Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 33

THE PRO BONO EFFECT

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Between the years 2000
and 2013, Washington, D.C.,
experienced the highest
"intensity of gentrification"
of any location in the United
States, displacing at least
20,000 residents.

The apartment building in Southeast D.C. where Jameson lived was
among the more than 65 buildings owned by Sanford Capital at its
peak of business. Over time, the Bethesda-based company had built a
reputation of renting out uninhabitable properties and routinely ignoring
tenants' pleas for necessary repairs. At Jameson's apartment building, for
instance, conditions did not improve even after tenants complained.
Jameson believes it was a tactic to get the tenants to leave. "They were
forcing people out," he says. "Single parents, women, people on Section 8
[the Housing Choice Voucher Program] . . . they used intimidating tactics
to get us out."
Biles, a retired partner at Arnold & Porter LLP who practiced environmental law for over three decades, gave Jameson and his neighbors a
fighting chance to stay in their homes. One might think that after such
a storied career, Biles would embrace retirement by stepping away from
legal work, but his reality is quite the opposite. Since retiring in 2013, Biles
has averaged over 1,500 pro bono hours per year; while in active practice,
he logged more than 20,000 hours of pro bono work. Recognizing his
invaluable contributions, the D.C. Bar and the D.C. Office of the Attorney
General (OAG) awarded Biles a Lifetime Pro Bono Achievement Award
this past June.
In the D.C. legal community, Biles has earned a reputation as a fierce
advocate for safe and decent housing for the city's lowest income residents in the face of rising gentrification and a diminishing supply of
affordable housing. Low-income residents in the nation's capital are being
pushed out of their neighborhoods at some of the highest rates in the
country, as revealed in a March 2019 study by the National Community
Reinvestment Coalition. Between 2000 and 2013, the city experienced the
highest "intensity of gentrification" of any location in the United States,

displacing more than 20,000 residents, mostly African American. Over
the years, Biles has litigated countless landlord-tenant cases as well as
advised tenant associations on how to exercise their rights and fight for
better living conditions.
"In D.C. tenants have a strong set of rights, but those rights aren't worth
the paper they're written on unless tenants have the wherewithal to
assert them in court," says D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine. "The
demand for free legal services is so great that, without pro bono assistance, a lot of tenants will be forced to forgo their housing rights due
to a lack of representation."
Will Merrifield of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, where
Biles has volunteered his legal services for the past 20 years, connected
Biles with the Congress Heights tenants association, which had assembled its members to rally for public awareness of the building's conditions. Jameson says that when Biles and his team of Arnold & Porter pro
bono attorneys decided to take on the case, he felt a huge sense of relief.
"It was a great feeling," Jameson says of having Biles on their side. "We
were informed of our [Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act or TOPA]
rights, which we didn't have knowledge of before, but we knew we had
to do something to not get forced out . . . [The pro bono attorneys] were
able to hold the landlord off from getting us to leave. It was the lawyers
who really stepped up."
With Biles representing the tenants, the OAG filed suit against Sanford
Capital in 2016 - the first of two against the company - alleging
multiple housing code violations.
"Blake has provided invaluable support to the attorneys in our office,"
says Racine. "Because of his efforts, we have been able to make
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019

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WASHINGTON LAWYER 33



Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Going Above and Beyond feature
On Safer Ground feature
Casa Ruby Profile
Pro Bono Effect
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Going Above and Beyond feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - On Safer Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Casa Ruby Profile
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 34
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 38
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover4
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