Apr 29


Legal Aid Celebrates 80 Years of Making Justice Real at its Servant of Justice Awards Dinner

Gregg Kelley, Director of Development

Thursday evening, Legal Aid celebrated its 80th Anniversary with over 500 supporters, special guests, and dignitaries in attendance – its largest Servant of Justice Awards dinner ever. The event was an enormous success, raising over $850,000 for Legal Aid – funds that will go a long, long way in assisting survivors of domestic violence, veterans seeking life-changing public benefits, families facing eviction, and so many others.

In his remarks, Legal Aid Executive Director Eric Angel reflected on the similarities between the circumstances that led to Legal Aid’s founding 80 years ago – crushing poverty, staggering unemployment, and significant disparities between rich and poor – and the crises that our client community continue to confront today, observing that the organization’s mission is as important as ever.  

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, presented the keynote address. The Attorney General described the fight “not only to restore the essential rights of those who cannot afford representation on their own, but also to ensure the strength and integrity of our nation’s justice system” as “nothing less than a moral imperative.” Citing statistics on the need for civil legal services that he described as “not only shocking” but “unacceptable,” the Attorney General praised Legal Aid for having responded to this challenge “not with despair, but with resolve.” He encouraged those gathered that evening to join Legal Aid and reaffirm their commitment to closing the “justice gap.” 

From left to right: Servant of Justice Award winners Susan M. Hoffman and James vanR. Springer, Klepper Prize winner Jonathan G. Lin, and Legal Aid Executive Director Eric Angel.

Following the Attorney General’s address, Legal Aid honored three individuals. Two giants of the legal profession were recognized with the Servant of Justice Award, Legal Aid’s highest honor. Peter Edelman, Georgetown law professor and Chair of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, presented the Award to James vanR. Springer, of Legal Aid, and David Stern, Executive Director of Equal Justice Works, presented the Award to Susan M. Hoffman of Crowell & Moring LLP.  Arlene Klepper – who, together with her husband, Skadden partner Marty Klepper, has been a long-time supporter of Legal Aid – presented the Klepper Prize for Volunteer Excellence to Jonathan G. Lin of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP. All three award recipients inspired the audience with their remarks. 

Debby Baum, Legal Aid’s Board President and a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, ended the evening on a light note, pointing out that 81st anniversaries are very important as well. She invited everyone to return to Legal Aid’s Servant of Justice Dinner next year, already scheduled for April 18, 2013 at the JW Marriott Hotel.

Feb 29


Jack Keeney, Jr. Named 2012 Recipient of CCE’s Justice Potter Stewart Award

Chinh Le, Legal Director

Legal Aid is delighted by the announcement today that John (Jack) C. Keeney, Jr., the Director of the Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project, will be a recipient of the 2012 Justice Potter Stewart Award from the Council for Court Excellence (CCE).

Jack Keeney, Director, Barbara McDowell Appellate Project

The Justice Potter Stewart Award, CCE’s highest public honor, is given annually “to individuals who exemplify the very best in the administration of justice” and who “have made significant and sustained contributions to the justice system in Washington, D.C.”  The award, named to honor the memory and public service of the late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was established by CCE in 1997.  Jack will share the award this year with Jim Lyons, a trial lawyer in private practice for more than 40 years and co-founder of the law firm of Kellogg, Williams & Lyons.  In 2006, Legal Aid and then-Executive Director Jonathan Smith won this prestigious award.

Jack Keeney, Jr., a former President of the D.C. Bar (2004-2005), has served as the Director of Legal Aid’s Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project since January 2011. Described as a “powerhouse attorney” by the Wall Street Journal and often selected as a “Top Lawyer” by the Washingtonian, he joined Legal Aid from Hogan Lovells (formerly Hogan & Hartson), where he had practiced law for more than 30 years and served as the partner-in-charge of the firm’s award-winning pro bono practice from 1989 to 1993.  Since joining Legal Aid, Jack has participated in numerous appellate matters in both the D.C. Court of Appeals and the D.C. Superior Court on a broad range of poverty law issues.  Indeed, just yesterday, he presented oral arguments before the Court of Appeals in an important child custody matter involving important questions of civil and appellate procedure, and he filed an amicus brief for five public interest organizations in an en banc matter pertaining to disability rights. Jack has also been active with the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for decades and in June 2010, received its highest honor, the Wiley Branton Award, for his life-long commitment to civil rights leadership and service.

