Archives

Written by Adam Jacobs

Oct 27

2020

Pro Bono Goes Local Event Kicks Off DC Pro Bono Week

This year’s Pro Bono Goes Local kickoff celebration marking the start of DC Pro Bono Week was held on Monday, October 26. The event is an opportunity to gather the legal community together to celebrate pro bono service and emphasize the importance of directing that service locally to help District residents in need of representation in our local courts. DC Pro Bono Week is organized each year by the Washington Council of Lawyers (WCL) and a committee of pro bono professionals representing legal services organizations, law firms, and law schools from around the city.

This year’s Pro Bono Goes Local virtual program was moderated by WCL’s Executive Director Nancy Lopez. Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the D.C. Court of Appeals and Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring of the D.C. Superior Court provided opening remarks where they extended their gratitude to those who have handled local pro cases and emphasized that now more than ever- due in part to the challenges that DC residents are experiencing as a result of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic- DC residents need pro bono attorneys. Read more →

Oct 22

2020

Social Security Administration Agrees To Return Up To $30 Million In Wrongly Confiscated Tax Refunds

Legal Aid announced a settlement with the Social Security Administration (SSA) this week that could help tens of thousands of Americans obtain forgiveness of approximately $30 million in debts allegedly owed to Social Security.

“Tens of thousands of people have waited more than five years for a resolution, so we are delighted to reach a comprehensive settlement in this matter that will hopefully provide some measure of relief for them, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Eric Angel, Executive Director of Legal Aid. Read more →

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 →