Phil was born and raised in Potomac, Maryland. After studying Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, he decided to pursue public interest work by going to law school. In the fall, he will be in his third and final year at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Prior to joining FreeState, Phil worked at the Prince Georges County Public Defender’s Office, Attorney General’s Office, and the Baltimore City States Attorney’s Office. Outside of work and school, Phil enjoys playing golf, rock climbing, and spending time with family and friends.
Lauren Albers Denhart is the Policy Advisor Fellow at FreeState Justice. After spending time as a middle school teacher in Baltimore City, Lauren left the classroom to pursue change on a larger scale. She currently works as Communications and Community Engagement Manager for HASA, a nonprofit serving the communication needs of marginalized individuals across the region.
Lauren has degrees in Education and Communications from Johns Hopkins University and Ohio University, respectively. She is a proud Advisory Board member at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in West Baltimore and member of the Mayor’s Women’s Commission committee on Employment and Economic Opportunity.
In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs and husband and completing home improvement projects at her home in the Barclay neighborhood of Baltimore City.
Chrysanthemum is a recent Yale Law School graduate from the New Haven, Connecticut area. Their interest in indigent legal services comes from their experience both organizing for police accountability in New Haven and working in the city’s schools. In their fellowship and day to day life, they’re focused on building up leadership of queer and trans youth of color.
Ashley was born and raised in New York City. She moved to Towson, Maryland to pursue her undergraduate education at Goucher College, where they studied Medical Sociology with two minors in Public Health and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies as well as working with Goucher’s Center for Race, Equity and Identity as a programming assistant.
Now a Baltimore City resident, they have recently joined our team as a Baltimore Corps Fellow as part of Cohort 5, an organization that enlists talent to accelerate social innovation in Baltimore and advance a citywide agenda for equity and racial justice. She identifies as a queer, Latinx person who enjoys listening to music, cooking, and attending social events with friends and family. Holding a passion for social justice, she plans on building a career in Social Work and Public Health, working towards a more equitable future.
Ezra Halstead is the Case Manager at FreeState Justice. In his position, he works to build connections and resources through client advocacy, community organizing, education, and outreach to achieve equity for vulnerable LGBTQ+ Marylanders.
Ezra moved to the Baltimore area in 2017 after graduating from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies with a master’s degree in International Policy and Development and a dual concentration in Human Rights and Advocacy and Gender, Power, and Identity. A passionate activist for several years, he has had various professional experiences pertaining to LGBTQ advocacy, including working as a Campus Leader with Equality Pennsylvania at his undergraduate institution (Juniata College) in 2014, where he successfully advocated for nondiscrimination and gender inclusive housing policy reforms. More recently, Ezra was the Operations Manager at Code in the Schools and a Baltimore Corps Cohort 4 Fellow, where he regularly advocated for employees’ needs, updated policies to ensure all were supported and protected, and received professional development around the areas of racial equity and social justice.
Outside of his work with FreeState, he is a Law and Policy Committee Member of the Baltimore City LGBTQ Commission and a Core Team Member of Trans Healthcare Maryland, a trans-led group that aims to unify the transgender community of Maryland for the purpose of extending competent, accessible, and affirming healthcare to everyone in the state. He currently lives in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Baltimore City.
Sandy James is a Staff Attorney at FreeState Justice. He represents clients in civil legal matters and participates in FreeState’s policy advocacy and education and outreach work. Prior to joining FreeState Justice in 2018, Sandy was the Research Director at the National Center for Transgender Equality and lead author of The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. In that role, he led a research team in the development, fielding, analysis, and presentation of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. After spending a decade as a forensic toxicologist, Sandy launched a new career as a civil rights advocate focused on laws and policies that affect trans and LGBQ people. In addition to providing legal services, he has worked on numerous projects involving trans- and LGBQ-related legislation, policy, and research. Sandy earned a J.D. and a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University. He is admitted to practice law in all Maryland state courts.
Less formally known throughout the community as Charlie — is an East Atlanta native, currently residing in Baltimore, Maryland. He is a motivational speaker, community healing advocate, and spoken word performance poet. Self-described as a “man of trans experience,” Charles Xavier feels it is his responsibility to use his transition as a way to facilitate open conversations about intersectionality and the importance of living a life that is true to the authentic self. Through his poetry, activism, and community building efforts he hopes to motivate others to care more deeply & intentionally for themselves, & each other.
Jennifer Kent is the Managing Attorney of FreeState Justice. As Managing Attorney, Jennifer supervises and conducts FreeState’s in-house litigation program, bringing cases to vindicate LGBTQ Marylanders’ hard-won civil rights and engaging in strategic advocacy to expand access to justice for the LGBTQ community.
Jennifer brings a wide array of experience to FreeState Justice, including serving as one of its volunteer attorneys. Prior to joining FreeState, Jennifer spent seven years in private practice representing victims of terrorism and civil rights abuses. Since 2013, she has taught Maryland Civil Procedure at the University of Baltimore School of Law. After graduating Florida State University magna cum laude, she worked on human rights issues in Albania and England for the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. Jennifer graduated cum laude from the University of Florida Levin College of Law where she was a board member of the Florida Law Review. Jennifer is admitted to practice in all Maryland state courts, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, and the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Laura McMahon joined FreeState Justice as a Staff Attorney in March of 2015. She represents clients in a wide-range of civil legal matters, including name change and gender identity petitions, family law cases, anti-discrimination matters, and actions regarding access to transition-related health care. Additionally, Laura manages FreeState’s Pro Bono Panel, recruiting, training, and mentoring attorneys across the state on how to effectively represent LGBTQ community members. Laura also leads FreeState’s police reform efforts as Co-Chair LGBT of the Baltimore Police Commissioner’s Advisory Council, and advocates for law enforcement accountability at the highest levels of the Baltimore Police Department.
Prior to working at FreeState Justice, Laura was a Court-Appointed Attorney for the District Court of Maryland, where she represented indigent clients appearing before District Court Commissioners in preliminary hearings. Laura volunteered as a Law Clerk, Rule 16 Student Attorney, and Volunteer Attorney for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender from 2011–2014.
Laura attended Smith College and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy in 2008. She graduated from the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law in 2012. Laura is admitted to practice law in all Maryland state courts and the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
Mark Procopio is the Executive Director of FreeState Justice, a social justice organization that works statewide to improve the lives of LGBTQ Marylanders and their families through legal services, policy advocacy, outreach, education, and coalition building. As a member of the LGBTQ community and a former educator in Baltimore City, he experienced and witnessed the impact of systemic inequality and structural bias. His experience as a middle school teacher in Baltimore City stoked his passion and commitment to working with communities to achieve equality, access, and opportunity for all people regardless of race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. His career has focused on building partnerships, marshaling resources, and improving sustainability with social justice oriented education non-profits.
Prior to joining FreeState Justice, Mark held several roles with KIPP Baltimore which serves 1,500 students in the Greater Park Heights neighborhood of Baltimore City. KIPP is a national network of college preparatory, public charter schools. Most recently, he served as Interim Director of Operations. Previously, he led the fundraising, community organizing, advocacy, marketing, and communications work for the organization. Before his time at KIPP, he managed organizational fundraising and partnerships for the Teach For America – Baltimore region.
He holds a degree in International Economics and International Finance from The Catholic University of America and is an alumnus of Teach For America, an AmeriCorps program. He and his fiance, Chris, live in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore City.