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TZEDEK DC: Legal Help For People In Debt

TZEDEK DC: Legal Help for People in Debt

Tzedek DC is a relatively new organization, but its mission draws on a very old Jewish teaching: “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof,” meaning “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” While Tzedek DC only opened its doors in February 2017, volunteers had already spent two years interviewing DC residents about the barriers to economic and social stability. They found that debt collection issues, including lawsuits and impaired credit, were major hurdles for an overwhelming number of residents, especially in Wards 7 & 8.  Founder Ariel Levinson-Waldman explains that debt-related crises -- and the fact that income debt collection lawsuits are filed disproportionately against African-American and Latinx households -- contribute to the deep stratification of wealth along racial lines in DC. He notes that, according to the Urban Institute, white households in DC have a net worth 81 times greater than Black households. Tzedek DC seeks to help change these trends by addressing debt issues through a civil rights lens and by engaging in three strategies to increase access to assistance navigating financial problems.
Thank You And Good Luck To Our Summer Intern Lydia Kotowski

Thank you and good luck to our summer intern Lydia Kotowski

While the summer isn't technically over, we do say good-bye to our summer intern Lydia Kotowski this week. She has been a wonderful addition to our team and has brought a new perspective to our work. We are exceedingly grateful for all the ways Lydia has helped move our mission forward this summer. Thank you, Lydia!
A Conversation With Justice Elena Kagan And Dean William Treanor (July 18, 2019)

A Conversation with Justice Elena Kagan and Dean William Treanor (July 18, 2019)

Washington Council of Lawyers was honored to host A Conversation with Justice Elena Kagan and Dean William Treanor of Georgetown University Law Center on Thursday, July 18, 2019.  The conversation began with a discussion about the career of the late Justice John Paul Stevens, whose seat Justice Kagan filled after Justice Stevens retired. Justice Kagan praised Justice Stevens both in his role as a Supreme Court Justice and as an extraordinarily kind man and mentor.  Speaking to an audience largely comprised of law school students, public-interest lawyers, and pro bono advocates, Justice Kagan commented on Justice Steven’s commitment to continued learning on the job and his fierce independence.
2019 Summer Forum Preview: Pro Bono To Aid People Who Experience Poverty

2019 Summer Forum Preview: Pro Bono to Aid People Who Experience Poverty

Individuals living at or below the federal poverty level can encounter all manner of legal issues and are least likely to be able to afford legal representation. Lawyers practicing in this area must have a wide array of tools in their kit and an ability to meet a variety of challenges. The Poverty Law panel will explore the myriad ways lawyers help low-income residents including court matters with issues of housing, family, and consumer law; transactional matters such as public benefits; and policy work to ensure the defense and safeguarding of everyone’s rights regardless of position or power. #SumFo19
D.C. Council Helps Low-Income Workers Keep More Of Their Money

D.C. Council Helps Low-Income Workers Keep More of Their Money

Introduced by Council member Elissa Silverman, the Wage Garnishment Fairness Amendment Act of 2018 protects from garnishment weekly wages up to 40 times the District’s minimum wage (currently $13.25 per hour, and rising in July to $14 per hour). The law’s effective date is April 11, 2019, and its protections will likely begin to apply on October 1, when the District’s new fiscal year begins.
Safe Sisters Circle: A Welcoming Place

Safe Sisters Circle: A Welcoming Place

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Those are the words of Malcolm X, spoken in 1962. And it is the sentiment that motivated Alana Brown to found The Safe Sisters Circle. Founded in 2018, The Safe Sisters Circle is an organization that provides support and healing to black women survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.
2019 Summer Forum Preview: Immigration And Human Rights

2019 Summer Forum Preview: Immigration and Human Rights

Over the past few years, immigration has become one of the hottest pro bono and public-interest fields. At our 2019 Summer Forum, the Immigration and Human Rights panel will discuss the ways that immigrant-rights organizations are working to protect the rights of immigrants and promote access to justice both in the District and around the country. #SumFo19
2019 Summer Forum Preview: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Panel

2019 Summer Forum Preview: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Panel

Being an attorney in the District gives you a myriad of opportunities to work on civil rights and civil liberties issues. DC or federal work, litigation or policy, career or pro bono. Come to the Summer Pro Bono & Public-Interest Forum’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties panel to learn how to defend these liberties. #SumFo19
Announcing A New Member Benefit!

Announcing a new member benefit!

