Across the country this week, the contributions of pro bono attorneys are being celebrated as part of the annual National Pro Bono Celebration, sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. This effort is designed to showcase the great difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation, its system of justice, its communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve.
Here at Legal Aid, we are well aware of the difference that our pro bono community makes in the lives of our neighbors in the District who live in poverty and face legal problems where the stakes are high. These are just a few recent examples . . .
- The Court recently granted a Motion to Dismiss filed by pro bono by attorneys on behalf of a tenant being sued for eviction who was referred from Legal Aid. The attorneys primarily argued that the landlord’s factual allegations supporting the landlord’s claim for breach of lease were too vague to support eviction.
- A mother who was being sued for contempt of a visitation order by the father of her child even though the father had failed to make arrangements to visit with the child was helped by pro bono attorneys who accepted the referral from Legal Aid. The father’s Motion for Contempt was denied, and he was admonished by the Judge for his failure to make appropriate arrangements to visit with his child.
- A pro bono attorney recently secured a favorable decision in a Social Security disability case referred by Legal Aid. The client, a woman in her mid-50s, who had worked most of her adult life as a hotel housekeeper, but had to stop working due to deteriorating health, now is receiving the benefits she needs to pay for housing, food and other necessities.
As Director of Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Program, I regularly call people to tell them: “We have found a lawyer who wants to help you free of charge.” I can actually feel through the telephone line the figurative weight that is lifted off the shoulders of someone who hears those words – people who otherwise would be on their own in court fighting for custody of their children or the right to stay in their home or at an administrative hearing to secure disability benefits after years of waiting for a hearing date and being too sick to work.
We are fortunate in the District to have a Bar whose commitment to serving the pro bono needs of our community is unmatched anywhere in the country. Lawyers working in the private and government sectors who take referrals from Legal Aid are true partners in our quest to make justice real in our city. They will tell you that there is nothing quite like saving your client’s home or helping your client achieve safety and security for their family.
To those of you who already are a part of Legal Aid’s ever increasing pro bono family, we honor your contribution not just this week, but each and every day of the year.
And to those of you who are thinking about getting involved, ask one of your colleagues who has taken on a pro bono case—the experience will be one of the most rewarding of your career, both professionally and personally. We hope to hear from you soon!