The Suffolk Pro Bono Project is pleased to honor Maria Scheuring-Elbert as its Pro Bono Attorney of the Month. Ms. Scheuring-Elbert joined the Project in 2014 as an attorney who was completely new to matrimonial law. She learned quickly and since then has represented several of the Project’s divorce clients. Having devoted so much of her time to the Project with an exceptional commitment to serving her community, she is very deserving of this recognition.
Working on behalf of the less fortunate is nothing new to Ms. Scheuring-Elbert. In fact, it was a central part of her upbringing as the child of two Catholic missionaries. In many ways, she had an extraordinary childhood. As a young child, Ms. Scheuring and her siblings lived in areas of Mexico and Texas, where her parents’ missionary work allowed her to experience firsthand working with the poor, including the children in orphanages in Mexico City, and the people living in cardboard shacks among miles of garbage dumps in Juarez, Mexico. Later, her family moved to the Bronx, where her parents founded LAMP Catholic Ministries, which provides faith-based services to the poor in the five boroughs of New York City, and includes the running of a mobile soup kitchen, the LAMP Café. She was able to combine this concern for the poor with her emerging interest in the law when, at the early age of 18, she worked at Bronx Legal Services assisting staff attorneys in Housing Court.
Ms. Scheuring-Elbert attended college at Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio, where she graduated with a BA in 1993. She continued her education there, obtaining a Masters in Philosophy in 1996. In 1998, she obtained her JD from Fordham University. While at Fordham, Ms. Scheuring-Elbert was a Stein Scholar for the Stein Center for Ethics and Public Interest Law and the recipient of the Archibald R. Murray award for Public Interest Law.
During law school, Ms. Scheuring-Elbert spent a summer as a Law Intern at the Bronx County District Attorney's Office in the Felony Trial Division. The following summer, she was a Law Clerk in New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County, for the Honorable Gerald Sheindlin, the husband of "Judge Judy", where she gained experience observing and assisting in writing decisions for felony trials. As a law student, she was a Law Clerk in New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County, for the Honorable Edward Davidowitz. She assisted with the creation of Judge Davidowitz’ handbook, “The Practice of Criminal Law under the CPLR and Related Civil Procedure Statutes.” She was also a Research Assistant to the Dean of Fordham Law School, John Feerick. Immediately after graduating from Fordham Law in 1998, Ms. Scheuring-Elbert was hired as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County. After gaining a great deal of experience in the courtroom, and in litigation, and criminal prosecution, she left to pursue private practice.
From 2001- 2004, she worked as an associate and of counsel at various general practice firms, first in White Plains, and then on Long Island. Her intentions from the very beginning were to gain enough diverse experience to one day start her own practice. In 2004, she and a partner began a law firm where she specialized in Insurance Defense. Then, in 2013, she established her current solo practice in Smithtown, New York, where she specializes in general litigation, trials and appellate practice, general contract law, insurance defense, including workers compensation and no-fault defense, and matrimonial law. A musician herself (she plays electric guitar and formerly played in bands in high school and college), Ms. Scheuring-Elbert added to her practice assisting professional musicians and music related businesses with all aspects of their contractual needs.
Soon after opening her practice in 2013, having no prior matrimonial experience, she contacted the Pro Bono Project to offer her help and learn the basics of divorce. She attended the 2014 Matrimonial Boot Camp at the Suffolk County Bar Association and immediately thereafter accepted her first pro bono divorce client. Since then, she has never hesitated to accept new referrals and has now represented several of the Project’s clients. As to why she continues to accept these divorce client referrals, she explains, “While working with the indigent most of my life, and especially in the Bronx DA’s office, I was really impacted by how stuck in their circumstances so many of the domestic violence victims felt. I knew I wanted to eventually do legal work that empowered people who felt trapped by their circumstances. The Project’s divorce referrals give me the opportunity to do just that.”
Ms. Scheuring-Elbert is the mother of three children, ages 13, 10 and 9. They are all very conscious of the importance of helping others in need, and regularly make sandwiches, serve food and share conversation with the poor they meet when they volunteer at the LAMP Café mobile soup kitchen. Additionally, taking after their mother, all three are emerging musicians.
The Pro Bono Project is indebted to Ms. Scheuring-Elbert for the great work she has done for our matrimonial clients. We are moved by the genuine compassion she demonstrates for the less fortunate. It is with great pleasure that we honor her as our Pro Bono Attorney of the Month.
The Suffolk Pro Bono Project is a joint effort of Nassau Suffolk Law Services, the Suffolk County Bar Association and the Suffolk County Pro Bono Foundation, who, for many years, have joined resources toward the goal of providing free legal assistance to Suffolk County residents who are dealing with economic hardship. Nassau Suffolk Law Services is a non-profit civil legal services agency, providing free legal assistance to Long Islanders, primarily in the areas of benefits advocacy, homelessness prevention (foreclosure and eviction defense), access to health care, and services to special populations such as domestic violence victims, disabled, and adult home resident. The provision of free services is prioritized based on financial need and funding is often inadequate in these areas. Furthermore, there is no funding for the general provision of matrimonial or bankruptcy representation, therefore the demand for pro bono assistance is the greatest in these areas. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Ellen Krakow, Esq. 631 232-2400 x 3323.