We are pleased to announce a new member benefit! Washington Council of Lawyers has joined the American Bar Association’s Books for Bars Program. And don’t forget about all the other great member benefits.
Joining The District Of Columbia Bench

Joining the District of Columbia Bench

Earlier this month, we partnered with the Greater Washington Area Chapter, Women Lawyers Division, National Bar Association (GWAC) to discuss what it takes to join the District of Columbia Courts. We learned about the role of the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission (JNC) and got first hand experiences and advice on applying to become a judge in DC from those serving on the bench.
Government Pro Bono Roundtable 2019

Government Pro Bono Roundtable 2019

Last week, we held our annual Government Pro Bono Roundtable. A panel of seasoned government lawyers discussed how and why they have made pro bono work a part of their legal careers. We’ve summarized the questions posed to and answers provided by our panelists: Jonathan Jacobson, Nicholas Kazmerski, Laura Klein, and Catalina Martinez, and Liz Symonds. The main point is that pro bono work is fun and rewarding for government lawyers, too.
“Mapping Eviction”: The Eviction Lab Highlights The Eviction Epidemic With Exhibit And Discussion At The National Building Museum

“Mapping Eviction”: The Eviction Lab Highlights the Eviction Epidemic with Exhibit and Discussion at the National Building Museum

On January 24, James Hendrickson and Lavar Edmonds, of the Eviction Lab, delivered a presentation on the organization’s work, which has established the first dataset and research tool focused on eviction rates in the United States. The talk was held at the National Building Museum, which currently features the “Evicted” exhibit, exploring the causes and impact of evictions through photographs and stories reflecting the affordable housing crisis, on display through May 19, 2019. The Eviction Lab plans to create a national, centralized database with information they are still gathering, but encourages interested parties to utilize their available studies and research to increase awareness of the housing crisis. All of their data and related work is available for download, free of charge, on their website.
The Public-Interest Legacy Of Judge Patricia Wald

The Public-Interest Legacy of Judge Patricia Wald

By Gregory M. Lipper Public-interest lawyers can and did learn a lot from Judge Patricia Wald, who died at age 90 on January 12. Many knew her as a giant of the District’s bar and bench—an influential writer turned successful public-interest litigator turned pathbreaking federal judge turned international war-crimes jurist. Fewer, perhaps, know that she was one of the lawyers who founded our own organization, Washington Council of Lawyers, in the early 1970s. Through it all, she marched to the beat of her own drummer, retaining a zeal for helping vulnerable people, a refreshing sense of humility and candor, and a willingness to push hard—and tell people what they didn’t want to hear—on behalf of society’s most vulnerable.
Puns Contest!

Puns Contest!

AND WE HAVE A WINNER!! Thank you to everyone who contributed such witty quips. The most clever are first place winner Steve Schulman, second place Nathaniel Maranwe, and third place Elaine Stamp.
Resources For Furloughed Government Employees

Resources for Furloughed Government Employees

With so many federal government employees struggling during the shutdown, we've collected links to and summaries of resources available to federal employees who are furloughed. From free food to free CLE programs, many groups are trying to support those affected by the shutdown.
Martha’s Table And Lyft Join Forces To Provide Grocery Access To Residents East Of The River

Martha’s Table and Lyft Join Forces to Provide Grocery Access to Residents East of the River

By Jessalyn Schwartz Starting on January 1, 2019, the Lyft Grocery Access Program will offer affordable rides to three East of the River grocery stores for 500 eligible families in an effort to combat common barriers of transportation and access to healthy foods. Lyft has partnered with Martha’s Table, a local nonprofit, that has been working to strengthen families and communities through educational programming, healthy food projects and family support services, to implement the six-month pilot program. For $2.50 per ride, up to two members of participating families will be able to share rides to one of three local grocery stores (Giant at 1535 Alabama Avenue SE, Safeway at 322 40th Street NE, and Safeway at 2845 Alabama Avenue SE) or the Martha’s Table food markets (locations here). Eligible families must have at least one child enrolled in one of the six participating elementary schools or engaged in Martha’s Table’s educational programs and must attend an in-person orientation with Martha’s Table and Lyft prior to using their rides. Families will receive up to 50 rides through June 30, 2019. According to Lindsay Morton, Director of Healthy Markets at Martha’s Table, families have long reported that transportation is one of the top three barriers to accessing grocery stores. The program seeks to lessen the financial and logistical burdens associated with getting to grocery stores. Lyft has been a supporter of Martha’s Table for over a year and came to the nonprofit to find a way to stand with the DC community and leverage each entity’s powers to combat issues with food access and the prevalence of food deserts. Martha’s Table has been an essential player in working to resolve this problem in the city and is known to be a convener of both residents utilizing their programs and influencers who may impact the scalability of effective efforts. Collaborating through a series of meetings, Lyft and Martha’s Table were able to come up with a number of ideas, test their efficacy, and quickly bring the pilot program to fruition. Martha’s Table has reached out to local partner schools, families engaged in their programming, and community members to spread the word. If the program proves successful, they will seek to generate funding strategies to take the program to a larger scale. The goal is to first expand the program to more families in Wards 7 and 8 and then to grow the program to reach the rest of the District, and the greater DC Metro area. The program will utilize a survey model to assess its efficacy, with participants sharing information on their grocery shopping habits before, during, and at the conclusion of the pilot period. Morton shared that the enthusiasm from last week’s announcement has made the idea of implementing the program on a larger scale seem possible and that the organizations were excited to begin the new year with an innovative approach to reducing transportation and food access barriers in DC. For more information about the program, please visit the Lyft Grocery Access Program website. Families interested in joining the program can apply here. Registration is on a first come, first served basis. Registration will remain open until 500 families are enrolled.   Jessalyn Schwartz is an editor of East of the River Profiles. 