“Jack has had an impressive and high-profile career,” CCE Executive Director June Kress said. “His arrival at Legal Aid demonstrated the integrity for which he is known across the justice community. He now leads the fight for some of the District’s neighbors who are most in need of justice.”

The Council for Court Excellence will present the award at its annual dinner, which will be held on Thursday, May 10, 2012 at the Organization of American States (17th and Constitution, NW). Please join us in congratulating Jack on this prestigious honor and well-deserved recognition!



Nov 02


Legal Aid Launches Annual Medicare Part D Enrollment Effort

Jeremy Strauss, Legal Administrative Assistant

Each year, Legal Aid partners with Whitman Walker Health to help hundreds of low-income Medicare recipients navigate the complex system of choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan (also known as Medicare Part D). Beneficiaries receiving the hospital (Part A) and medical (Part B) components of Medicare must independently select a Part D plan during the “open season,” which commences slightly earlier than usual this year, running from October 15, 2011 to December 7, 2011. Due to the fact that many plans change their drug coverage formularies from year to year, switching to a new plan that offers the best coverage at the lowest price is often a necessity for many beneficiaries. 

Legal Aid and Whitman Walker, along with attorneys from area law firms working pro bono, will be meeting with Medicare beneficiaries this fall and winter to help them determine – based on their individual drug lists and dosages – the plan that will best meet their needs and to complete the plan enrollment. 

Beginning November 4, Legal Aid will be sponsoring six free walk-in clinics for low-income Medicare beneficiaries:

 Friday, November 4, 2011: 10am – 1pm, at the Legal Aid Society of DC, SE Site
2041 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave, SE, Room LL-1 – Metro: Anacostia 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011: 1pm – 4pm, at the Legal Aid Society of DC, NW Site
1331 H St., NW, Suite 350 – Metro: Metro Center or McPherson Sq. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011:  10am – 1pm, at the Legal Aid Society of DC, NW Site
1331 H St., NW, Suite 350 – Metro: Metro Center or McPherson Sq. 

Friday, December 2, 2011: 10am – 1pm, at the Legal Aid Society of DC, SE Site
2041 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave, SE, Room LL-1 – Metro: Anacostia 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011:  5pm – 7pm, at the Bread for the City, NW Site
1525 Seventh St., NW – Metro: Shaw-Howard University 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011:  9am – Noon, at the Bread for the City, SE Site
1640 Good Hope Road, SE – Metro: Anacostia

 For more information, call (202) 628-1161 and ask for Jeremy Strauss.

Nov 01


A Celebration of DC’s Immigrant Communities

David Steib, Staff Attorney

The DC Language Access Coalition, of which the Legal Aid Society of DC is a member organization, is helping to host Many Stories, One Night, an evening celebrating DC’s immigrant communities on Thursday, November 3 from 6-9pm at the Gala Theater in Columbia Heights (3333 14th Street, NW).  

The celebration will include the screening of a short documentary film entitled “Communities in Translation.” The film, created by documentarian Robert Winn, explores the impact of language barriers during emergencies, specifically focusing on the 2008 fire of an apartment building in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC.  The celebration will also include the release of preliminary findings of “The State of Language Access in D.C.,” a comprehensive report by the DC Language Access Coalition documenting immigrants’ experiences accessing programs, services, and benefits of the DC government. 

Legal Aid Housing Attorney David Steib will be one of the MCs for the evening. Please join us for an evening of food, film, and discussion.  Interpretation and child care will be provided, and we encourage you to spread the word of this event throughout the immigrant community.  The organizers are suggesting a $10 donation to attend the event, but the donation is entirely optional.  

Please come out and show your support for Language Access!



Sep 13


Legal Aid Partners with Area Legal Non-profits To Sponsor FREE Public Benefits Training Series

Lucy Newton, Supervising Attorney

We are pleased to announce that Legal Aid will again be participating in a Public Benefits Training series this Fall.  This training series is a partnership between the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services with support from Bread for the City and DC Hunger Solutions.  We greatly appreciate the DC Bar Pro Bono Program for partnering with us and hosting this training series.

The trainings are free and an opportunity to learn about eligibility, benefits, application procedures, and practical tips on how to help your clients navigate the system.  It is also an opportunity to hear about new developments or policy changes affecting that benefit program.  We encourage case managers, legal services lawyers, pro bono lawyers, or anyone who works with low-income clients to attend these sessions.  

