Linda Kennedy

[ Age 43 ] Attorney was a `tireless and formidable advocate' for disabled children and the homeless.

Ms. Kennedy "had an inner strength that radiated to all who knew her," said her friend Lucy Acton.

December 19, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun reporter

Linda Kennedy, a staff attorney for the Homeless Persons Representation Project who previously worked as an advocate for children with disabilities, died of breast cancer Thursday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Hampden resident was 43.

Born in White Plains, N.Y., and raised there and in Scottsdale, Ariz., Ms. Kennedy moved to Rodgers Forge in 1973 with her mother, Lenna Davis Kennedy. Her father, Stanton R. Kennedy, died in 1971.

Ms. Kennedy's concern for others began early.

"She was raised with a sense of when you have a great deal, you must give back," her mother said yesterday.

Ms. Kennedy was a 1982 graduate of Towson High School and received a bachelor's degree from Washington College in 1986.

After graduating from college, she worked as a paralegal for several Washington law firms and managed the successful campaign of Lonnie C. Rich for the Alexandria, Va., City Council in 1991.

She then enrolled at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. After graduating in 1994, she clerked for a year for Judge Edward A. DeWaters Jr., who was then chief judge of the Baltimore County Circuit Court and who later retired as chief judge of the 3rd Judicial Circuit of Maryland.

Ms. Kennedy worked in the public defender's office in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

"I first met her when she clerked for Judge DeWaters and was a young attorney, and we stayed friends," said Theresa A. Furnari, domestic relations master for the Family Division of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City.

"She was a wonderful combination of someone who was extremely passionate about her work and was a true public servant. I used to say to her, `Linda, you have to pick your battles,' because she'd go to bat for everyone," Ms. Furnari said.

"She treated every case she had like it was the only one she was working on," she added.

From 2000 to 2002, Ms. Kennedy was a staff attorney with the Maryland Disability Law Center, where she worked on school-discipline cases for children with disabilities.

"She made a difference in the lives of those kids," said Leslie Seid Margolis, a managing attorney at the center. "She made sure those kids got the appropriate services they needed. ... She spent her whole professional life representing people who didn't have access to legal services and were most vulnerable."

Starting in 2004, Ms. Kennedy worked as a staff attorney with the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

Ms. Furnari said Ms. Kennedy had found her niche in working with the homeless and had worked hard, despite being ill, lobbying the state legislature for a bill that automatically expunges police records for people arrested but released without being charged. Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the bill into law in September.

In August, when workers from the Downtown Partnership sought to clean up an area frequented by the homeless near the Jones Falls Expressway, Ms. Kennedy told The Sun, "People have a right to sleep somewhere."

She added: "If we're not going to deal with the housing crunch, we can't just round up people, especially a nongovernmental entity, and move them along."

Ms. Kennedy was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago.

"Linda was one of the best people I've ever known. She had an inner strength that radiated to all who knew her," said Lucy Acton, editor of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine and a member of Ms. Kennedy's cancer support group. "She was smart, funny, stubborn and deeply compassionate."

"Despite her physical ailments, Linda, until the last few months, managed all of her professional obligations and continued to work with a positive outlook," Ms. Furnari said.

"Her life mission was to do all she could for those who fell through the cracks of the legal system - the poor, the disabled, children needing special educational services and the homeless," her mother said. "For them, she was a tireless and formidable advocate."

Ms. Kennedy enjoyed traveling to Europe and had visited Ireland twice. She was also a gardener and enjoyed spending time with Emmett, a 15-year-old dog she rescued from the pound.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Stoney Run Friends Meeting House, 5116 N. Charles St.

Also surviving are two brothers, Sean D. Kennedy of Baltimore and Liam R. Kennedy of Crisfield.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Greg Garland contributed to this article.

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