Written by Thuy-Tu Tran

Jan 08


Volunteering with Legal Aid During a Pandemic

My name is Alison DeSilva. I’m the owner and founder of DeSilva Studios, a DMV-Area-based pet & family photography studio. Given my background, my connection to Legal Aid probably seems unlikely. But when they reached out to me in August 2020 (through a friend of mine who supports Legal Aid) to see if I could help them with their annual report photography project, I jumped at the opportunity. Here’s my story and how helping Legal Aid’s mission became so important to me:
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Feb 18


Survivors of Domestic Violence Affected by Immigration Enforcement

March 1, 2017 update: Recently, the Washington Post published another article further illustrating the anxiety and uncertainty we are witnessing in our immigrant client population. The article describes the many ways that daily life for immigrants in the D.C. metropolitan area has been negatively impacted by the administration’s plans for more aggressive immigration enforcement. Immigrant parents fearing deportation and separation from their children, the Post reported, are seeking help with contingency planning “in numbers organizers haven’t seen before.”

Seeking help to escape domestic violence can be frightening. For immigrant survivors trying also to navigate these uncertain times, the stakes are even higher.

Just this week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in El Paso, Texas used one of the most vulnerable moments for a survivor—the act of seeking a court protection order—as an opportunity to arrest an undocumented immigrant at her abuser’s behest. The survivor is a Mexican citizen who suffered significant abuse at the hands of her abuser. Over the past few months, she had made several police reports, detailing incidents in which her abuser punched, choked and attempted to stab her. She managed to find refuge in a domestic violence shelter and made her way to court with the help of a victim advocate. Yet when she finally built up enough courage to seek legal protection, she was met by ICE agents waiting to escort her out of the courthouse.
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Apr 15


7th Annual WBAF Grant Awards Ceremony

Legal Aid was honored to be among the eight organizations to receive a grant from the Women’s Bar Association Foundation. For the third year in a row, the WBAF granted funding to support our Domestic Violence work. Monica Parham of Crowell & Moring presented the grant to Legal Aid, and Domestic Violence/Family Law Staff Attorney Jamie Sparano (who coincidentally celebrated her two year anniversary with Legal Aid yesterday) accepted the award on Legal Aid’s behalf.

Jamie spoke about her work as a domestic violence attorney at Legal Aid and shared a touching story about a client, who is a minor, whom she recently helped obtain a Civil Protection Order. The client, who is still in school, was able to stand up to her assailant, get the safety and peace of mind she needed, and is now thriving in school as a result of Legal Aid’s help. Read more →

Dec 09


Shriver Center Publishes Story on Legal Aid’s Unemployment Victory

Drake Hagner Staff Attorney

Drake Hagner
Staff Attorney

Jennifer Mezey Supervising Attorney

Jennifer Mezey
Supervising Attorney

Updated December 18, 2014 (2:41 PM): Legal Aid unemployment victory for domestic violence survivor covered by The Shriver Brief.

This month, the Shriver Center, a national poverty law organization dedicated to advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty, published a lengthy “advocacy story” piece on its website written by two of our attorneys — Jennifer Mezey and Drake Hagner.  The story is about a case that we shared on our blog several months ago in which one of Legal Aid’s clients secured an important victory — and established critical legal precedent — in a case involving the domestic violence provisions of D.C.’s unemployment insurance law.  Read more →

Nov 17


Legal Aid Client Avoids Debt Collection Injustice

Last spring, Mr. Lara, a monolingual Spanish-speaker, appeared in court for a debt collection case in which the creditor was seeking almost $10,000. Through an interpreter, he tried to explain to the judge that he thought he had already resolved the issue. Mr. Lara said he had reached an agreement to settle the debt for $3,000, and indeed, he had already paid $2,200 of that amount. The judge continued the hearing so that the plaintiff could investigate. Read more →

Oct 03


Miller & Chevalier Wins 2014 Generous Associates Campaign CulinAerie Cooking Competition!

On October 1, Legal Aid’s second Generous Associates Campaign CulinAerie Cooking Competition took place at CulinAerie, a recreational cooking school in DC co-founded by Susan Holt.

Around 50 people from nine local law firms participated in the competition, which was judged by four celebrity judges: Bonnie Benwick, Food Editor for the Washington Post; Deth Khaia, Chef de Cuisine at Doi Moi; Mikko Kosonen, former Executive Chef for the Finnish Ambassador to the U.S.; and Matt Culbertson, owner of Radius Pizza. Read more →

Sep 19


Investigative Reporting Highlights Pervasive Garnishment and Attachment in Debt Collection

NPR and ProPublica collaborated to produce two related pieces that ran this week on the recent increase in creditors and debt collectors’ use of wage garnishment and bank account attachment when consumers fall behind on paying their debts. The debts are often unexpected medical expenses or credit card bills that piled up after a major life event reduces consumers’ ability to pay. Now, creditors are obtaining judgments that they can use to garnish as much as a quarter of consumers’ income and to seize funds from consumers’ bank accounts. ADP, the largest payroll services processor in the country, estimates that almost 5% of American consumers earning between $25,000 and $40,000 per year face wage garnishment as a result of consumer debt.

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Sep 12


Vinson & Elkins Pro Bono Attorneys Share Lessons Learned

Over a year ago, a man in his early 50s came to Legal Aid asking for representation in an appeal from the denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The client had experience in the construction and landscape fields, but he was no longer able to do that work, primarily due to injuries sustained after falling off a ten-foot wall in 2010.

The client filed his initial SSI benefits application four years ago. When his application was denied, he filed a Request for Reconsideration, and, when that was denied, requested an administrative hearing. A hearing was held, and the Administrative Law Judge again denied his claim.


Dmitry Slavin


Kathleen Neace


Erin Rankin

Undeterred, the client appealed his case to the Appeals Council at the Social Security Administration (SSA). That’s when Vinson & Elkins attorneys Dmitry Slavin, Kathleen Neace and Erin Rankin volunteered to help. Below they share with us some thoughts from their experience. Read more →

Aug 07


Firms Announced for Generous Associates Campaign CulinAerie Cooking Competition

Following the record-breaking success of the 2014 Generous Associates Campaign, 40 of the 72 participating law firms qualified for a chance to compete in the second Generous Associates Campaign CulinAerie Cooking Competition.

Legal Aid congratulates all of this year’s qualifying firms for their stellar performance in the Campaign. The top two fundraising firms this year – WilmerHale and Latham & Watkins – were automatically guaranteed slots in the cooking competition, and the remaining eligible firms were entered into a random drawing. On August 6, Co-Chair Kelli Scheid of Arent Fox LLP came by Legal Aid’s office to do the official drawing. Read more →

Jul 24


National Geographic Piece Explores Food Insecurity

An article in the most recent issue of National Geographic details the remarkable extent to which food insecurity, in terms of both sheer numbers and demographic reach, pervades modern day America.

Through a series of photos and anecdotes, The New Face of Hunger shows how lacking consistent access to nutritionally adequate and safe food affects not only families living in urban neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty, but also those who live in sprawling, car-centric suburbs and in rural agricultural centers. Read more →