DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profiles: Stephenson F. Harvey and Keith L. Howard – A Dynamic Duo Fighting for DC Kids
Across DC, more than 13,000 students have special education needs. But getting the right education to meet those needs is a far reach for many. More often than not, students and their families call on lawyers to ensure they get the right evaluation, plans and services to put their child on track. And the urgency to ensure children’s special education needs are met has skyrocketed over the past 18 months as many students are waiting for delayed evaluations or haven’t received the services they deserve due to virtual learning barriers. Attorneys Steve Harvey and Keith Howard have known each other since 2004. They shared the same passion from the start of their legal careers – pursuing justice for low-income families by representing children in special education cases. Since 2017, they have partnered together to represent students with special education needs in over a dozen pro bono cases for Children’s Law Center.
DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profile: Nadira Clarke – Making Virtual Custody Representation Better for Clients
Nadira Clarke, Baker 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. Nadira is making an indelible impact on Legal Aid as an organization, the professional development of the colleagues she supervises and mentors, and, most importantly, the lives of the clients she represents.
Without pro bono support, only crime victims with the financial resources to hire skilled attorneys would benefit from the formidable array of victims’ rights laws and benefits applicable in the District of Columbia. The natural inertia of the criminal legal system and the highly adversarial interests of those involved creates an environment where victims’ rights are susceptible to encroachment. Since the incredible majority of crime victims cannot afford their own attorneys, crime victims are often left without even knowing they had rights that could have been enforced. Blair Decker has stepped into this gap to accept a wide range of pro bono opportunities at NVRDC and has positively affected our work with crime victims and surviving family members of homicide victims, and has facilitated a broader systemic transformation in a variety of ways.
DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profiles: Phillip Dehoux – Helping Clients With Few Legal Resources Find Solutions
Understanding all too well the struggles of people with few resources and language barriers, Phillip Dehoux jumped at the chance to help out in any way he could with Christian Legal Aid of the District of Columbia. “I’ve worked on a few estate planning and probate cases, helped out on an SSDI case, and worked on guardianship matters. It’s been very rewarding work in that I not only feel fulfilled, but I also get to help people who had nowhere else to turn because they couldn’t afford a private attorney.”
Erhan Bedestani, a law student at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, loves pro bono work because he is motivated to help others and he also learns by doing. Pro bono provides an opportunity to take the academic material learned in law school and apply it to real legal issues members of our local community are dealing with. Erhan feels strongly about pro bono work and said “I love that I can help others and at the same time further reinforce my legal education. “
The Rising for Justice Expungement Program is proud to work with many pro bono attorneys who make it possible to expunge hundreds of D.C. records every year. Our Pro Bono Partners, as we refer to them, each become an important figure in our clients’ lives. Pro Bono Partners support and represent clients throughout the expungement process. Lauren Taylor stands out in her commitment and positivity to this work.
A Failed Stress Test: The Pandemic Exposes the D.C. Government’s Failure to Distribute Unemployment Benefits to People in Need
The COVID-19 pandemic caused many District of Columbia residents to lose their jobs and erased years of employment progress. In February 2020, just before the pandemic began, the District’s unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 4.9 percent. Two months later, unemployment had more than doubled to 11.1 percent. Some of the people who lost their jobs have since found new jobs, but not nearly enough: As of May 2021, the unemployment rate was still 7.2 percent. Even worse, the District’s government has failed to ensure that people who lose their jobs receive the unemployment benefits to which they are entitled; those failures became especially conspicuous when the federal government expanded unemployment benefits during the pandemic. For many eligible people, the resulting loss of unemployment benefits has been devastating. Claimants have relied on unemployment aid to pay for food, rent, and other essentials; without the aid they may be forced to move elsewhere and they may lack secure access to food. The effects were especially severe for racial minorities. Even after the expanded unemployment benefits have expired, the District’s unemployment system remains dire.
DC Pro Bono Week 2021 takes place from October 24–30, and will offer lots of opportunities to do pro bono work, learn new pro bono skills, meet other pro bono lawyers, and expand your pro bono horizons. The full schedule of events is available here.