Bread for the City CEO George Jones and legal clients testify to support Access to Justice Initiative funding
May 12, 2023 by BFC in
On April 13, 2023, Bread for the City CEO George Jones and Bread for the City legal clients Ms. H & Ms. D testified before the District of Columbia Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety to support funding for Access to Justice Initiative grants. The Mayor’s proposed budget reduces the Access to Justice Initiative funding by 60% to $13.018 million. By eliminating access to critically needed legal services, this cut will put the safety, health, housing, and economic stability of some of the District’s most marginalized populations at risk.
The Access to Justice Initiative grants are the largest source of funding for the legal clinic at Bread for the City, helping to provide our free legal services for individuals and families concerning basic human needs, including maintaining safe, affordable housing and safety for families from domestic violence. For legal services organizations like Bread for the City, a sustained commitment from the D.C. government to fund civil legal services is critical to ensuring the existence of a legal safety net for the city’s most marginalized residents. However, D.C. Government is considering reducing the amount of funding available to the Access to Justice Initiative.
To show his support for increasing funding available to the Access to Justice Initiative, Bread for the City CEO George Jones testified before about the ways in which the grants support the work Bread for the City’s legal clinic does. From hiring attorneys and staff to creating the Eviction Diversion Project to developing an immigration legal practice, the Access to Justice Initiative grants are an important source of funding for Bread for the City and the predominantly Black and brown individuals and families the legal clinic serves. Read our CEO George Jones’ full testimony here.
Two former legal clients at Bread for the City also submitted testimony, Ms. H and Ms. D (they requested to be identified here by their initials only). Ms. H and Ms. D each bravely shared their own lived experiences and the difference it made for them to have free legal services supported by Access to Justice Initiative grants.
For example, the Access to Justice Initiative grants helped Ms. H file for a Civil Protection Order and Custody case against the abusive father of her young child. During the course of litigation in these cases, the father grew increasingly irate, yelling at Ms. H and her attorney in the courthouse hallway. The father threatened to kill Ms. H and her new boyfriend and followed her to the metro station. A Bread for the City attorney filed an emergency motion to modify the temporary custody order, and the Judge found that the child and Ms. H were at risk of imminent risk of harm. The judge modified the order to restrict the father’s visitation to the Court’s Supervised Visitation Center. The additional restriction on the father’s visitation helped keep Ms. H safe from further harm and gave her the security she needed to focus on herself and raising her young child.
Ms. D was at risk of losing her home, where she had been living for over 15 years, when an attorney from the legal clinic at Bread for the City, supported by the Access to Justice Initiative grants, was able to intervene. A Bread for the City attorney assisted Ms. D with her legal needs to help ensure that Ms. D received the support to stabilize her family’s housing.
The full hearing at the District of Columbia Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety can be accessed below:
Please join us in asking your city council members to restore the Access to Justice Initiative funding to $31 million. Contact members of the DC Council and learn more about how to support Access to Justice Initiative funding here.