Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

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 →

May 15


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 14


Language Access During COVID-19 at DOES and DHS

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented need for access to unemployment benefits and public benefits such as SNAP (known as “food stamps”) and TANF. With complicated application language and technological problems with the application systems, it can be incredibly difficult for anyone to navigate the process of applying, and even more difficult for applicants who need to apply in any language other than English. Read more →

May 13


Rules Roundup: Supplemental Unemployment Benefits and Their Impact on Public Assistance Programs

An essential lifeline for DC residents and workers who are out of work due to COVID-19 is unemployment compensation. In the District, the unemployment compensation program is administered by the Department of Employment Services, or DOES. Standard unemployment is a longstanding program that provides 26 weeks of benefits to employees who lose a job or a substantial portion of their income through no fault of their own. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress put in place several important additional programs for workers as part of the CARES Act. One, called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, is an extension of the time period for which workers can receive benefits from 26 to 39 weeks. A second, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, provides 39 weeks of benefits to gig workers, independent contractors, and other workers who are not eligible for standard unemployment benefits, and is the subject of an earlier post on this blog. Read more →

May 12


Looking Beyond Outcomes: The Benefits of Enhancing Procedural Fairness Through Legal Representation

During this COVID-19 social isolation period, a vague routine at home has slowly emerged. I wake up before the rest of my family, make breakfast, and get the coffee started. Then I take a few moments to stare at what would normally be a bustling street full of morning commuters. The quiet emptiness of the sidewalks is startling and haunting. It is a daily visual reminder of the new world we suddenly find ourselves in. Inevitably, my mind shifts to the latest alarm bells in the news – the increasingly scary statistics, the waves of tragic stories, the frustration, the anger, the fear.

But finally (perhaps after the coffee has kicked in), I feel overwhelmed by gratitude, and a renewed appreciation that anything and everything could change in the blink of an eye. And in those moments, I find myself feeling thankful for my career – that I have spent most of it representing low-income folks who could otherwise not afford a lawyer. Read more →