This week, Legal Aid’s Beth Mellen, a Supervising Attorney in the Housing Law Unit and the Director of Legal Aid’s Eviction Defense Project, will be honored by the DC Bar Foundation with the Scoutt Prize for her skills as “a fierce courtroom advocate, a compassionate client advisor, a dedicated mentor to younger lawyers, a skilled manager, and an accomplished leader of housing policy reform.”
During Beth’s fifteen years as a Legal Aid attorney, she has been a dedicated advocate for housing rights across the District. Her knowledge of local and federal housing law, combined with her advocacy skills, has preserved safe, affordable housing for hundreds of residents in DC.
"For years, Beth has been a fierce, thoughtful, effective advocate for tenants in the District of Columbia. This is an incredibly well-deserved recognition,” says Eric Angel, Executive Director of Legal Aid.
The COVID-19 crisis has exemplified Beth’s leadership. She was Legal Aid’s primary liaison with the DC Council's Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, where she shared policy proposals with the Committee Chair’s office, reviewed legislative language, and worked with colleagues to formulate both Legal Aid’s substantive recommendations and advocacy strategy. The emergency legislation that resulted protected tenants from evictions, late fees, and utility cut-offs during the pandemic, as well as extending deadlines for tenants and tenant associations to exercise their rights under the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) and to fight rent increases in rent-controlled buildings. Beth continues to work with her colleagues to find and create new protections for tenants as DC continues to address COVID-19.
“Beth has been working tirelessly on all fronts during the pandemic to help keep tenants safe,” says Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Amanda Korber. “She has been a leader advocating with the DC Council to ensure that tenants are protected from eviction and homelessness, she is working with the Court to help ensure that remote processes are fair and transparent, and she has been at the forefront of the tenant advocacy communities' creation of the Landlord and Tenant Legal Assistance Network, a single point of entry where tenants can reach all of the District's legal services providers. There is no question that tenants in the District are safer from the virus, and its resulting health and economic effects, because of Beth's relentless advocacy."
Prior to joining Legal Aid, Beth was the Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellow with the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. She also clerked for the Honorable Catherine C. Blake of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Beth received her B.A., summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Wellesley College, and her J.D. magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. In 2015, Beth was recognized by the National Law Journal as one of DC’s Rising Stars.
Legal Aid congratulates Beth on this well deserved recognition!