DC Bar Foundation Testifies Before the DC City Council In Support of the Access to Justice Initiative

Kirra L. Jarratt, Executive Director of the DC Bar Foundation, today presented testimony before Chairman Tommy Wells and members of the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. The testimony gave support to Mayor Gray’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request for $4.278 million appropriated to the Access to Justice Initiative.

The Access to Justice Initiative provides grants to nonprofit organizations that deliver civil legal services to low-income and underserved District residents and funds a loan repayment assistance program (LRAP) for lawyers working at DC-based civil legal services organizations. In FY14, the DC Bar Foundation awarded over $3.4 million in Access to Justice Grants to 14 legal service providers and $176,000 in DC LRAP awards to 28 attorneys living and working within the District.

“I want to impress upon the Committee the continued need for the funding provided through the Access to Justice Initiative,” stated Jarratt. Access to Justice Grants, she continued, fund “civil legal services providers throughout the city whose projects range from [the] interpreter bank to legal services on behalf of returning citizens to court-based programs that address housing and child support issues.”

Additionally, Jarratt spoke of the impact the Access to Justice Initiative funds have on individual lawyers, who are working in these civil legal services organizations: “The DC LRAP supports lawyers who have graduated from law schools across the country. It encourages them to come here, to live and work in the District, and serve the District’s low-income residents.”

Jarratt presented testimony alongside leaders of the District of Columbia Bar, the Access to Justice Commission, and the Chief Judges of the District’s courts. The panel included Chief Judge Eric T. Washington of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield of the District of Columbia Superior Court, Peter B. Edelman, Chair of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, and Andrea Ferster, President of the D.C. Bar.

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The District of Columbia Bar Foundation was established in 1977 to provide lawyers and law firms with an effective vehicle for fulfilling their ethical obligation to ensure that all residents of our community have access to competent legal representation by funding legal services for the underprivileged. The Foundation awards grants to DC civil legal services organizations, administers the publicly-funded DC Poverty Lawyer Loan Repayment Assistance Program, and provides technical assistance and training to the District’s civil legal services providers.