Registration is required – please email Jeremy Strauss at with your name and organization name and the sessions that you want to attend.  We have some space limitations and need to provide counts for each training to ensure we have enough copies of materials so please RSVP.  

Quick List of Training Session Dates & Topics:

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2011 – SSI / SSDI
  • Tuesday, October 4, 2011 – Access to Healthcare: Medicaid/Medicare/DC Healthcare Alliance/QMB/Health Reform
  • Thursday, October 27, 2011 – Medicare Parts A, B, C, & D & QMB
  • Wednesday, November 9, 2011 – TANF: Cash assistance for poor families
  • Friday, December 2, 2011 – Food Assistance: SNAP/Food Stamps, WIC, and other food resources
  • Wednesday, December 14, 2011 – Immigrant Eligibility for Public Benefits

 *All sessions are from noon – 2 pm and will be held at the DC Bar, 1101 K Street NW, Washington, DC.

Additional information can be found on this Public Benefits Training Series Flyer – 2011.  Please feel free to share the news of these trainings widely.


Sep 12


Legal Aid Awarded a Flom Incubator Grant

David Steib, Staff Attorney

We are delighted to announce that the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia was recently awarded a Flom Incubator Grant to help realize the goal of providing specialized representation to tenants with difficult claims in the Housing Conditions Calendar at DC Superior Court. Legal Aid is one of eighteen organizations nationwide to be awarded a Flom Incubator Grant by the Skadden Fellowship Foundation in July 2011.  The Grants are made possible by a generous testamentary bequest of Mr. Joe Flom, the founding trustee of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, as well as significant donations in Mr. Flom’s memory by Skadden partners and others in the legal community.

Legal Aid’s Flom Incubator Grant allows the Housing Law Unit to focus special attention on litigating cases in the Housing Conditions Calendar in which tenants suffer from bedbug infestations  and mold . The Grant enables Legal Aid to hire expert witnesses, where necessary, to document the problems of mold and bedbugs in our clients’ homes and to testify about them in court. The Grant also allows Legal Aid both to take more of these cases — with the goal of assisting additional tenants — and, eventually, to create helpful precedent that will be useful to tenants throughout the District. 

If you are a tenant struggling to obtain mold remediation or bedbug extermination from your landlord, or if you know such a tenant, please contact Julie Becker (; (202) 661-5946) or David Steib (; (202) 386-6675) for more information.

Jun 09


Chinh Q. Le to Join Legal Aid as Legal Director

Eric Angel, Executive Director

I am pleased to announce that Chinh Q. Le will be joining Legal Aid as our new Legal Director.  Chinh brings significant experience and expertise to the position.  Most recently, he has been the Director of the Division on Civil Rights for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.  As the state’s chief civil rights officer, Chinh oversaw a staff of 70 lawyers, support staff, and administrative personnel in four offices across New Jersey.  He has been responsible for helping to develop New Jersey’s civil rights agenda, as well as managing a docket of hundreds of active housing, employment, and public accommodation matters.

Chinh has a B.A and M.A in American Government from the University of Virginia (1997, 2001) and a J.D. from University of Virginia School of Law (2000).  After graduating from law school, Chinh clerked for the Honorable Walter K. Stapleton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  He then worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, first as a Skadden Fellow, then as an assistant counsel.  Chinh has also served as an associate at Jenner & Block, an adjunct associate research scholar at Columbia University School of Law and a practitioner-in-residence at Seton Hall University School of Law in the Center for Social Justice.

Chinh and his wife, Vanita Gupta, Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, have one son.  We look forward to welcoming Chinh at Legal Aid on July 5, 2011.


Apr 13


Legal Aid to Honor DC Fiscal Policy Institute with Partnership Award

Eric Angel, Executive Director

Legal Aid is pleased to announce the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) as the 2011 recipient of Legal Aid’s Partnership Award. Legal Aid’s Partnership Award was created to recognize non-legal organizations or individuals whose work directly increases our ability to serve our clients. Ed Lazere, Executive Director of DCFPI, will accept the award on the organization’s behalf at Legal Aid’s Servant of Justice Awards Dinner, scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, 2011 at the JW Marriott Hotel. Brooksley E. Born, of Arnold & Porter, and The Honorable Thomas E. Perez, of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, will be honored at the same event.

