Jun 26


Legal Aid Strongly Supports D.C. Statehood

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares for a historic vote on the issue later today, Legal Aid strongly urges every member of Congress to support making the District of Columbia the 51st state of the Union. The case for D.C. statehood has always been compelling, but in light of the national pandemic and a renewed spotlight on deep racial inequities, it is more powerful now than ever.

The District of Columbia is more populous than Vermont and Wyoming, and its more than 705,000 residents pay more in taxes than do the residents of 22 of the 50 states. Yet D.C. has no representation in Congress. D.C.’s lone delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, is a non-voting member of the House, and D.C. lacks a voice all together in the Senate. And unique to the District and the District alone, any permanent changes to our laws must be sent to Congress for a period of 30 days (or 60 days for certain criminal legislation) before becoming effective. Read more →

Jun 24


Outcomes of Remote Hearings Must Be Studied by Courts

“Zoom Court” is the new norm. As with all other aspects of life, justice is now being delivered virtually. According to the National Center for States Courts, all fifty states plus the District of Columbia have either suspended or given localities the option to suspend in-person proceedings. In Texas, hundreds of courtrooms have been operating remotely over Zoom, with live streamed proceedings. In Florida, a major voting rights case, about whether Florida residents with felony convictions must pay back court fines and fees before regaining their right to vote, was heard via video conference. Here in the District, some courtrooms in the Criminal, Probate, and Family Court Divisions are also operating remotely. The Civil Division is prioritizing hearing emergency and urgent matters remotely, with some additional types of hearings depending on availability of the Court and parties. High volume courts, including the Landlord and Tenant Branch, will start to hear some matters remotely. Read more →

Jun 19


U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark Rulings this Week

On Monday and Thursday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings that handed important victories for LGBTQ individuals and Dreamers, undocumented individuals who came here as children.

In Bostock v. Clayton County Georgia, the Supreme Court held that discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment is prohibited under the Title VII prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex. Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch declared:

An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex. Read more →

Jun 15


Legal Aid Joins The Call to Reduce Funding for Police and Re-Invest in Communities

At a time when people across the country – including District residents – have taken to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and black people across the country who have been killed by police officers, it is crucial that we take a closer look at whether the decisions of our local leaders truly reflect the fundamental value that these protests seek to uphold: that black lives matter.

Read more →

Jun 02


DC Council Budget Hearing Highlights Need to Expand Access to Unemployment Benefits

UPDATE: On June 30, 2020, Legal Aid and other advocacy groups sent a letter to Councilmember Silverman following up on the issues we raised during the budget hearing, which are still ongoing. We requested a supplemental hearing for the Department of Employment Services (DOES) Office of Unemployment Compensation in the coming weeks to address these issues. You can read the letter here.

Last week, Legal Aid joined the Claimant Advocacy Program, First Shift Justice Project, Neighborhood Legal Services Program, the Public Justice Advocacy Clinic at the George Washington University Law School, and Whitman-Walker Health, to submit testimony to the DC Council’s Committee on Labor & Workforce Development regarding significant access issues with the provision of unemployment benefits during the COVID emergency.

Since the beginning of the public health emergency, over 100,000 DC workers have applied for unemployment benefits. We appreciate the extensive efforts that DOES is taking to process this extraordinary number of claims. With businesses shut and families staying home, UI is often the only source of income to pay rent, buy food, and purchase other necessities. Read more →

Jun 01


Legal Aid Will Do More, Do Better to End Anti-Black Racism

Again last night, thousands of protesters marched in the streets of the District, seeking justice and accountability in the wake of George Floyd’s senseless killing. Legal Aid stands in solidarity with those speaking out, demonstrating, and demanding a country and society that will treat every one of its residents with dignity and respect.

We are heartbroken, horrified, and outraged by Mr. Floyd’s death. It is an inexplicable loss that comes even as we are still mourning the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. In the long, sad shadow of earlier police shootings—of Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, John Crawford—and too many others to name. At a time when we are already so frustrated and angry to bear witness to the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately ravaging communities of color here in DC, just as it is doing across the country. And in an era when prominent political leaders repeatedly exploit racial division, bait protesters, and fan the flames of white supremacy.

Enough is enough. Read more →

May 27


D.C. Council Retains Core Foreclosure Protections for Struggling Homeowners

Last week, the D.C. Council unanimously passed the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, a comprehensive emergency bill that is the fourth in a series of omnibus emergency bills. In an effort to consolidate and (in some cases) amend the policy changes passed since the start of the public health emergency, the Act repeals and replaces all prior emergency measures, as well as incorporating further changes and additions. Read more →

May 22


Recipes from a Socially-Distanced Kitchen

In this time of uncertainty, we have found ourselves living a “new normal”. However, in the midst of everyday challenges and changes, one thing is certain to remain the same: we have to eat!

For over 20 years, Legal Aid has had a strong social connection with food—specifically, a highly anticipated weekly tradition: Friday Treats. Every Friday morning, staff members gather together in the break room to enjoy delicious sweet and savory breakfast items brought in our coworkers. Friday Treats offers the opportunity for staff to mingle across units and learn more about one another on a personal level.

Read more →

May 19


Legal Aid Practice Spotlight: Social Security Federal District Court Appeals

Mr. Hamm* spent much of his life working physically strenuous jobs, like laying pipes, loading trucks, and driving a fork lift. That is, until 2010 when he was the victim of a vicious assault. The attack left Mr. Hamm with a severely broken leg and unable to work. In early 2011, Mr. Hamm applied for Social Security Disability benefits. After two long years, and erroneous denials, Mr. Hamm finally got a chance at a hearing. The delay, unfortunately, is not uncommon for disability claimants. Read more →

May 18


Legal Aid Mourns the Passing of Barbara Babcock, First Director of the D.C. Public Defender Service

Legal Aid was saddened to learn of the death of Barbara Babcock on April 18. Born in the District of Columbia, Professor Babcock was a tireless trailblazer who returned to the city of her birth after graduating from Yale Law School. She soon became the first director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Viewing her success from across the country, Stanford Law School appointed her as the first woman on its regular faculty. While at Stanford, she encouraged more than one generation of lawyers to devote themselves to careers furthering the public interest. Read more →