Recognizing her advocacy on behalf of battered women, the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) chose Carole Alexander, MA, to receive the 2010 William Marbury Outstanding Advocate Award.
Alexander, a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW), accepted the award Dec. 6 at an event attended by a large group of key supporters of the School and of domestic violence prevention. Also present were Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, dean of the SSW, and Phoebe A. Haddon, JD, LLM, dean of the University of Maryland School of Law. Alexander is pictured holding her plaque.
Maryland Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, JD, presided over a ceremony in which awards went to eight leaders who have broadened access to legal services. Alexander was recognized in her faculty role as well as in her former position as executive director of the House of Ruth Maryland, where she spent 26 years and helped make a national model of the Baltimore agency.
Speaking from an academic perspective, Alexander said she has reviewed study after study on battered women to examine root causes and effective prevention strategies. And yet, she said that she has had to conclude that, "We don't fully understand the causes of intimate partner violence or how to address it in meaningful ways."
Looking back, she recalled several accomplishments such as helping to make public the personal circumstances that led to incarceration of 25 women for murder. By partnering with the Public Justice Center, the House of Ruth enabled the women to tell their stories of abuse at the hands of their spouses. As a result, the governor granted clemency to a dozen women, she noted, and the state established protocols allowing victims and experts to testify about "battered spouse syndrome." This became a model for many other jurisdictions.
In Maryland, laws have been changed to provide protective orders on an around-the-clock basis, to remove guns from abusers and to provide a funding stream for shelter services from a portion of court fees. Alexander was deeply involved in advocacy for these efforts.
Yet the violence continues, and punishment remains proportionately low. "Of 6,500 charged with abuse during 2009, fewer than 10 percent were prosecuted and fewer than 1 percent spent even a day in jail. That doesn't work," Alexander told the audience.
For greater impact in the future, she suggested that the movement against domestic violence needs "a bigger tent" and must widen its circle of advocates. Alexander asked, "Where are the young people, minorities, and men? Where are the brokers, the bakers, and business people?"
Barth said, "I am in awe of the inventiveness of Carole's work and her many successful efforts to expand the capacity of legal and social work services to protect women. I am delighted that she will bring her experiences into the classroom this spring, and teach our MSW students some of what she has learned about the specifics of services to prevent and reduce intimate partner violence and more general strategies to advocate for change."
Alexander organized an event sponsored by the SSW in October that raised awareness of the issue and drew hundreds to campus. The inaugural Patricia and Arthur Modell Symposium on Domestic Violence was made possible through the generosity of the Modells and Margery Dannenberg. The latter was in attendance at the awards presentation along with several members of the symposium committee and supporters of the SSW.
They included Marian "Sis" Decker, Barbara and Ed Brody, Donna and Ed Kovacs, and Sam and Barbara Himmelrich, MSW '81. Also applauding Alexander during the ceremony was a large contingent of House of Ruth staff.
The Marbury award, which was presented to Alexander, goes each year to a non-attorney who has demonstrated outstanding service representing the rights and legal needs of low-income persons or by expanding access to justice for such persons.
Other award winners were Ward Coe III, JD '73; Wilhelm Joseph Jr. JD, MPA; Maryland Senator Brian Frosh, JD, and Delegate Kathleen Dumais, JD '83; Marguerite Gardner; Douglas Snyder, PhD; and the law firms of Dickstein Shapiro LLP and Hunton & Williams LLP.
The MLSC was established by state law to receive and distribute funds to nonprofit groups that provide civil legal assistance to low-income Marylanders. These groups provide assistance with cases involving housing, family, employment, disability, public benefits, and special education.