Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Mar 02

2015

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Landmark Settlement Reached with DCHA for Individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Legal Aid and the law firm of Relman, Dane & Colfax issued a press release today announcing that they have reached a settlement agreement, approved by the federal district court, to resolve a lawsuit filed in May 2013 against the D.C. Housing Authority, which alleged that DCHA failed to provide reasonable accommodations and appropriate interpretation services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Under the settlement, DCHA agreed to adopt a new policy, effective within 60 days, that ensures equal access to housing programs and services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The agreement also requires DCHA to pay $350,000 in monetary relief. Read more →

Feb 18

2015

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Legal Aid and McKenna Long File Class Action Lawsuit Against the Social Security Administration, Treasury Department, and D.C. Government

UPDATE: Legal Times Covers Filing of Class Action Lawsuit (12:29PM February 18, 2015)

This morning, Legal Aid and the law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge issued a press release announcing that they have filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of three individuals against the Social Security Administration, U.S. Department of Treasury, and District of Columbia government.

The lawsuit alleges that the government defendants confiscated the plaintiffs’ tax refunds, without notice, in violation of federal law — including Social Security’s own regulations and the Administrative Procedures Act — and without the due process required under the Constitution. The seizure of funds is based on alleged debts that the plaintiffs owe to the Social Security Administration, but those alleged debts are decades old, and the agency has been unable to date to provide an adequate explanation for them. In some cases, the Social Security benefits in question were paid to a relative of the plaintiffs, and not to the plaintiffs themselves. Read more →

Feb 11

2015

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Supervising Attorney Jennifer Mezey Selected for “Health Meets Justice” Fellowship

Imagine you are a person living in poverty. You go to your doctor for your annual physical, and she asks you not just about your blood pressure, but if you have enough food to eat and about where you live. Before you leave, she prescribes food, income, safe housing or protection from an abusive partner, and down the hall there is someone to help you with that.

This is what happens at hospitals and health centers with a medical-legal partnership – health care providers work with integrated civil legal aid partners to detect and treat the underlying social and legal issues that contribute to poor health. Just like getting a mammogram can identify and lead to the treatment of breast cancer at an early stage, having an attorney working as part of the health care team can help ensure that patients have access to food, safe homes and income supports that will help their cancer treatment be successful. Read more →

Feb 05

2015

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Appellate Victory Further Clarifies “Excusable Neglect” Provision of UI Law

Last week, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued its decision in Admasu v. 7-11 Food Store #11731G/21926D, No. 13-AA-1038. This important case built on Legal Aid’s prior victory in Savage-Bey v. La Petite Academy, 50 A.3d 1055 (D.C. 2012), and reaffirmed that judges must carefully consider an unemployment claimant’s reasons for delay when deciding whether to hear a late-filed appeal.

Admasu arose out of a family emergency. Mr. Admasu, a native Amharic speaker, applied for unemployment benefits after he was terminated from his position at a 7-11 food store. While he was waiting for a decision on his claim, his parents became gravely ill, and he returned home to his native Ethiopia to care for them. Read more →

Feb 04

2015

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Language Access Act Amendments Re-Introduced in D.C. Council

Yesterday, Councilmember David Grosso re-introduced a bill that would strengthen the D.C. Language Access Act in several important ways. (Last fall, we blogged about the prior version of this bill that Councilmember Grosso submitted during the last Council session.) The new bill, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Charles Allen and Vincent Orange, includes many important changes to current law.

Most notably, the bill would add a private right of action, allowing individuals harmed by violations of the Language Access Act to bring cases for damages and other remedies in D.C. courts. Under the current Act, language access complaints can only be brought before the Office of Human Rights and only lead to “corrective actions” by the agencies, not any compensation to the person actually harmed by violations of the Act. The ability to make whole individuals who have been harmed by violations of the Act is a key provision of the proposed legislation. Read more →