Oct 21


Reminder Not to Miss DC Pro Bono Week Events

Ready to learn more about local pro bono opportunities and kick off DC Pro Bono Week? Then you won’t want to miss this year’s Pro Bono Goes Local, a launch celebration on Friday, October 22, from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.

This launch event will begin with opening remarks from Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby from the D.C. Court of Appeals, and Chief Judge Josey-Herring from the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. We’ll share the many ways DC law firms are giving back through a pro bono initiative called DC Represents and conclude with a series of updates and recent developments in six different practice areas. You’ll get an inside view from local experts on current developments in civil justice and updates on the most urgent pro bono needs we are facing during this critical time in our community. Read more →

Oct 20


Recent Law Changes Expand Protections for Survivors

On December 15, 2020, the D.C. Council passed the Intrafamily Offenses and Anti-Stalking Orders Amendment Act of 2020. The new law, which took effect on April 27 of this year, significantly expands protections for domestic violence survivors. Legal Aid is proud to be part of the group of advocates that drafted and supported these reforms.

A few of the many reforms in this bill are:

Read more →

Oct 19


5 Common Signs of Financial Abuse

Many people who have never experienced domestic violence ask, “If someone’s being abused, why don’t they just leave?” The answer is abusers use very effective tactics to gain control and trap victims in a relationship. Survivors know “just leaving” usually takes both careful preparation and a support network, and the days right before and after leaving are the most physically dangerous. One common control tactic is financial abuse, which occurs in up to 99% of abusive relationships.

Although financial abuse is very common, it’s not as well-recognized as other forms of abuse like hitting, shoving, or verbal threats of harm. Financial abuse means controlling access to resources to make a victim isolated and dependent on their abuser for survival needs. Read more →

Oct 18


Good Cause Waivers Can Help Protect DV Survivors with Child Support Cases

Many domestic violence survivors are forced to leave their homes with just a few belongings in order to escape an abuser and find safety for themselves and their children. This often results in a survivor being financially vulnerable and having to rely on public benefits to regain stability.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is cash assistance often used by survivors with children. If a domestic violence survivor has custody of their children–formally or informally, they may apply for TANF. If qualified, they receive monthly assistance. However, receipt of this money requires the survivor to give up their own right to request child support. Instead, the District has the power to pursue a child support case against the non-custodial parent to recoup TANF money provided for the care of children.

Read more →

Oct 15


Legal Aid Supports Immigrants in filing for Civil Protection Orders

Immigrants filing for civil protective orders have a valid fear of exposing themselves and their families when seeking protection from abuse.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, domestic violence survivors who are undocumented immigrants experience additional fears when seeking help or when filing for a Civil Protection Order against their abusers. Immigrant survivors fear that seeking protection from abuse could lead to dire immigration consequences not only for themselves, but also for their abusers.
Read more →

Oct 14


DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profile: Nadira Clarke

This piece was written for the Washington Council of Lawyers and is featured in their DC Pro Bono Week Profiles.

Nadira ClarkeBaker Botts partner, and Washington, D.C. Section Chair of the firm’s Environmental Safety & Incident Response Group, has leaned into leadership roles, mentorship opportunities, pro bono work, and more since joining Legal Aid’s Board of Trustees in 2018.  Indeed, when it came to encouraging pro bono engagement with Legal Aid, Nadira resolved to model the behavior she wanted to see in her colleagues.  Having previously handled sex-based discrimination litigation and immigration matters, Nadira is no stranger to pro bono work.  Yet, she was willing to dive into a new area of law and has been accepting child custody case referrals from Legal Aid in recent years. Read more →

Oct 13


Lessons from Hood Feminism: Keeping Survivors Safe from Gun Violence

Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence/Family Law Unit represents clients who are low-income, mostly women of color. One of the main struggles facing our clients continues to be gun violence, which disproportionately affects Black women. And yet, as Mikki Kendall points out in Hood Feminism,

We focus anti-gun violence programs on everyone but the girls and women at risk. Too often, we frame them as the ones who bear witness to the consequences, and not the ones who face them. But we know that gun violence touches girls at all points of life. In 2016, the Violence Police Center documented that Black women experience the highest rates of gun homicide out of any group of women, and much of that can be attributed to instances of intimate partner violence. “Compared to a black male, a black female is far more likely to be killed by a spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a family member that by a stranger.” And unfortunately, this is something that I can speak to personally.

