Rothwell Figg Secures Pro Bono Client Access to Burial Ground, Right to Worship

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Rothwell Figg pro bono clients the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition (“BACC”), Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, the Reverend Dr. Segun Adebayo, and several descendants of individuals buried at the Moses African Cemetery, in Bethesda, Maryland, have been embroiled in litigation with the Montgomery County Housing and Opportunities Commission (“HOC”) for the past several years. In October 2021, Judge Karla Smith granted Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, halting the sale by HOC of a parcel of land (Parcel 175) on which a portion of the Moses African Cemetery is located. The HOC filed an appeal of the injunction, and a hearing on the appeal occurred in October 2022. Since then, the three-judge panel has requested additional briefing, which is due to be filed in early April.

In the interim, while the appeal has been pending, representatives of BACC (including Dr. Coleman-Adebayo and the Reverend Dr. Segun Adebayo) and others have continued to visit the Moses Cemetery (parcels 175-177) to offer prayers to African buried and desecrated under HOC’s parking lot. On a recent visit, a security guard told one such visitor that she was not allowed to park her car in the parking lot, and that she and the other religious leaders had 15 minutes to leave the premises. This prompted Rothwell Figg to write a letter to HOC on behalf of its clients, citing inter alia Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 14-121. As a result of its actions, Rothwell Figg secured its clients’ right to access the burial ground to worship, pray and visit with those buried there. HOC confirmed in writing on March 24, 2023 that going forward church members would be permitted to visit and pray at the site of the Moses African Cemetery. 

The pro bono clients are represented by Steven Lieberman, Jenny Colgate, D. Lawson Allen, and Kristen Logan.

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