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2024 Summer Forum Preview: Poverty Law Panel

People living in poverty struggle daily to meet basic needs for themselves and their families. Critical relief: housing, nutrition, health care, fair employment, and protection from violence, often turn not on rights but on access to justice. Often access to justice remain out of reach for many trying to navigate complex rules and requirements. While legal representation can transform an individual’s ability to access what they need to survive and thrive, low-income litigants are the least likely to have an attorney to help them through the legal process. Pro bono attorneys who fill this gap literally save lives.

Learn more about the wide-ranging legal issues individuals living in poverty face and what pro bono opportunities are available in D.C. and across the country to help address these needs at our 2024 Summer Forum Panel on Poverty Law on Thursday, June 27 from 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm ET. Register here to join the virtual conversation.

Jen Masi will moderate the Poverty Law panel. Jen is Children’s Law Center’s Pro Bono Director and engages with hundreds of pro bono attorneys from area law firms, corporations, government agencies, and solo practice as they represent caregivers in adoption, guardianship, and custody cases, represent the best interests of children as guardians ad litem in contested custody proceedings, advocate for parents in special education cases, and bring affirmative housing conditions litigation when a child’s health is at risk. Jen also leads Children’s Law Center’s family law team, which includes attorneys and support staff who represent children’s best interests in contested custody cases and caregivers in family law cases. Jen has been with Children’s Law Center since 2011 and previously clerked at D.C. Superior Court and taught sixth grade.  Jen has been a member of our Board of Directors since 2020.

The panel includes:

Sébastien Monzón Rueda, AARP Foundation Litigation
Sébastien started at AARP Foundation Litigation (AFL) after four years as a Staff Attorney in the Tenant Advocacy and Support Practice at Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE) where he represented older adults with low to moderate income in housing-related cases before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  He also litigated reasonable accommodation cases and discrimination claims before administrative bodies, such as the D.C. Housing Authority and the Office of Administrative Hearings.  Sébastien received his J.D., cum laude, from the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and his B.A. from the University of British Columbia.  He clerked for the Honorable Tyrona De Witt and the Honorable Diane Lepley at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  Sébastien is a Board Member of the Washington Council of Lawyers and serves as Co-Chair of its Advocacy Committee.

Harmony Jones, Steptoe & Johnson
Harmony assists in managing Steptoe & Johnson’s pro bono program. In her role, she provides legal services to low-income individuals and charitable organizations. She supports access to justice for civil rights matters and public benefits law through representation and mentorship. Before working with Steptoe, Harmony gained extensive experience in providing legal services to indigent clients at a local and federal level in areas of housing, family, and public benefits law. She also has experience working internationally on civil rights, criminal defense, and federal habeas corpus cases at the trial and appellate levels.

Lee Swanson, Victim Legal Network of DC
Lee Swanson is the Victim Legal Network of DC Managing Attorney. In this role, they coordinate the Victim Legal Network of DC, NVRDC’s referral network that helps victims access legal assistance from more than twenty-five member organizations in the District of Columbia. Prior to joining NVRDC, Lee worked as a brief services attorney with DC’s Children’s Law Center, where they assisted families with legal issues related to a child’s disability or medical condition. Lee has also led trainings on disability justice; provided legal assistance to immigrant youth; conducted faith-based advocacy on economic and racial justice issues for the Unitarian Universalist Association; served low-income immigrants in North Carolina as an AmeriCorps ACCESS volunteer; and worked in various bookstores and libraries. Lee earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Juris Doctor from Northeastern University School of Law, where they were a Public Interest Law Scholar.

We look forward to seeing you at this panel! Register here to get your ticket to the keynote and all 6 substantive panels. Join the conversation using #SumFo24!

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