Making Justice Real

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

Legal Aid Gives Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Legal Aid!

Last November, Legal Aid pledged to continue our pursuit of justice for our most vulnerable neighbors in D.C. with renewed vigor and determination. We have indeed made great strides towards making justice real for our clients, but we certainly did not do it alone.

Over the past year, you – our donors, volunteers, and partners – have made a deep impact on our client community. Your support in the courtroom, on legislative issues, and in our fundraising campaigns matters. You have paved the way for us to finish this year with even more determination than when we started it.

“We have a future now because of Legal Aid.” – Anna Jones*, Legal Aid client and her daughter.

We are so grateful for all that you do, and so, in honor of Thanksgiving, we would like to share a small sampling of the ways you have made a difference for D.C. residents:

  • You saved a life. There are many ways in which Legal Aid’s work could be considered life-saving. However, in this special instance, through a series of unusual events and unconventional advocacy, our Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project helped save a young woman’s life this year. Legal Aid’s attorneys jumped into action after the District’s Medicaid agency refused to cover a kidney-pancreas transplant for our client who is in her mid-30s and is the primary caretaker of two minor children and one minor grandchild. We filed a brief with the Court of Appeals arguing that there were adequate grounds for the surgery to be covered. While waiting for the Court to rule on the case, Legal Aid actually joined forces with the Attorney General’s office to find a way to obtain the surgery without judicial intervention. Months and months of advocacy ultimately resulted in the Hospital agreeing to perform the surgery even without Medicaid or other health insurance coverage. Doctors performed the life-saving operation in August.
  • You protected thousands of families. For years, Legal Aid has been one of the organizations leading advocacy efforts to protect families that rely on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits from having their benefits terminated. This summer, we finally have success to report, as the D.C. Council unanimously approved a bill that prevented thousands of D.C. families (including nearly 13,000 children) from having their benefits terminated in October 2017. These families will now continue to receive the critical support of this important safety net program through the coming years.
  • You fought systemic issues with food stamps. At the end of the summer, Legal Aid’s Public Benefits Unit joined forces with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice and Hogan Lovells LLP to file a federal class action suit on behalf of new and existing SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients, who have seen their benefits delayed or terminated with no notice or explanation. We challenged the District’s systematic failure to properly implement these lifeline benefits. This case is ongoing and Legal Aid will continue to fight for our clients’ rights – and, just as importantly, their ability to put food on their tables.
  • You brought a notorious D.C. slumlord to justice. Sanford Capital allowed Terrace Manor, a 61-unit apartment complex, to deteriorate for the past five years. Despite the virtually unlivable conditions, 11 tenants remained because they had nowhere else to go. Even more brazenly, in response to a lawsuit, Sanford Capital filed a bankruptcy action that would have allowed them to sell the property to a third party without having to compensate the tenants for the harm they have suffered. That’s when Legal Aid stepped in. Partnering with Bread for the City, the OAG, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, we thwarted Sanford Capital’s plans. The tenants won a resounding victory: $360,000 in compensation plus an agreement to sell the property to developer WC Smith, which has committed to a meaningful rehabilitation of the complex while retaining its affordability.

These small snippets don’t include the hundreds, if not thousands, of interventions not detailed here  – the survivor of domestic violence getting to safety, the homeowner saved from foreclosure, the child who receives the benefits she needs, the family who avoids eviction.

This Thanksgiving season, there is much to be thankful for, and we at Legal Aid are thankful for you, our supporters, who make it possible for Legal Aid to do this important work.

Best wishes for a peaceful, gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.

 

*Name(s) have been changed to protect confidentiality.

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