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Volunteer of the Month Mary Ann Meany

Monday, December 12, 2005

  • By: Psyche Philips
  • Organization: VLSP
  
   
    Mary Ann Meany has consistently been one of VLSP’s most active volunteer attorneys since she began volunteering with the program in 1998. Her dedication is a combination of her personal commitment to make a difference and her devotion to representing underserved clients.

    “I do this kind of work anyway whether there’s a VLSP or not. But working with VLSP means that I’m connected to some resources I wouldn’t have on my own and I can brainstorm with the staff if I need to.” 

    Mary Ann’s most recent volunteering endeavor has been with VLSP’s Courthouse Landlord/Tenant Project, in which volunteer attorneys use their legal skills to assist San Francisco residents facing unlawful detainer settlement conferences. The Courthouse Project began in May 2005 as a way to address the incredible need of pro per litigants in eviction cases and to enable busy attorneys to volunteer with a minimal time commitment. In this project, volunteers provide limited scope representation to unrepresented litigants during their mandatory settlement conferences. 

    Mary Ann said her most recent Courthouse Project client had a compelling case but unfortunately did not show up for his settlement conference. The case was so compelling that she wanted to represent the client. She is currently still working on the case, with the assistance of the social services staff at VLSP’s Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP). HAP provides holistic, free legal and social services to individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Of VLSP’s holistic approach, Mary Ann says, “I love the assistance from VLSP for clients with mental health issues or who otherwise need the help of a social worker. It really addresses the full range of a clients’ issues.”

    In a case earlier this year with the Courthouse Project, Mary Ann represented a couple that was being evicted by their new landlord. The couple had been caretakers for their recently deceased landlord who had promised to take care of them in his will but, sadly, left them nothing. Mary Ann settled the case, getting the old landlord’s Cadillac and three months for the couple to vacate. “I like volunteering because I can still do some landlord/tenant work and I don’t have to worry about whether clients can pay for services. With most tenants the cost of legal services affects strategies in ways that usually hurts them.”

    A native of New Jersey, Meany says, “I’m very proud to practice in a city which takes pro bono work as seriously as San Francisco does.” She emphasized her appreciation for the staff at VLSP and the support she gets there. “I think the staff at VLSP and HAP are a big part of why volunteers come back. They certainly are for me.”

    Mary Ann graduated from New College of California School of Law in 1997. In her private practice she represents low-income tenants, and is also on the San Francisco juvenile dependency panel. Other than volunteering with VLSP, Mary Ann also volunteers with Bay Area Legal Aid’s pro per clinic for indigent tenants who are being evicted. She lives in the East Bay and loves ecology and natural history. When she is not working, Mary Ann can be found birding, backpacking, canoeing and snow shoeing with her husband who is an artist and professor of ceramics at City College of San Francisco.

For more information about volunteering with VLSP’s Courthouse Landlord/Tenant Project, or Homeless Advocacy Project, please contact VLSP’s Recruitment Coordinator at vlsp@sfbar.org.

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