Mikki Kendall, Hood Feminism 21-22 (2020). Kendall then poignantly describes her own experience with separating from an abusive partner. She expresses relief that – despite continued abuse – Illinois laws prevented her partner from accessing a gun:

 . . . when that last bout of violence erupted, I knew the clock on my perfect plan had run out. I had a place I could mostly afford with only my name on the lease, and I got on with it. That didn’t mean the violence was over exactly; it just moved out of my house. He still sent me angry, abusive emails and text messages, he stalked and harassed me, and he still threatened violence despite restraining orders and arrests. But the good news, the best news? He didn’t have a gun. He could threaten, he could yell, he could hit me, but what he couldn’t do was lay his hands on was a projectile weapon that would have turned survivable rage into that split second that can’t be taken back. I got lucky, because we were in Illinois, a state that enforces the restriction on gun ownership for anyone with a recent history of domestic violence.” Read more →

Oct 12


Join Us for DC Pro Bono Week – Kick-Off Event Scheduled for October 22!

DC Pro Bono Week is almost here! While the events will be held remotely (again) this year, we will not be deterred from celebrating the critical impact pro bono attorneys make in our community and highlighting the many ways to get involvedSeveral events and affiliated trainings are scheduled throughout October so there are ample opportunities for folks to participate.

Below are just a few highlights that may be of particular interest to Legal Aid’s pro bono partners. We appreciate your help to spread the word and look forward to having you join us at one or more of these events!


Help us kick off DC Pro Bono Week at Pro Bono Goes Local, a virtual celebration featuring the Chief Judges of the D.C. Courts, on October 22, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. We will hear about the DC Represents initiative involving area law firms that have stepped up to take on more pro bono work during these challenging times. The event will conclude with a dynamic lightning talk format where Legal Aid’s Public Benefits Supervising Attorney Drake Hagner and others will update us on recent developments in pro bono practice in a variety of subject areas. Read more →

Oct 08


Stop the Stigma: Domestic Violence Survivors and Mental Health

Many survivors of intimate partner violence face complicated barriers to accessing mental health services. While survivors face many challenges in their mental health journeys (including availability and financial barriers), one major challenge is the compounded stigmas of accessing mental health assistance and being in a relationship with a perpetrator of domestic violence. Survivors may not want to access mental health assistance, because they are embarrassed about their relationship, are concerned that they will be judged or labeled a “bad parent,” or have rationalized the behavior. Additionally, survivors also face the same stigmas that many people in treatment or seeking help face; that people who seek out mental health treatment are “weak,” in “just in a phase,” or could solve their own problems if they just “tried harder.” A survivor may face judgment from friends and family, who both judge them for being in an abusive relationship and for wanting mental health assistance. These stigmas can prevent survivors from seeking the help that they may need and definitely deserve. Read more →

Oct 07


What does the end of the federal Public Health Emergency mean for DC residents’ access to health care?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) (the federal agency administering the Medicaid program) reports that approximately 10 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This was a direct result of the provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the first COVID relief bill passed in March 2020), which increased federal Medicaid funding to states, allowed them to extend Medicaid eligibility to uninsured individuals and prohibited states from terminating Medicaid enrollment except for a narrow list of reasons. This stark growth in Medicaid enrollment demonstrates Medicaid’s critical role in our health system and the lives of millions of Americans, with over 75 million individuals now enrolled in Medicaid. Read more →