The Public Justice Center was founded in 1985 as a nonprofit legal advocacy organization. Since its inception the PJC has been focused on systemic change through legal services. The PJC’s efforts focus on confronting unjust laws, practices and institutions, particularly those affecting people living in poverty. The PJC takes a dynamic approach to systemic change by functioning as a legal services office as well as a policy campaign leader, and a community action partner to attack systemic problems of injustice at their roots. The Public Justice Center has been an accredited sealholder of the Standards for Excellence Institute since 2013. Kayleigh Harper, Social Media and Marketing Intern for the Standards for Excellence Institute, got the chance to have a conversation with Director of Development Jennifer K. Pelton, CFRE about the organization and their experience as a Standards for Excellence sealholder.
Tell me about why the PBJ was founded and its mission.
The Public Justice Center was founded 30 years ago in order to fight injustice and discrimination at the root cause. We use every tool in the lawyer’s toolbox to create systemic change in areas like housing, work, health care and education. We will provide legal services help to a case if it represents a larger issue.
What are some services that your staff provides?
The common thread in all of the Public Justice Center’s work is to improve access to justice. We are providing civil legal services for low-income tenants in landlord/tenant disputes, for low-wage workers claiming wages they rightfully earned, and for homeless and foster kids seeking educational stability to name a few. We are focused on getting the right to counsel in civil cases, which is not a universally protected right in the United States. We are also advocates for reformed policies and provide workshops to help people better understand and enforce their rights.
How has your accreditation with Standards since 2013 benefitted your organization?
Well, it raises the standard! We looked into the Standards and began working on the processes of good governance long before applying. It definitely made us stronger in every area. It was like laying bricks for a strong foundation.
What factors brought you to Standards?
We had the desire to be known as the effective organization that we are. The Public Justice Center has a credible reputation as a civil legal organization. The seal expands that and declares that we are also meeting the high mark as a well-managed nonprofit organization.
Can you recall a recent time that you turned to the Standards for guidance?
One of the new requirements from Standards is for the board to be involved in planning the organization’s fundraising efforts. While we are planning the next fiscal year’s budget, the board is also planning what fundraising activities they will be doing in that coming year. This gets the board involved in not only setting goals but also encourages them to be accountable for their part, which really takes it to the next step. This is a rounder view of revenue and expense that’s really helpful.
Are there any recent achievements from the Public Justice Center that you’d like to highlight?
Yes! In the fall we released our report, Justice Diverted which can be found on our website. It’s a look at the rent court system, and a look towards how the landlord/tenant system can be reformed. We are also active members of the on Working Matters coalition, that is driving momentum behind pass new laws to Marylanders the right to earn paid sick leave which made significant progress through Maryland General Assembly this year. We are settling a decades-old law suit case regarding healthcare in the Baltimore City Detention Center. The results will improve the way that healthcare is given to the incarcerated. More information is available about the PJC website about our work.
In 2016, the Public Justice Center celebrates 30 years.
The Public Justice Center’s mission is to build a just society. If you’d like to learn more about any of their activities, strategies or achievements or donate to the Public Justice Center, visit their website at http://www.publicjustice.org/index.cfm
Public Justice Center contact information:
1 North Charles Street, Suite 200
Baltimore, MD 21201
Telephone: (410) 625-9409
Fax: (410) 625-9423
Kayleigh Harper has been a marketing and communications intern with the Standards for Excellence Institute since January 2016. She is a junior at Towson University where she is completing a bachelor of science in Law & American Civilization. She is active in the campus community, especially in areas involving community service and volunteering.