In 1968, in the wake of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the subsequent riots in Washington DC, a group of forward-thinking attorneys, judges, Supreme Court Justices, and Law School Deans recognized that legal education could play an important role in increasing access to justice in the District of Columbia.
Through their efforts, law and policy was changed to enable law students, supervised by attorneys, to assist indigent defendants in D.C.’s Small Claims and Landlord-Tenant court.
At that time, less than 2% of all defendants facing eviction at Landlord-Tenant court had legal representation, while 90% of all plaintiffs had a skilled attorney by their side.
D.C. Law Students in Court, the predecessor of Rising for Justice, was formed in 1969 to address this disparity, in partnership with American University Washington College of Law, The Catholic University Columbus School of Law, The George Washington University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, the Howard University School of Law and eventually the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law.
In 1972, a criminal defense practice was added, and subsequent innovative expansions have included the Eviction Defense Services, Civil Protection Order Project, the Immigration Defense Program, the Expungement Clinic, and our Social Work Program.
Today, Rising for Justice represents close to 4,000 clients in grave legal jeopardy through the combined efforts of law students, staff attorneys, clinical social workers, and social work students.