By Amy Senier
Katrina Rouse is a Trial Attorney at the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the winner of our 2016 Government Pro Bono Award. It’s easy to see why: she has an uncommon commitment to pro bono work. Since she learned about DOJ’s Pro Bono Program when joining the government in 2011, she has handled six pro bono cases from the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advocacy & Justice Clinic, drafted two wills through the D.C. Bar-Bread for the City Pro Bono Wills Clinic, and volunteered several times at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic. Katrina makes a point of taking on at least one pro bono case per year. And “if that case gets dismissed quickly, I take another. It is my personal commitment to being a good resident of the city.”
Much of Katrina’s pro bono work has involved representing low-income DC residents through the Advocacy & Justice Clinic. In her early cases, she defended tenants in eviction suits and helped them stay in their homes, compel their landlords to fix housing-code violations, and obtain rent abatements for time spent in apartments that failed to meet housing-code requirements.
Katrina then branched out. She handled a challenging custody case involving complex paternity questions, and a complicated consumer case involving the sale of an uninhabitable home. In the latter case, her client was a homeowner who sued his realtors, inspectors, and the previous owner for failing to disclose problems that caused flooding and the roof to cave in soon after he moved in. Katrina led a team, including two junior lawyers and a paralegal; they put in 40 hours during the first two weeks alone in order to get the case back on track, led their client through discovery, and fended off a motion for summary judgment. After initially resisting, the defendants eventually agreed to settle the case.
In addition to litigating pro bono cases, Katrina has drafted wills and power-of-attorney forms for low-income clients through the Wills Clinic and volunteered (and recruited her colleagues to volunteer) at the Saturday Advice & Referral Clinic. And she’s promoted DOJ’s Pro Bono Program, by serving as her division’s Pro Bono Committee representative and mentoring other government lawyers who do pro bono work.
In light of Katrina’s hard work and success over the last several years, we are thrilled to award Katrina our 2016 Government Pro Bono Award.
Amy Senier is a federal government lawyer and a board member of Washington Council of Lawyers.