The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion An urgent call for help from lawyers for our low-income neighbors

Placeholder while article actions load

I applaud the Alone Before the Law editorial series for raising awareness of the devastating consequences for millions of Americans forced to appear in court without a lawyer. The Post needed to look no further than our own courts to illustrate this crisis. A 2019 D.C. Access to Justice Commission report revealed that 88 percent of tenants appearing in Superior Court do not have lawyers, but 95 percent of landlords do. More than 80 percent of litigants in D.C. Family Court navigate divorce and custody proceedings without representation. This, in the city with the most lawyers per capita in the country.

Legal services are stretched thin and cannot meet the needs of our low-income neighbors, even during the eviction and debt moratoriums. Lawyers volunteering for pro bono service are critical. 

Recognizing the vast potential of lawyers in our community, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center fully prepares volunteer attorneys to serve those most in need. In March, the commission mobilized a citywide coalition, including the Pro Bono Center, to launch D.C. Represents, an initiative inspiring lawyers to do more pro bono work. We hope our community heeds this urgent call for help. Our neighbors’ lives depend on it. 

Rebecca K. Troth, Washington 

The writer is executive director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center.

Read more letters to the editor.