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Our New Board Members, 2016 Edition

Our New Board Members, 2016 Edition

It’s that time of year when we welcome our incoming board members. Each of these public-interest-minded folks will officially join our Board of Directors in September. (more…)
Meet Our Summer Intern, Miranda Hines

Meet Our Summer Intern, Miranda Hines

Hello! My name is Miranda Hines and I'm excited to intern for Washington Council of Lawyers this summer. I'm from Akron, Ohio, and right now I'm an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis. I'm majoring in English Literature and Political Science (focusing on on comparative politics and theory). Outside the classroom I am a writer and current Design Chief for Washington University’s ISSUES Magazine, which covers social, political, and economic issues facing the urban community in the St. Louis area and seeks to broaden the student community’s awareness of the challenges facing those who live and work around us. I love studying political science and discussing it with others, this fall I'll be serving as a Teaching Assistant for one of my school's American politics classes. (more…)
Blogging For Ward 7: Community Activist Susie Cambria

Blogging for Ward 7: Community Activist Susie Cambria

By Peter Nye Ward 7 blogger and community activist Susie Cambria has worked on District policy and public-interest initiatives for more than two decades, partnering with local nonprofits and the DC city government before launching Susie's Budget and Policy Corner in 2009. But she first got involved in community issues early in her childhood. Her parents led her in that direction: “Being an activist was just something that we did.” When she was seven, her father, a Shriner, took her to the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts. She was influenced by the patients’ problems, especially those of a seven-year-old amputee who pushed himself around in a cart. Susie promptly hosted a neighborhood fair to raise money for the patients. She raised seven dollars; impressed by her dedication, the Shriners donated twice as much. (more…)
Protecting The Veterans Who Protected Us

Protecting the Veterans Who Protected Us

By Ryan C. Wilson For veterans, applying for government benefits and housing can feel like David fighting Goliath. A confusing array of deadlines and eligibility requirements often choke veterans' efforts to get the benefits to which they are entitled. And when veterans attempt to find housing, post-service disabilities can expose them to slumlords who bypass the legal process and force them out onto the streets. The Washington Post recently highlighted two veterans who were forced to live in their Southeast apartment for months during the winter without heat and then locked out without their possessions. [more…]
Expungement Clinic In Anacostia

Expungement Clinic in Anacostia

By Caroline Fleming On May 17, DC Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May will host a record-sealing and expungement fair in Anacostia. At the fair, volunteer lawyers will help DC residents with the complicated process of sealing or expunge criminal records. If you're a DC lawyer or legal professional interested in pro bono work, it's a great way to volunteer for a discrete period of time. The fair supports the broader movement in DC to make it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs. In particular, the 2014 Ban the Box law prohibits certain DC employers from asking about criminal history on their initial application forms, and allows them to ask about criminal convictions only after making a conditional offer of employment. [...]
Preserving Homeownership In Deanwood

Preserving Homeownership in Deanwood

By Amy Gellatly At Neighborhood Legal Services Program, we want to make sure that longtime Deanwood residents are able to preserve their homes and pass them down to future generations. That’s why we are launching a new Homeownership Preservation program out of our Deanwood office. With this program, we will advocate on behalf of homeowners and make sure that they have access to the District’s services for homeowners in distress. (More…)
The Dogs Of Public Interest Law: Moose

The Dogs of Public Interest Law: Moose

New at The Dogs of Public Interest Law: Moose! She’s a mixed-breed pup who hangs out with Dena Sher, Assistant Legislative Director at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. (more…)
Our 2016 D.C. Bar Endorsements

Our 2016 D.C. Bar Endorsements

The D.C. Bar is one of the largest bar organizations in the country, and it sets the tone for lawyers in D.C. and elsewhere. With this in mind, each year we endorse candidates for D.C. Bar office who share our commitment to advancing pro bono, public-interest law, and access to justice more generally. This year, we endorse the following candidates. (Lists of multiple candidates appear alphabetically, and not in order of preference). (more…)
Poverty And Participation, East Of The River

