Written by Adam Jacobs

Jul 25


New York Enacts Provision Akin to DC’s Custodial Power of Attorney Statute

While the separation of undocumented immigrant parents from their children at the border has received significant media attention, those same immigrant families are still at risk once they settle in the U.S. Families continue to live in fear of deportation and separation. Significantly, the District and several states have legal mechanisms to allow undocumented parents to appoint caregivers and avoid detention or foster care for their children, in case of an emergency separation.

Beginning June 27, 2018, New York now has a process that allows parents at risk of immigration enforcement to plan for the safety of their children by choosing caregivers in the event of the parent’s detention or deportation. Read more →

Jul 23


Court of Appeals Ruling Could Ease Access to Safety Net Benefits in DC

On July 19, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an important decision regarding the District of Columbia Department of Human Services’ (DHS) administration of the Program on Work, Empowerment, and Responsibility (POWER). Black v. District of Columbia Department of Human Services, No. 17-AA-5. (POWER is a public assistance program providing cash assistance to certain low- (and no-) income District residents unable to access other public benefit programs.) The POWER program is expressly intended, among other things, to provide benefits to parents who have to stay home to take care of their children. Read more →

Jul 12


DC Council’s Reversal On Eviction Protections Puts Tenants and Their Possessions at Risk

Earlier this week, the DC Council voted to repeal legislation it had unanimously passed just two weeks earlier that would have protected tenants and their belongings during and after evictions.

The Council had the option of maintaining, or even strengthening, that legislation – the Eviction Reform Emergency Amendment Act – which established a safe and orderly process for handling evictions and would have made the District a model jurisdiction for ensuring safe, dignified evictions. Instead, the Council took a “repeal and replace” approach that we are concerned puts tenants at significant risk during the time that this legislation will be in effect. Read more →

Jul 09



The Legal Aid Society urges Councilmembers to vote NO on the Eviction with Dignity Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 and the Eviction with Dignity Temporary Amendment Act of 2018 when they come up for a vote tomorrow, July 10. These misleadingly-named pieces of legislation, which would undo legislation that the Council passed less than two weeks ago, would harm the District’s low-income tenants by making it more likely that they would lose all of their possessions. If you are interested in protecting the District’s low-income tenants from these harmful bills, please contact your Councilmembers immediately to let them know that they should vote NO. Read more →

Jul 03


Barriers to Benefits

Why might a person with schizoaffective disorder, PTSD, major depression, and suicidal thoughts not be receiving Social Security disability benefits? A recent New York Times article noted a statistically significant decline in the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits last year. Recent coverage of this issue in both the Washington Post and on National Public Radio observed similar trends. Read more →

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 →