This week is DC Pro Bono Week – an opportunity to celebrate pro bono contributions and expand the legal community’s commitment to pro bono service. On Tuesday, as part of DC Pro Bono Week, Legal Aid and Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) co-sponsored the event The Housing Crisis from the Inside: A Guided Tour of DC Superior Court's Landlord and Tenant Branch. The goal of the tour was to raise awareness about housing and access to justice issues in the District of Columbia and inspire more members of the legal community to advocate on behalf of low-income tenants.
Beth Mellen Harrison, Supervising Attorney of Legal Aid’s Housing Law Unit and Director of Legal Aid’s Landlord-Tenant Court-Based Legal Services Project, led the tour of D.C. Superior Court’s Landlord and Tenant Branch for a diverse and engaged group of lawyers from across the city. Attendees had an opportunity to tour the court and observe roll call – the court’s daily calendar call for which all persons with cases set for initial hearings are expected to be present. This eye-opening experience set the stage for a critical discussion led by Beth about the practical workings of this fast-paced and high-volume court, barriers to broader access to representation, and inherent challenges in the court system, particularly for low-income tenants.
In addition to gaining insight about court operations and access to justice issues, attendees learned about pro bono opportunities for helping low-income individuals and families assert their tenants’ rights and remain in their homes.