Poverty and Participation, East of the River

By David Steib Exclusion begets poverty begets exclusion begets poverty begets exclusion begets poverty. “When the participation of people living in poverty is not actively sought and facilitated, they are not able to participate in decision-making and their needs and interests are not taken into account when policy is designed and implemented,“ said a March 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. ”Lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social, and cultural life,“ the report added, is ”a defining feature and cause of poverty, rather than just its consequence.” (More…)
Street Sense Columnist Connects At-Risk Residents With Legal Resources

Street Sense Columnist Connects At-Risk Residents with Legal Resources

By Sierra Blanchard-Hodge Timothy Farrell, volunteer writer for the DC newspaper Street Sense, is not your average urban columnist. His youthful exploits may appear to be … unusual—he recalls, for example, being hustled into the back of a military truck by army personnel during an evacuation in Rhodesia. But despite these experiences, Tim had a fairly privileged upbringing, and he now seeks to use his education and legal expertise to give back to the community. (More…)
Arnold & Porter Wins A Pair Of Pro Bono Criminal Cases

Arnold & Porter Wins a Pair of Pro Bono Criminal Cases

Attorneys from Arnold & Porter, along with their investigators and staff, recently won acquittals for clients in two separate, pro-bono cases. These terrific results ensured that two clients were able to celebrate the holidays at home with their families. In one of the cases, Counsel Mary Kennedy and Associate Sean Hennessy (on the right in the photo) represented a man who was indicted (along with two other codefendants) for aggravated assault while armed. After a two-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all charges—after deliberating for less than an hour. In the other matter, Mary and Associate Alex Berrang (on the left in the photo) represented a young man charged with first-degree murder while armed (as well as other firearm offenses). After a four-day trial, the jury acquitted their client on all counts. In each case, the jurors praised the defense team and cited the attorneys’ passion for their clients as a factor in the verdicts. (More…)
Our New Administrative Director, Leandra Carrasco

Our New Administrative Director, Leandra Carrasco

Leandra Carrasco joined us in December as Administrative Director. We’re delighted that Leandra will be using her considerable skill and enthusiasm to support pro-bono and public-interest lawyers in their work. With a background in community outreach and development, Leandra has always wanted to use her law degree to promote social justice. She received an Advocate for Justice scholarship to attend the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law and graduated magna cum laude. For Leandra, law school had two highlights: The first was completing over 750 hours of pro bono legal work at the Community Development and HIV/AIDS Family Law clinics. The second was working for the school’s founder, Edgar Cahn, as a teaching assistant and service coordinator for the mandatory Law & Justice class—which requires all 1Ls to complete 40 hours of law-related community service. (More…)
Medical-Legal Partnership Helps Children East Of The River

