This summer, three EJF recipients interned at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia (http://www.legalaiddc.org) Betsy worked in the public benefits unit and Drake and Jason both interned in the housing unit.
While I have assisted attorneys with interviewing clients, conducting research, writing briefs, and fact-finding for a variety of public benefits cases, the most exciting case I worked on this summer was an appeal to the federal district court for judicial review of a decision by the Social Security Administration (SSA) based on a due process claim. This case involved extensive research into the SSA’s regulations and policy statements, the judicial review provisions in the Social Security Act, and the federal cases interpreting these rules and laws, including the applicability of the Due Process Clause. I considered this case to be pretty unique, since most public benefits cases focus on administrative procedures and appeals, and extremely compelling, because the client is homeless and suffers from several serious disabilities. I am continuing to prepare research for the brief to be filed this fall and I am hopeful that the suit will be successful.
I’ve loved working with Legal Aid to assist clients who have faced difficult barriers to obtaining the benefits they need to survive and who otherwise could not afford legal help. This summer has revived my commitment to working as a public interest lawyer, and I am thankful for EJF’s support.
For ten weeks at the Legal Aid Society of DC I assisted dedicated poverty attorneys representing low income clients in landlord-tenant and other civil matters in DC Superior Court and local administrative agencies. My responsibilities included drafting motions and memoranda, formulating trial strategies, and researching evidentiary issues. I also performed client housing inspections and had the opportunity to spend ample time at both Superior and Landlord Tenant Court shadowing Legal Aid attorneys in the many stages of trial practice.
Working at Legal Aid Society definitely helped me better understand the nature of public interest lawyering. I chose Legal Aid because I wanted to work on the frontlines of social justice and the organization did not disappoint. From listening and observing the uphill battle the majority of DC’s indigent population faces daily and the personal satisfaction I received from supporting them and helping them fight back, I know I will continue public interest lawyering.
As an intern in the housing law unit, I helped serve low-income clients facing eviction and other housing crises. In the District of Columbia, like many jurisdictions, Landlord Tenant court is extremely difficult to navigate without a lawyer, especially for residents with disabilities, limited English proficiency, or limited knowledge of their housing rights. I witnessed first-hand the value a lawyer brings to low-income residents who were able to prevent eviction, secure repairs to dangerous and unlawful housing conditions, or negotiate more fairly with their landlords because of Legal Aid’s assistance.
While I am dedicated to building a career in direct legal services in the D.C. area upon graduation, it would have been more difficult for me to work at the Legal Aid Society without summer funding from the Equal Justice Foundation. The internship was invaluable for my future career. I learned local law and procedure, strategies for motions practice and navigating court proceedings, and best-practices for legal representation that I will carry with me upon graduation. It was an honor to work with such talented and dedicated attorneys and to make a small contribution to the ongoing work to increase access to justice for D.C.’s low-income residents.