County Executive March Elrich said Saturday that he tested positive for COVID-19, but has "mild symptoms." Credit: File Photo

Montgomery County will have extra legal help in facing a federal lawsuit by a nonprofit group that wants to prevent the county from distributing pandemic relief funds to immigrants living in the country illegally.

On Tuesday, the County Council approved the appointment of international law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr — known as WilmerHale — as special counsel to assist with the case, which raises constitutional issues.

Marc Hansen, the county’s attorney, made the request to the council.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Sharon Bauer and Richard Jurgena, who live in the county.

In Hansen’s request to the council, he wrote that the law firm’s litigation team would be headed by attorneys Paul Wolfson and Catherine Carroll, who have both argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. The firm is representing the county at no charge.

Judicial Watch is claiming that the county’s $10 million Emergency Assistance Relief Payment (EARP) program violates federal immigration law because the financial assistance was not approved by the state legislature. LINK


The program is providing grants of up to $1,450 to individuals and families who are not eligible for federal or state aid and have an income of less than 50% of the federal poverty level. LINK

Household incomes that are 50% of the federal poverty level are $6,380 for a single adult and $10,860 for a family of three.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are County Executive Marc Elrich and Raymond Crowel, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.


Bauer v. Elrich is pending in the U.S. District Court for Maryland and has an accelerated briefing schedule.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at