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Photo: Dan Cantor Formal Headshot

Pro Bono Week 2020 Profile: Dan Cantor – Protecting D.C. Seniors from Eviction and Homelessness

By Sheryl Rosensky Miller, Linda B. Popejoy, and Kristina Majewski

Since joining Legal Counsel for the Elderly’s Advisory Board five years ago, Arnold & Porter Partner Daniel Cantor has zealously defended D.C. seniors with limited means from eviction and homelessness. His exemplary pro bono work has resulted in life-changing victories that enabled his clients to stay in their homes. In his first pro bono case from Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Dan represented an elderly tenant whose landlord filed an eviction claim against the client while she was hospitalized for 10-months, which prevented her from submitting her annual housing certification form. Dan zealously argued that the landlord must honor her housing voucher retroactively; the landlord eventually dismissed the eviction action.

That same year, Dan prevented the imminent eviction of two elderly, low-income sisters who lived in their units for over 40 years. Dan eagerly stepped into the breach to end a long-standing dispute by reaching an agreement with the landlord. Dan and his colleagues’ next huge victory involved an elderly client whose apartment was rendered uninhabitable by a major sewage and water leak. After the apartment was condemned and the client was forced to relocate to a hotel, Dan and his colleague Nora Schneider sued the landlord for wrongful eviction and ultimately secured a large monetary settlement.

Most recently, Dan and his team achieved an incredible victory for a longstanding D.C. resident who owned shares in a low-income co-op. The Co-Op board terminated her as a member on the ground that she fell behind in her monthly dues. After the client paid her arrearage, the Co-Op nonetheless filed an eviction action. Dan and the team diligently litigated this case for over two and a half years including court hearings, depositions, discovery, and protracted settlement negotiations. As a result of the firm’s steadfast advocacy, the case was successfully resolved. The client’s ownership status has been fully restored and the eviction action was dismissed.

If that were not enough, Dan is now defending an older construction worker against eviction. After a three-week hospital stay due to a serious illness, the client returned to the house in which he rents a room only to find that his landlord had engaged in a self-help eviction by changing the locks. After Legal Counsel for the Elderly obtained an initial preliminary injunction, the client returned to his home for the duration of the case.  Dan Cantor then enthusiastically agreed to handle the wrongful eviction case. At a recent virtual hearing, Dan presented robust evidence and testimony from the client and witnesses, which persuaded the Court to uphold the injunction over the objections of the landlord.

Dan’s commitment to Legal Counsel for the Elderly’s clients has inspired many in his firm to join his efforts by engaging in systemic advocacy.  A monumental example is Dan’s “call to action” after a fire destroyed a public housing building in D.C. The senior residents, many of whom had medical conditions or disabilities, lost their homes in the fire and literally everything or almost everything they owned: clothing, family photos, cherished heirlooms, and crucial legal documents such as wills or IDs. They also suffered psychological trauma from the experience of the fire and its aftermath.  As soon as he learned about the fire, Dan Cantor assembled a large team of lawyers and paralegals from Arnold & Porter who gathered critical evidence and information and worked side-by-side with Legal Counsel for the Elderly staff to ensure each tenant was relocated to suitable new housing. Then, Dan and his team filed a lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages for about 150 former tenants. The suit is ongoing.

Dan shared his appreciation for the close collaboration with Legal Counsel for the Elderly on all of his cases: “There is no way that our Arnold & Porter team could do the work we do on behalf of low-income elderly clients without the close collaboration and substantive expertise of the Legal Counsel for the Elderly attorneys. These folks are true subject matter experts and provide great mentorship. This allows a general litigator like myself to comfortably get involved, contribute to the effort, and serve our clients well.”  Dan stressed how rewarding his pro bono work is, saying, “I always feel that I get even more out of these cases than I put into them.”  From his contributions to the Legal Counsel for the Elderly Board, his commitment to our racial equity work, and to our clients through individual representation, impact litigation, and systemic research, Dan is truly a star for Legal Counsel for the Elderly and for its senior clients.  We are incredibly grateful for Legal Counsel for the Elderly’s partnership with Dan Cantor, and his wonderful Arnold & Porter colleagues who have devoted themselves to seeking justice for the elderly in the nation’s capital.

Sheryl Rosensky Miller is the Manager for Pro Bono Access to Justice, Linda B. Popejoy is the Manager for Systemic Advocacy, and Kristina Majewski is a Staff Attorney for Pro Bono Access to Justice. All three are with Legal Counsel for the Elderly.