News & Media

Class of Job Applicants Reach Settlement Resolving Lawsuit over Discriminatory Impact of WMATA’s Criminal Background Screening Policy

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, a class of African-American applicants and employees who were denied employment opportunities by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) or one of its contractors under a discontinued 2011 criminal background check policy announced that they had reached a settlement with WMATA to resolve their class action lawsuit.

Read more...

Volunteer’s Viewpoint: Inside a Parole Hearing

In the late 1990’s, as part of a federalization of the District’s criminal legal system, the District’s prisons were closed and District prisoners were transferred into federal custody. Today, nearly 4,500 people who have been convicted of a felony in the District’s Superior Court are incarcerated in 122 federal institutions across the United States. At the same time, the authority to grant or deny parole to District prisoners was transferred from a locally controlled Board of Parole to the United States Parole Commission. The loss of District control over these critical governmental functions has created injustice for District residents who have been convicted of felony crimes.

We believe parole decisions should be made by local officials who are a part of the community to which prisoners will return. The Committee advocates that the District’s Parole Commission be re-established and that the parole function be performed by District officials.

Until that happens, Committee volunteers provide representation at parole hearings across the country to DC prisoners who have often been incarcerated for years past their parole eligibility date. Our volunteers ensure the parole hearings are fair and Constitutional, and increase the likelihood of a good outcome. Kristian Hinson, an associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, recalls her experience representing one such prisoner.

Read more...

The Committee Joins Youth Justice and Civil Rights Professionals, Experts, and Advocates to Offer Comments on the American Correctional Association’s "Proposed Expected Practices and Definitions for the Use of Separation With Juveniles"

Read more...

The Committee Files Amicus Briefs in the Supreme Court Challenging Trump's Discriminatory Travel Ban

The briefs were submitted along with a number of civil rights groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Advocates for Youth, Center for Reproductive Rights, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Mississippi Center forJustice, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Urban League, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. 

Relevant Documents:
Amicus Brief
Motion for Judicial Notice
Motion for Leave

Increasing Racial Equity In Housing

Washington, DC is one of the most racially segregated cities in America. This reality deprives low-income families and communities of color access to safe, decent, and affordable housing, as well as meaningful housing choice.

One strategy to combat racial and economic segregation is DC’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. The Program was designed to enable low-income individuals and families to obtain rental housing outside of areas of concentrated poverty and give them greater access to quality economic and educational opportunities. Discrimination against renters who pay a part of their rent with a Housing Choice Voucher—known as source of income discrimination—is illegal, but unfortunately widespread.

Read more...

The Equal Rights Center Resolves Race and Source of Income Discrimination Complaint Through Robust, Court Enforced Agreement with DC Housing Provider

Washington, D.C. – The Equal Rights Center (ERC), a civil rights organization that seeks to promote equal opportunity in housing, has entered into a consent agreement with The Lenkin Company Management/Residential, Inc. and related entities (The Lenkin Entities). The agreement will increase racial equity and make it easier for Housing Choice Voucher users to secure housing opportunities in the District. The Lenkin Entities offer housing in the District’s Northwest quadrant.

Read more...

Skadden Fellow Tiffany Yang Calls on the DC Council to Vote NO on Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017

Read why...

Remembering John Nolan

It is with great sadness that the Committee reports the death of John E. Nolan, the esteemed first Chair of our organization and longtime Executive Committee and Board member. John died on November 18 at the age of 90.

Read more...

Skadden Fellow Tiffany Yang Submits Testimony to the DC Council Committee on Health Urging Changes to the Proposed "Removing Barriers to Occupational Licenses Amendment Act of 2017"

"The Committee applauds the introduction of this bill, which recognizes the pervasive and often insurmountable barriers to reentry that have exacerbated economic instability and homelessness in our most vulnerable communities.

Access to occupational licenses is vital for many returning citizens, and this bill takes a crucial step forward in reforming the prison-to-poverty pipeline that ensnares so many of our clients. As it is currently written, however, the bill contains ambiguous and broadly-drafted language that threatens to undermine its legislative purpose. If implemented without the revisions we propose below, this bill may sustain the very barriers to occupational licensing that it seeks to eradicate.

The Committee therefore urges the Council to adopt the following changes:

  1. Insert Time Limits on the Consideration of Adult Convictions
  2. Narrow the Broadly-Drafted Language Interpreting a “Directly Related” Conviction
  3. Require the Licensing Boards to Educate its Applicants of the Relevant Factors when Interpreting Whether a Conviction is “Directly Related” to the Sought Occupation"

Read the full tesimony here...

Spotlight: Benjamin Wilson

Throughout his distinguished legal career in private practice and government service, Ben Wilson has fought discrimination, promoted diversity, and supported DC public schools. He has been a leader with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for over 30 years, co-counseling on cases, establishing an innovative school partnership between his firm and a local elementary school, and twice serving as a Board Co-Chair. Ben also gives generously, with a long record of financial support to the Committee.

Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, Ben saw first-hand both the terror and evolving opportunities of the time. Ben’s father knew Medgar Evers, who was murdered when Ben was 12. The wife of James Meredith—who integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962—was Ben’s teacher.

Read more...

Copyright © 2008-2017 Washington Lawyers' Committee