U.S. District Court Seeks Nominations For Daniel M. Gribbon Pro Bono Advocacy Award

U.S. District Court Seeks Nominations for Daniel M. Gribbon Pro Bono Advocacy Award

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeks nominations for the Daniel M. Gribbon Pro Bono Advocacy Award. Nominees may be an individual or firm that has demonstrated distinguished advocacy before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in a pro bono matter that concluded between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2018.Candidates may self-nominate, and non-winning nominations from previous years may be resubmitted if the matter falls within the eligible dates. Nominations, which will be accepted beginning on January 1, 2019, must be in writing, and are limited to six (6) pages in length.
2018 Awards Ceremony

2018 Awards Ceremony

Thank you again to everyone who joined us at our 2018 Awards Ceremony, and extra special thanks to our award winners for the work that they do to serve our community.
RECAP: 2018 DC Pro Bono Week Sealing & Expungement Summit

RECAP: 2018 DC Pro Bono Week Sealing & Expungement Summit

By Omar Delgadillo On October 26th, D.C. Law Students in Court (LSIC) hosted a Sealing & Expungement Summit at the Department of Employment Services building at their Minnesota Avenue Office in Northeast. This DC Pro Bono Week event connected members of the community with lawyers to help with the expungement and sealing of their criminal records. The Summit was an informational fair as well as a clinic, embodying LSIC's client-centered approach to representation.  In this effort, LSIC's Eviction Defense Project, LSIC's Civil Protection Order Program and LSIC's Social Work Program were present at the Summit to assist attendees with other legal services. Community partners provided information to Summit attendees on how to overcome the employment and housing barriers that arrest records can present.  LSIC partners at the Summit included the the D.C. Department of Employment Services, the D.C. Office on Human Rights, the Mayor's Office on Returning Citizens Affairs, the Project Empowerment Program  and Howard University's Fair Housing Clinic. Each one of these partners provided information on the law surrounding housing and employment discrimination to the Summit attendees.  With the coordination of Jen Tschirch, Pro Bono Coordinator at Georgetown University Law Center, several GULC law student volunteers also participated in the Summit. The D.C. Office of Human Rights provided information about actions individuals can take to protect against unlawful discrimination on the basis of their criminal record. For example, they can file a complaint against an employer or landlord whose applications contain questions about criminal records, or if there is reason to believe that their housing or employment applications were rejected before the offer stage because of their criminal record. One attendee said he has been rejected nine times in his search for housing and was told directly that one of his applications was rejected because of a prior conviction. If true, this would constitute a violation of D.C.'s Ban the Box law, which prohibits a criminal record from being considered early in the housing application process. Another attendee said he was homeless and believed he was facing trouble getting a job because of his criminal history; he had not received responses to his job applications despite having a high school diploma. The Expungement Summit involved eighteen attorneys from four major DC law firms (Arnold & Porter, Latham & Watkins, Reed Smith, Steptoe & Johnson).  LSIC's clinic had a big assist from Maya Sheppard at Neighborhood Legal Services Program.  Due to the Summit's success, LSIC has been able to pair more than a dozen Summit attendees with our pro bono partners for full representation in the weeks since the Summit. Washington Council of Lawyers was instrumental in helping LSIC offer this pro bono opportunity to the DC legal community. The Sealing & Expungement Summit provided dozens of individuals with much-needed information and guidance. It was a great success! Questions? Want to know more? Contact: LSIC Expungement Hotline: (202) 607-2721 or expungement@dclawstudents.org   Omar Delgadillo is a member of the East of the River Profiles Committee.

D.C. Office Of Attorney General Adopts Pro Bono Program

D.C. Office of Attorney General Adopts Pro Bono Program

At the Washington Council of Lawyers annual Awards Ceremony on December 4, we will recognize the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for the District of Columbia for its recent adoption of an office-wide Pro Bono Program that encourages lawyers in its office to provide critical legal services to individuals in need.
Catalina Martinez: 2018 Government Pro Bono Award Recipient

Catalina Martinez: 2018 Government Pro Bono Award Recipient

Catalina Martinez, recipient of our 2018 Government Pro Bono Award and an attorney at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), stands out not only for her diligent work on her own pro bono matters, but also for her tireless efforts to recruit colleagues to pro bono advocacy.