Archives

Written by Adam Jacobs

Oct 20

2020

Legal Aid Prevails in Systemic Lawsuit Preserving SNAP Benefits for 700,000 Americans

On October 18, 2020, Judge Beryl Howell of the federal District Court of the District of Columbia vacated a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule that would have cut off access to SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, for nearly 700,000 Americans, including more than 13,000 DC residents.

Working with our pro bono partners at Alston & Bird (pictured above: Legal Aid and Alston & Bird attorneys outside federal court on March 5 after oral arguments) Legal Aid represented Bread for the City and two individual clients, Geneva Tann and Damon Smith, in a complaint that was combined with a similar suit filed by nineteen states, the City of New York, and the District of Columbia. The challenged rule would have prevented the District of Columbia from waiving a SNAP provision that limited so-called “able-bodied adults without dependents,” (or adults without disabilities who live without children or other dependents) from receiving SNAP benefits for 33 of every 36 months unless they meet certain work requirements. Such waivers have been granted over the past 20 years in recognition of the longstanding challenges that low-income District residents face in obtaining steady employment. Read more →

Oct 19

2020

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Spotlighting Pets in the Cycle of Violence

Domestic Violence Awareness Month has been observed every October for over thirty years. This year is a little different as COVID-19 has made it more difficult for survivors to get to safety. Support for domestic violence survivors is more urgent now than ever before. In these unprecedented times, Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence and Family Law Unit continues to represent domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in civil protection order cases and other family law matters in D.C. We are proud to stand by survivors in our client community and around the globe.

This month, as the pandemic wages on and many survivors remain isolated with their abusers, Legal Aid has been reminded of the important role pets play in the cycle of domestic violence. One client reached out to us after a harrowing encounter in which her abusive partner turned his aggression toward her beloved dog, beating the dog multiple times simply because she left for work. Another client told us how her husband would threaten to kill her cat, holding her pet over the balcony until she would do as he demanded. Horrible acts like these show how abusers exploit the love survivors have for their pets to exert their control and perpetuate harm. Read more →

Oct 14

2020

DC Pro Bono Week 2020 Coming Soon!

DC Pro Bono Week 2020 is just around the corner, October 25-31. While the events will be held remotely this year to ensure everyone’s safety, that will not deter us from celebrating the impact pro bono attorneys have in our community and showcasing available opportunities. Several events and affiliated trainings are scheduled throughout October and November for attorneys who want to learn more about pro bono opportunities available throughout the city. Please help spread the word!

Below are just a few highlights that may be of particular interest to Legal Aid’s pro bono partners. We appreciate you spreading the word and look forward to having you join us at one or more of these events! Read more →

Oct 13

2020

Investigation Reveals Long-Standing “Sewer Service” Practice Resulting in Countless Evictions

For years, Legal Aid has heard from tenants that they never received notice of a pending eviction case, or that service was improper in some way. But because affidavits filed by process servers are entitled to a legal presumption of accuracy, tenants have found it difficult to convince a judge that an eviction case must be dismissed for improper service. A new, extensive investigation by DCist and SpotlightDC now has exposed just how widespread this problem is, a fundamental injustice at the core of D.C.’s eviction process. Read more →

Oct 09

2020

New Study Exposes Racial and Economic Inequities in D.C. Evictions

A study published yesterday by Georgetown University concludes that the reality of who gets sued for eviction in D.C. is a racial and economic justice issue.

The study, based on court data from 2014-2018, shows that both eviction filings and actually carried-out evictions disproportionately impact households in Wards 7 and 8, and that there is a positive correlation between the number of eviction cases filed per renter and the share of Black residents in a census tract. Read more →

Sep 28

2020

D.C. Court of Appeals Recognizes Importance of Safeguarding Rights of Unrepresented Litigants

The D.C. Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion that protected the constitutional right to a jury trial in eviction cases and reinforced judges’ affirmative duty to provide appropriate accommodations for unrepresented litigants.

This case concerned the rights of a tenant who was unrepresented at her initial hearing in an eviction proceeding. At this hearing, a date for trial was set. Shortly before the trial date, the tenant obtained counsel. Counsel promptly moved for a continuance and filed a demand for a jury trial. The trial court denied the request for a jury trial on the grounds that the tenant had waived this right by failing to demand a jury trial at her initial hearing. Read more →

Sep 24

2020

Legal Aid Clients Testify About Unemployment Benefit Delays in Public Hearing

On September 16, 2020, six Legal Aid clients were among the 60 witnesses who testified before the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on Labor and Workforce Development’s public hearing on the performance of the Department of Employment Service (DOES)The stories the witnesses shared revealed widespread problems with unemployment benefit processing during the pandemic – including difficulty accessing CARES Act benefits like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These problems include benefit delays, unclear information, technological difficulties, and other systemic challenges with the current system for requesting and receiving unemployment benefits. Read more →

Sep 22

2020

D.C. Courts Launch Remote Hearing Sites

The D.C. Courts have launched five remote hearing sites spread throughout the city that litigants can use to attend virtual court proceedings. These sites will be equipped with computers, printers, and other technology. Masks and cleaning materials will be available on site to help make sure that individuals using these sites remain safe. Phones at the sites will connect litigants with court staff who will be available to answer questions and provide technical assistance. Additionally, the remote sites will have important information for litigants, including information about legal services providers and available social services. Read more →

Sep 21

2020

Legal Aid Remembers, Honors Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

We mourn the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She spent her whole career fighting for the right for all of us to live with dignity and up to our full potential.

When asked how she wanted to be remembered, she said:

Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.

As the pandemic and a renewed focus on the violence against Blacks and other people of color has shown us, the tears in our society are deep, open wounds, and we cannot count on any one person (no matter how notorious) to fix them. But Justice Ginsburg’s talent, determination and brilliance helped give us the tools we need to move forward in our fight for justice.

Thank you, Justice Ginsburg. Rest in peace.

Sep 17

2020

Trump Administration Closer To Ending Temporary Protected Status for More Than 60,000 Dc Residents

Legal Aid opposes the Trump administration’s efforts to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for thousands of long-term DC residents. This week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Ramos v. Nielsen to lift a preliminary injunction that was stalling the Trump administration’s efforts to end TPS for citizens of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan. The case is linked to Bhattarai v. Nielsen which involves TPS recipients from Honduras and Nepal. The decision brings the Trump administration closer to its goal of eliminating TPS for more than 400,000 individuals in the United States. It also threatens to greatly exacerbate family separation as there are more than 270,000 US citizen children whose parents are TPS recipients and fear deportation. Read more →