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2016 Clearinghouse Rev. 1 (2016)
Making the Case for Community Lawyering

handle is hein.journals/clear50 and id is 89 raw text is: 

Making the Case for

Community Lawyering


or 42 years, Bread for the City has
       delivered poverty-relief services in
       the District of Columbia. For the last
25 years, a key part of that relief has been
given through legal services. In the 1990s
the social services staff noticed that many
of their clients were routinely being denied
disability benefits. What started as an
ad-hoc initiative to try and help more clients
burgeoned into the current iteration of the
legal clinic, where attorneys assist clients
not only on disability benefits but also in
the areas of public benefits, family law
and domestic violence, and housing law.

From the beginning, the housing practice
has consisted of a bifurcated body of
work-individual client representation
and advocacy. Through this work, Bread
for the City attorneys have prevented
thousands of evictions, helped create
a housing conditions court calendar,
and shaped housing policies.

Around 2003 Rebecca Lindhurst, a
senior staff attorney at Bread for the City,
began representing tenant groups that
wanted to exercise their rights under D.C.'s
Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act or to
challenge serious housing code violations

1 The housing conditions court calendar allows tenants
to sue landlords on an expedited basis for violations of the
District of Columbia Housing Code (see D.C. Mun. Regs.
tit. 14 §§ 500-999, 1200-1299 (2016); Jessica Steinberg,
Informal. Inquisitorial, and Accurate: An Empirical Look
at a Problem Solving Housing Court, LAW AND SOCIAL INQUIR
(forthcoming 2016) (2015 study of effectiveness of housing
conditions court calendar)).

Photo courtesy of Bread for the City.

or both. In 2007 the legal clinic applied
for and received grant funding to start
the Community Lawyering Project and
hired Phylisa Carter as the Community
Lawyering Project's first full-time attorney.
After seeing how quickly D.C.'s affordable
housing stock was disappearing, Lindhurst
pushed to add a community organizer to
the Community Lawyering Project team;

Right around that time Taylor Healy, then
a legal fellow in Chicago, approached
Bread for the City with the idea for a legal
fellowship project that would bring mobile
legal services to the Kenilworth-Parkside
neighborhood-a Department of Education
Promise Neighborhood that was awarded
$25 million to develop a cradle to college
continuum of services aimed at improving

Community organizers have been integral to every social justice
movement in history.

the organizer could amplify the impact of
the legal work and educate more tenants
about their rights. Lindhurst received
approval to hire an organizer in 2012.

2 The District of Columbia's Tenant Opportunity to
Purchase Act requires owners of tenant occupied rental
housing to give the tenant or tenants the opportunity to
purchase the residence before it can be sold to a third party.
In certain circumstances a registered tenant association can
assign its right to purchase to a third party of its choice (D.C.
Code q 42 3404.02 (2016)).

the outcomes of children and families.3
Healy was awarded an Equal Justice
Works fellowship starting in September
2012, and three months later Aja Taylor
was hired as the Community Lawyering

3 DCPNI [District of Columbia Promise Neighborhood
Initiative], Who We Are (n.d.). See generally U.S. Department
of Education, Programs: Promise Neighborhoods (Sept. 16,




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