Written by Chinh Le

Oct 18


Legal Aid’s Beth Harrison Receives Housing Justice Award

Last Friday evening, the National Housing Law Project bestowed its 2017 Housing Justice Award on Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Beth Mellen Harrison. NHLP’s Housing Justice Award recognizes a “new and impressive talent in the field of affordable housing and low-income housing rights” and is given annually to “an energetic and unstoppable activist . . . who is fearlessly and successfully tackling the systemic and often hostile obstacles that stand in the way of safe, decent and affordable housing for low-income and marginalized people.” Read more →

May 12


Postcard from Armenia

“The persistence of racial disparities, and in particular, how often African Americans are victims of police-involved shootings.” This was—roughly translated—the response I elicited from one of the half dozen lawyers who had drawn up chairs beside me in a modest, U-shaped room that was the local public defender’s office in Vanadzor, Armenia. We were an hour and a half into an engaging conversation that covered a wide range of topics, and I had posed to the group this question: “What are some of the things you’ve heard about the United States that you find most striking or surprising?” Read more →

Sep 23


D.C. Court of Appeals Protects Tenants’ Right to Purchase Building

On September 23, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued its decision in Parcel One Phase One Associates, LLP v. Museum Square Tenants’ Association, Inc., No. 15-CV-773. In this case, the owner of a large rental apartment building near Chinatown wants to tear down the current building and redevelop its property, potentially displacing hundreds of low-income tenants, most of whom are Chinese-American. The tenants sought the opportunity to purchase the building themselves, an opportunity the landlord is required to give tenants under a law known as the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act or TOPA. But instead of offering to sell the building to the tenants at a reasonable price reflecting its actual current value, the landlord asked the tenants to pay $250 million, what the landlord thought the property would be worth years from now after it was redeveloped – a price many millions of dollars higher than its current value. Read more →

Aug 09


Washington Post Exposes Eviction Strategy at Brookland Manor

A front page, top-of-the-fold article in today’s Washington Post examines the intersection between eviction, gentrification, and poverty. Post reporter Terrence McCoy examined hundreds of eviction records over two years at Brookland Manor, a subsidized housing property in Northeast DC undergoing redevelopment. His findings suggest that the owner of the property used eviction as a tool to empty units.

During the period after the owner proposed redevelopment that would require relocating existing tenants—a potentially costly process—eviction suits increased, particularly those alleging that tenants owed very small amounts of money under $100 or committed minor lease violations. Read more →

Apr 04


Report Issued on Groundbreaking Project that “Listened” to Low-income D.C. Residents

That people living in or on the cusp of poverty face myriad challenges every day to secure essential necessities is not news to those of us who work in the field of poverty law. But a new report issued today by the D.C. Consortium of Legal Services Providers offers a fresh, illuminating perspective on and deeper insights into the struggles low-income District residents face to provide for themselves and their families.

The culmination of an initiative that spanned more than three years, the Community Listening Project sought to hear directly from low-income D.C. residents on the problems they face—and the strengths of the communities in which they live—in their words. The resulting study, led by Faith Mullen, a clinical law professor, and Enrique Pumar, a sociologist, both at The Catholic University of America, is a rich, qualitative analysis of focus group and survey responses from more than 700 D.C. residents whose household incomes are at or below 200% of the federal poverty guideline. Read more →

Mar 02


Landmark Settlement Reached with DCHA for Individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Legal Aid and the law firm of Relman, Dane & Colfax issued a press release today announcing that they have reached a settlement agreement, approved by the federal district court, to resolve a lawsuit filed in May 2013 against the D.C. Housing Authority, which alleged that DCHA failed to provide reasonable accommodations and appropriate interpretation services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Under the settlement, DCHA agreed to adopt a new policy, effective within 60 days, that ensures equal access to housing programs and services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The agreement also requires DCHA to pay $350,000 in monetary relief. Read more →

Dec 22


D.C.’s “Ban the Box” Law Now Effective and Enforceable

Last week, the D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR) issued an announcement stating that it has issued resources and guidance to the public on how to file a complaint to enforce the new Fair Criminal Record Screening Amendment Act of 2014. Legal Aid is proud to have been a part of a broad coalition of legal services, civil justice, and housing and employment advocates who worked to push this measure through the D.C. Council earlier this year.

Read more →

Dec 05


Jodi Feldman Receives Legal Services Award from Washington Council of Lawyers

We announced in October that the Washington Council of Lawyers had chosen to honor Jodi Feldman, Supervising Attorney of Legal Aid’s Pro Bono and Training Programs, with its inaugural Legal Services Award. This award recognizes the outstanding work of the lawyers who serve in the public-interest community.

Last night, Legal Aid Executive Director Eric Angel introduced Jodi as she accepted the award at the Washington Council of Lawyers’ 2014 Award Ceremony.  Read more →

Apr 24


Donald P. Salzman to Receive Servant of Justice Award on April 29th

On Tuesday, April 29, Legal Aid will be honoring two individuals with its highest honor – the Servant of Justice Award. Yesterday, we wrote about one of the honorees, Barbara McDowell, whom we will be honoring posthumously. Today, we will focus on the other Servant of Justice Honoree, Donald P. Salzman of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Don’s award will be presented by his Skadden colleague, Michele Roberts. Read more →

Feb 11


Legal Aid Testifies on “Ban the Box” Bill, Stresses Need for Housing Protections

Yesterday, I testified on behalf of Legal Aid at a hearing on D.C. Council Bill 20-462, the “Fair Criminal Record Screening Act of 2014.” Legal Aid agrees with and strongly supports the Bill’s goal—to remove barriers to gainful employment of formerly incarcerated individuals. It is a step in the right direction. But we also urged the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which held the hearing, to amend and significantly strengthen the Bill in many of the ways offered by our sister organizations, other advocates, and community members who testified yesterday.

Legal Aid focused its comments in particular on the need to extend similar protections for individuals with arrest or conviction records in the housing context. Specifically, we requested that the Committee consider including provisions that would limit the ability of housing providers to inquire about and consider a prospective tenant’s criminal background, except where doing so is expressly required or permitted by law. Read more →