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute is an extraordinary resource for anyone concerned about policy analysis in the District. DCFPI conducts research and public education on DC budget and tax, with a particular emphasis on issues that affect low- and moderate-income residents. By preparing timely analyses that are used by organizations such as Legal Aid – as well as policy makers, the media, and the public – DCFPI informs public debates on budget and tax issues and helps to ensure that the needs of lower-income residents are considered in those debates. DCFPI’s areas of work include: analyzing the impact of tax and other revenue policies on the District’s long-term fiscal health and on the equity of its tax system; working to ensure that programs serving low- and moderate-income residents are well designed, effective, and adequately funded; and conducting research on income and poverty trends in the District and on serious problems facing low-income residents, such as the growing shortage of affordable housing.

DCFPI’s extraordinary, sustained commitment to providing accurate, detailed, practical, and effective policy analysis on issues affecting Legal Aid’s client community have been invaluable to our efforts to serve our clients and better protect their rights. One of Legal Aid’s signature advocacy efforts—to preserve and enhance the workings of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program—is one of among many initiatives that has benefited from DCFPI’s work over the past several years. DCFPI’s research has dispelled damaging myths about District families who rely on TANF, educated policymakers and advocates about best approaches to the program, helped stave off some of the most punitive and ineffective approaches to moving families off TANF, and inspired a program redesign that should be more responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable District families.

 We are truly delighted to be able to present this award to DCFPI and hope that you will join us on April 28 for what promises to be a wonderful event!

Dec 02


Raise My Taxes, Please

Legal Aid Board of Trustee Barbara Kagan was featured on WAMU (88.5 FM) this morning with the following commentary:

Commentary By Barbara Kagan: Raise My Taxes, Please

December 02, 2010 – With the District of Columbia facing a nearly $200 million budget deficit, city hall is receiving lots of advice about how to close the gap. Commentator and longtime District resident Barbara Kagan has a suggestion that might be surprising:

I’ve lived in D.C. for over 30 years. I’m fortunate that, over these years, my family income has gone up. My quality of life has gone up. And now, as D.C. faces an unprecedented fiscal crisis that puts our city at risk, I want my taxes to go up too.

I am one of the District’s high-income earners, one of the thousands of professionals with a household income of more than $200,000 a year. A moderate increase in my taxes is no more than a daily cup of coffee. But it will mean a lot more to this city.

Right now, the District faces a $185 million budget shortfall. Risking funding for programs crucial to continued progress in the city: education reform, public transportation, innovative housing strategies to name a few. The recession has led to a major drop in savings and investment income — and a major increase in unemployment, which has more than doubled in the last three years in the District. All of this has contributed to a drop in tax collections, making it difficult for the city to pay its bills. At the same time, the financial crisis has greatly increased the number of struggling families looking to the D.C. government for help.

More belt-tightening isn’t the answer. Over the last three years, the city has made so many cuts that this year D.C. will spend — adjusted for inflation — $600 million less than in 2008.

Further cuts would cause great harm. Even well-heeled residents will be affected by a decline in those qualities that make them want to live in the city.

Right now, I pay the same tax rate as someone who earns just $40,000 a year, the city’s top tax rate. So someone earning $400,000, or even $4 million, pays the same rate. And high earners pay a lot less as a percentage of income: about 7 percent compared with 10.5 percent for someone earning $45,000 a year.

As D.C. struggles, we have to either do our fair share to keep D.C. moving forward and continue to be able to enjoy all that the city has to offer, or we can simply watch it slip away with a few more dollars in our pockets. The quality of life of upper-income residents of the city cannot in the long run be sustained while so many others struggle to maintain the basic necessities, like food, housing and medical care.

Who wants to sell their house, leave their neighborhood, and move to the suburbs for what amounts to a grande latte a day at Starbucks?

Mayor-elect Gray and Chairman-elect Kwame Brown, I ask you to support a proposal to raise income taxes on people like me.

Click here to listen to this feature:

We thank Barbara and so many members of the legal community for their steadfast support of access to justice.

Nov 24


Legal Aid’s Foreclosure Work Featured in Washington Examiner Article

Eric Angel, Acting Executive Director

Legal Aid’s work with low-income clients facing foreclosure was highlighted in an article in today’s Washington Examiner.  Many thanks to the Neighbors in Need Fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region for the support that helps to make this work possible.