmed that at least eight African-American Civil War veterans are interred in the graveyard of the St. James A.M.E. church, which lies at the center of the community.
"This decision marks the third time our clients have won in the Court of Appeals,” Professor Ifill said. “Had they not had the assistance of a pro bono attorney who happened to hear about the case in 1992, and then our LTP students, the landfill would have been constructed long ago."
Adjunct Professor Jennifer Schwartzott ’01
, an Associate at Miles & Stockbridge, P.C., served as Co-Counsel after having worked on the case as a student in Professor Ifill’s Legal Theory and Practice and Civil Procedure course in the late 1990s and later as a 3L teaching assistant. After graduating she joined Miles & Stockbridge and immediately asked for permission to continue working on the case, pro bono.
"The clients were really great people and so appreciative of the help," Schwartzott said. "They had a strong case and I wanted to continue working with Professor Ifill on such a compelling matter. I have enjoyed every aspect of working with her, she is a good role model for client relations and her oral advocacy and insight on the written documents we had to craft was incredible."
Professor Ifill sees the work of Maryland Law School students on this case as a testament to the success of the Cardin requirement, a unique feature at Maryland Law School which requires that students, as a prerequisite to graduation, take one course in which they work on representing the legal interests of poor or underserved individuals or communities. The courses in which Ifill’s students represented the Gravel Hill community – LTP Civil Procedure and LTP Complex Litigation – allowed students to work on environmental justice cases, which provided a lens through which students could critically examine civil litigation rules and practices. It also forged in students like Schwarzott a strong commitment to doing pro bono work.
According to Professor Ifill, residents in the affected communities – black and white, lived in adjoining communities that had never before worked together. When they learned of the planned rubble landfill they joined forces to gather documents, attend hearings, and complete scientific research in order to protect their community. Over the course of their battle, they developed lifelong bonds of friendship and support.
“I’ve been very impressed with the way people worked together across racial lines,” Professor Ifill told the Baltimore Sun
Read the Baltimore Sun article here
Posted by Carrie Oleynik on March 12, 2010.