Making Justice Real

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

Jun 26

2020

Legal Aid Strongly Supports D.C. Statehood

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares for a historic vote on the issue later today, Legal Aid strongly urges every member of Congress to support making the District of Columbia the 51st state of the Union. The case for D.C. statehood has always been compelling, but in light of the national pandemic and a renewed spotlight on deep racial inequities, it is more powerful now than ever.

The District of Columbia is more populous than Vermont and Wyoming, and its more than 705,000 residents pay more in taxes than do the residents of 22 of the 50 states. Yet D.C. has no representation in Congress. D.C.’s lone delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, is a non-voting member of the House, and D.C. lacks a voice all together in the Senate. And unique to the District and the District alone, any permanent changes to our laws must be sent to Congress for a period of 30 days (or 60 days for certain criminal legislation) before becoming effective. Read more →

Jun 24

2020

Outcomes of Remote Hearings Must Be Studied by Courts

“Zoom Court” is the new norm. As with all other aspects of life, justice is now being delivered virtually. According to the National Center for States Courts, all fifty states plus the District of Columbia have either suspended or given localities the option to suspend in-person proceedings. In Texas, hundreds of courtrooms have been operating remotely over Zoom, with live streamed proceedings. In Florida, a major voting rights case, about whether Florida residents with felony convictions must pay back court fines and fees before regaining their right to vote, was heard via video conference. Here in the District, some courtrooms in the Criminal, Probate, and Family Court Divisions are also operating remotely. The Civil Division is prioritizing hearing emergency and urgent matters remotely, with some additional types of hearings depending on availability of the Court and parties. High volume courts, including the Landlord and Tenant Branch, will start to hear some matters remotely. Read more →

Jun 19

2020

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark Rulings this Week

On Monday and Thursday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings that handed important victories for LGBTQ individuals and Dreamers, undocumented individuals who came here as children.

In Bostock v. Clayton County Georgia, the Supreme Court held that discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment is prohibited under the Title VII prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex. Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch declared:

An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex. Read more →

Jun 15

2020

Legal Aid Joins The Call to Reduce Funding for Police and Re-Invest in Communities

At a time when people across the country – including District residents – have taken to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and black people across the country who have been killed by police officers, it is crucial that we take a closer look at whether the decisions of our local leaders truly reflect the fundamental value that these protests seek to uphold: that black lives matter.

Read more →

Jun 02

2020

DC Council Budget Hearing Highlights Need to Expand Access to Unemployment Benefits

UPDATE: On June 30, 2020, Legal Aid and other advocacy groups sent a letter to Councilmember Silverman following up on the issues we raised during the budget hearing, which are still ongoing. We requested a supplemental hearing for the Department of Employment Services (DOES) Office of Unemployment Compensation in the coming weeks to address these issues. You can read the letter here.

Last week, Legal Aid joined the Claimant Advocacy Program, First Shift Justice Project, Neighborhood Legal Services Program, the Public Justice Advocacy Clinic at the George Washington University Law School, and Whitman-Walker Health, to submit testimony to the DC Council’s Committee on Labor & Workforce Development regarding significant access issues with the provision of unemployment benefits during the COVID emergency.

Since the beginning of the public health emergency, over 100,000 DC workers have applied for unemployment benefits. We appreciate the extensive efforts that DOES is taking to process this extraordinary number of claims. With businesses shut and families staying home, UI is often the only source of income to pay rent, buy food, and purchase other necessities. Read more →