Medical-Legal Partnership Helps Children East of the River

By Arooj Sami After eight-year-old Marie (name changed to protect her confidentiality) mentioned her fear of the cockroaches in her home, a doctor realized that there may be another way to help the young patient avoid more emergency room visits to treat her severe asthma. In the District, where 20 percent of children under age 18 have asthma, there are increasing efforts to go beyond clinical interventions and address the roots of this disease. Children’s Law Center, a nonprofit that provides free legal services to children and their families, has partnered with six health facilities around the District, including Unity Health Care’s Minnesota Avenue Clinic in Ward 7, to form Healthy Together. Lawyers from Healthy Together are on site at the partner facilities to train medical staff and answer questions about patients’ non-medical needs. The partnership reflects a holistic approach to children’s health. Although pediatricians advise parents on prescriptions or how to control allergens in the home, in many cases parents have little ability to manage their children's asthma. Some schools have poor air quality and may be unable or unwilling to take steps to reduce asthma triggers. In addition, low-income parents facing housing challenges often cannot prevent a child’s exposure to problematic mold in the home. More generally, management of asthma is affected to economic and social disparities, and low-income families face many barriers to effective management of chronic respiratory conditions. These families often experience instability in employment, housing, and family structure, and have fewer resources to fight for safe and sanitary housing conditions. Low-income working parents tend to lack paid leave or flexible work schedules, and are often unable to take children to doctor’s appointments scheduled during business hours. Areas in the District with the highest prevalence of asthma also have fewer primary care providers—for instance, children in Southeast DC visit the emergency room at a rate ten times greater than in Northwest DC. In light of these circumstances, health practitioners collaborating with Healthy Together attorneys are encouraged to ask about social and economic factors affecting patients’ health and make referrals to address those problems. Practitioners can also consult the Advocacy Code Card, which contains screening questions and resources for mental health services, housing, special education, and public benefits. This type of multi-pronged, collaborative approach is proving to be effective in tackling childhood asthma in the District. In addition to its partnership with Healthy Together, Children’s Law Center has worked with the DC Council to address mold in housing. Prior to 2014, the DC housing code did not cover mold; as long as there was no visible dampness, landlords were able to pass inspection by simply painting over mold.  But thanks to the advocacy of Children’s Law Center, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and other groups, the City Council passed a new law requiring landlords to remediate mold once tenants report it. As for Marie: she was referred to Children’s Law Center by Impact DC, an asthma research and treatment unit at the Children’s National Health System, after an emergency room visit. Children's Law Center arranged for a housing inspection through the DC Department of Environment’s Partnership for Healthy Homes. The inspection showed signs of cockroaches, excrement, decomposing cockroach bodies, and mice in the HVAC system—all triggers for asthma. After legal action was threatened, the landlord agreed to move Marie and her family to sanitary housing. Marie's health improved drastically after her family moved into better housing conditions. She had fewer acute episodes and did not have to be rushed to the emergency room. When her asthma was poorly controlled, Marie was missing school, or she was tired and unable to concentrate in class. Her mother, who was losing sleep staying up nights to care for Marie when she was wheezing, found it difficult to maintain steady employment because her daughter’s health required urgent attention. The family has since regained a sense of calm and an improved quality of life—all thanks to help from Healthy Together.

East Of The River Profiles:  Meeting The Community’s Legal Needs

East of the River Profiles: Meeting the Community’s Legal Needs

East of the River Profiles highlight the work of lawyers,  law professors, and law students who serve low-income residents in Wards 7 and 8.  Poverty in the District of Columbia is concentrated in certain communities east of the Anacostia River. Lawyers are critical to helping low-income residents in these communities navigate challenges such as finding housing, stabilizing families, and finding jobs. Providing the necessary legal services to those who live East of the River requires minimizing geographic barriers to accessing legal aid, motivating pro bono lawyers and law students to travel across the river to assist clients, and ensuring that legal aid lawyers are visible and accessible in the community. With East of the River Profiles, we hope to encourage these changes by highlighting the needs of those who live East of the River and the work done by the lawyers serving these communities. In addition to telling these important stories, we've collected some East of the River resources. We also invite you to participate in the East of the River Casehandlers group. Finally, we’d love to hear from you! If you have stories, successes, or resources that you’d like us to share, please contact Caroline Fleming.

Law Firm Partnership with Legal Aid Expands East of the River

DC law firm Kirkland & Ellis has recently expanded its partnership with the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, providing increased access to legal assistance for East of the River residents. As part of the growing partnership, Kirkland attorneys are now helping to staff the Anacostia office of Legal Aid. Located at the Anacostia Professional Building at the "Big Chair," the East of the River office now offers general intake on Mondays and Thursdays between 10:00 am and 1:30 pm. It's just one of the reasons we're honoring Kirkland at our 2015 Awards Ceremony!

2015 Pro Bono Week Recap: Office Of Administrative Hearings Tour

2015 Pro Bono Week Recap: Office of Administrative Hearings Tour

DC Pro Bono Week concluded on October 30 with a tour of the Office of Administrative Hearings. Although it operates under the radar, OAH makes decisions about cases that are important for scores of people in Washington, DC, many of them low-income. Cases affect schools, unemployment insurance, housing rentals, public safety, health, and benefits. As a result, adequate representation in OAH is essential to improving access to justice in DC.