Legal Aid is grateful that it has once again received funding from the DC Bar Foundation to help support our general operations as well as our nationally-recognized Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project, which was established over a decade ago (with seed money from the Foundation) to provide an important new resource to our client population and the local legal services community. The project builds on the individual representation that is at the heart of our work, allowing us to handle appeals on matters that have the potential to set precedent that will positively impact large numbers of people living in poverty in the District.
One example from the past year was our victory on behalf of a domestic violence survivor, E.C., who was denied unemployment benefits after she was fired for reluctantly allowing her abuser onto workplace property after he repeatedly stalked her at work. The District’s highest court overturned an administrative hearing officer’s earlier denial, awarding E.C. full unemployment benefits.
The decision was the first to interpret a new District statute designed to provide broad protection for domestic violence survivors who seek unemployment benefits; absent the successful appeal, this important legislation might have provided substantially less help to survivors in desperate need of stable financial resources when fired due to domestic violence, which in turn would negatively impact their ability to leave abusive relationships. Cases currently being litigated or prepared for litigation focus on other issues of importance to our client population, including unfair landlord practices, unlawful practices in the District’s handling of child support arrearages, the denial of due process in public benefits proceedings, and improper burdens on claimants in workers’ compensation cases.
The project is led by Jonathan Levy, who joined Legal Aid in March after 15 years of service on the Appellate Staff of the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice. While at Justice, Jonathan briefed and argued dozens of cases in the United States Courts of Appeals in the District of Columbia and around the country on a wide range of issues. Jonathan also has a history of pro bono service in this community, representing indigent defendants in landlord-tenant matters and helping low-income individuals select and enroll in appropriate Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. Prior to his work at the Justice Department, Jonathan was an associate at Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, clerked for the Honorable Judith Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and clerked for the Honorable William Wayne Justice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Jonathan earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School.
We also are grateful to the DC Bar Foundation for continuing its vital funding of our general operations. These funds, which we are able to allocate where they are needed most, are essential to our ability to be a nimble legal services organization, responding to the needs of our client community.
Finally, we congratulate the DC Bar Foundation’s new leadership. We note with great pride that Legal Aid honored incoming President Susie Hoffman with our highest award, our Servant of Justice Award, in 2012, and honored incoming Vice President Paul Smith with the award the next year, in 2013. Congratulations to Susie and Paul and all of the incoming DCBF leadership, including the new additions to the Young Lawyers Network Leadership Council.