Morgan Lewis spent more than 10,000 hours on housing-related pro bono work last year. These representations ranged from some of the largest in the firm to some of the smallest, but all had a major impact on the lives of our clients.
In late 2005, Morgan Lewis undertook the representation of 18,000 African-American families in the remedies phase of a major fair housing class action against the Department of Housing and Urban Development in federal district court in Baltimore, Maryland. The liability of HUD has already been established and Morgan Lewis is seeking a remedy which will produce a systemic change in HUD's regional and national procedures. A successful outcome of this representation will materially advance the interests of poor and disadvantaged residents of the District. Morgan Lewis is co-counsel in this representation with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU of Maryland. The Morgan Lewis led team conducted closing arguments mid-summer and is awaiting the decision of the district court.
Also noteworthy are the Daggett Street representations, referred to the firm by the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program. After the City of Philadelphia declared 26 homes on Daggett Street to be "imminently dangerous" because they had been built on unstable fill in the 1920s, various state and federal agencies became involved. Consequently, nearly $2 million was appropriated to assist the homeowners. In exchange for the funds, each homeowner agreed to convey their property to the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia. Morgan Lewis attorneys represented nearly half of the Daggett street homeowners and assisted the homeowners consummate the sales of the properties to the RDA and to maximize the net amount of funds that each property owner could receive by negotiating releases of outstanding mortgage, tax, and utility obligations.
Morgan Lewis represented the tenants of a building in Washington D.C.'s Columbia Heights area. The 13-unit building was conveyed to a new owner and the tenants were never given notice or the opportunity to purchase the building. The case was featured in the June 2006 edition of the Washington Lawyer.
Some of our most significant victories result from simple matters for our individual clients.
The landlord of our client, his wife, and two children ignored his requests for repairs required to make the family's apartment habitable. The requested repairs included fixing a collapsed portion of the ceiling and treating the bedbug, cockroach, and rodent infestation. The landlord ignored several citations by the D.C. Housing Authority, but after being presented with a draft complaint, the landlord agreed to mediate the numerous claims, resulting in a substantial damage award and the family's transfer to a new apartment.
In New York, the firm achieved a settlement for a client who is indigent and suffers from bipolar disorder, who refused to pay her rent because her apartment had lead paint and was infested with rats. The landlord finally abated the deplorable conditions and then sued the client for 6 months back rent. We were able to obtain a settlement, on the eve of trial, that involved the client paying only half what she owed.
In Philadelphia, Morgan Lewis associates were successful in a preliminary injunction hearing on behalf of a client in her efforts to quiet title for the family home in order for it to be sold. Previously, these efforts had been thwarted by a sister and niece who were unlawfully occupying the home and causing extensive property damage. The client obtained a writ of possession that was about to be enforced through ejecting the niece, when the niece obtained a temporary special injunction. At the hearing, our attorneys were able to persuade the Court to dissolve the temporary special injunction and dismiss the niece's claims, freeing the Sheriff to execute the writ of possession on behalf of our client.