Making Justice Real

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

May 21

2018

Abusive “Rent Concession” Practices Threaten District’s Rent Control Program

Rent control is the District’s largest affordable housing program, covering more than 80,000 units and protecting hundreds of thousands of tenants from displacement. It also is a program under attack. Too often, landlords are able to take advantage of loopholes in existing law to impose large rent hikes, at times to levels far above market, forcing long-time residents out of their homes and eroding the long-term affordability of rent control units.

The Washington City Paper published an article last week highlighting an abusive practice that some landlords engage in once they take these large rent increases. Landlords will advertise and charge lower rent amounts, offering tenant “rent concessions”. Tenants are told that higher rent levels are on the books but will not be charged. But when it comes time to renew a tenant’s lease, many of these landlords threaten to impose the higher rent amount and coerce the tenant into agreeing to a rent increase far higher than what rent control ordinarily would allow. Read more →

May 14

2018

Rules Committee Proposes Changes to Pro Bono Rule Consistent with Recommendations from Legal Services Community

On May 4, the D.C. Court of Appeals announced that it was considering whether to amend D.C. Appellate Rule 49, which governs pro bono practice in the District by non-D.C. bar members. The Court’s Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law has proposed a series of amendments that is largely consistent with requests made by the D.C. legal services community. Several groups of which Legal Aid is a member or with which we work closely – the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, the D.C. Consortium of Legal Services Providers, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, and the Washington Council of Lawyers – submitted comments seeking changes to the rule, which had needlessly prevented competent lawyers affiliated with legal services organizations from offering free legal assistance to low-income clients. Read more →

May 01

2018

Legal Aid Honors Four for Contributions to Access to Justice, Raises Record $1.3 Million

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia honored four individuals for their contributions to access to justice at its 29th Annual Servant of Justice Awards Dinner last week, raising $1.3 million to provide legal assistance to persons in poverty in D.C.

“Legal Aid, you provide an opportunity for lawyers to use their skills to fight injustices where we see them, to right wrongs, to pay attention when others might turn away,” said Abid Riaz Qureshi of Latham & Watkins, who received the Servant of Justice Award, and whose personal pro bono victories include a First Amendment case that allowed a Muslim-American film production company to display its comedic ads on the NYC subway system.

Read more →

Apr 27

2018

Mayor’s Budget Fails to Fund Alliance Reforms Approved by D.C. Council

In 2017, the D.C. Council passed two pieces of legislation to address longstanding problems in the D.C. Healthcare Alliance program. The program provides health insurance to some of the District’s most vulnerable residents but its burdensome process for renewing enrollment means that, each month, people in the program get dropped from their health coverage. Despite the Council recognizing the need to change the Alliance program and passing legislative solutions without a single “no” vote, the Mayor’s FY19 Budget does not include any funding for either piece of legislation, allowing needless losses of coverage to continue. This budget season, Legal Aid has testified at the budget hearings for both the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health Care Finance to urge the Council to do what the Mayor failed to do: work together to fund changes that Alliance program enrollees need. Read more →

Apr 24

2018

40 at 50 Event Recognizes Pro Bono Leaders Among D.C. Law Firms

This morning, Legal Aid Executive Director Eric Angel took a break from preparations for the 2018 Servant of Justice Awards Dinner to attend the 40 at 50 Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast. This annual event, hosted by the D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, recognizes local law firms for outstanding leadership in pro bono service and promotes the aspirational goal of the Circuit’s Judicial Conference that attorneys contribute at least 50 pro bono hours per year.  Eric is a member of the Standing Committee. Read more →