Written by Adam Jacobs

May 23


Divorce: Another Obstacle to Safety for Domestic Violence Survivors

“When can I get divorced?” I am often asked this question by married domestic violence survivors who meet me for the first time at the Superior Court’s Domestic Violence Intake Center, where Legal Aid attorneys are present four days a week to provide legal advice and assistance to individuals applying for Civil Protection Orders (CPOs) against their abusers. For many survivors of intimate partner violence, obtaining legal protection from abuse through a CPO is an important step towards securing their safety and independence. But, for those who are married to their batterers, it is the granting of a divorce – the severing of all legal and financial ties to one’s spouse – that represents and provides a more complete sense of freedom from abuse. Read more →

May 14


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 →

Apr 27


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 17


Mayor Proposes Cuts to Already Underfunded Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The Mayor’s FY19 budget proposes to slash the Emergency Rental Assistance Program’s (ERAP) budget by $1.765 million. After accounting for a similar cut to ERAP last year, this means that there will be over $3 million fewer dollars available to prevent families from being evicted than there were two years ago. This is unacceptable and cruel. As attorneys who work with District residents facing eviction, we see first-hand that ERAP is perhaps the District’s most effective eviction-prevention tool. Yet, even at current funding levels, the program runs out of money and shuts down partway through each fiscal year because it is woefully underfunded. As I made clear in Legal Aid’s testimony at the Department of Human Services’ budget hearing last week, the Mayor’s proposed budget will take an effective program that is already facing a serious budgetary shortfall and make things worse. Read more →

Apr 12


Legal Aid Opposes Administration Efforts to Condition Public Benefits on Work

Legal Aid submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week opposing a Trump Administration proposal that would impose work requirements on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or Food Stamps) recipients. The Administration’s proposed changes to SNAP are part of a coordinated effort, across multiple federal agencies, that will do little to promote work and will instead make it harder for already struggling individuals and families to support themselves. Read more →

Apr 05


My Reflection on the March for Our Lives Rally

On March 24, 2018, a group of Legal Aid attorneys gathered to attend the March for Our Lives. We were joined by a client and her three teenage children. After the March, our client’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Jade, wrote about her experience, and how she is inspired to take action in her community.

Jade’s mother came to Legal Aid for assistance obtaining a Civil Protection Order against her husband, who was showing signs of mental illness and threatening our client and their children. With Legal Aid by her side, she obtained a Civil Protection Order which grants her custody of the children, and orders no visitation for her husband. Read more →

Mar 09


Congratulations to Chinh Le on his Community Service Award

Chinh Le, Legal Aid’s Legal Director for the past seven years, was recognized by the Asian Pacific American Bar Association Educational Fund (AEF) last night with its Community Service Award, which recognizes the work of an organization or individual who has tirelessly served the Asian Pacific American community in the greater Washington, DC area.

“Thank you to AEF and all of you for this honor,” Chinh told the nearly 200 attendees. “I don’t deserve it, but I’ll do what I can to earn it.” Read more →

Feb 26


Abusers and Firearms: A Deadly Combination

Recent incidents in Maryland have reminded us just how critical it is to help domestic violence survivors get to safety.

Last week, a Prince George’s County police officer was shot and killed as he stood guard while a domestic violence survivor attempted to flee. The survivor had filed for a protection order just days earlier and was in the process of having the locks changed at her home when her abuser appeared, threatened her, and shot the officer. The abuser had a history of domestic violence; his ex-wife had filed for protection orders against him several times in the past. Read more →

Jan 24


Court Rules Change Makes It More Likely Tenants Will Seek Repairs

The D.C. Superior Court has made a much-needed change to rules that apply in eviction actions. Effective November 21, 2017, tenants are no longer subject to money judgments just because they raise the defenses of recoupment and set-off based on housing code violations, or because they ask the Court to order their landlords to make repairs. Read more →

Nov 14


Prescription Drug Plan Enrollment Assistance Available Through December 5

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but prescription drug plans are so delightful…

The holiday season is fast approaching, and at Legal Aid that means it’s time for Medicare Part D open enrollment. For the eleventh year in a row, Legal Aid and Whitman-Walker Health are hosting walk-in clinics for Medicare Part D recipients to enroll in 2018 prescription drug plans. Read more →