Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 40

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
Eric Rome Gives Tenants
a Fighting Chance
By John Murph
W
hen Eric Rome started
working on housing
issues in the District of
Columbia in the early
1980s, the cases often involved
absentee landlords allowing their
apartment buildings to deteriorate
to force out the mostly Black
tenants.
" A lot of times it would be the classic case
involving mostly white slumlords, " says Rome,
a principal at Eisen and Rome, P.C. " It was a
carryover of what I would call a 'plantation
mentality.' "
" Now the ways of pushing people out are more
subtle, less overt, " Rome says. " Many emptied
buildings are being converted to higher-priced
housing. That pushes [people who earn less
money] out to the suburbs or into less safe
areas in D.C. "
Rapid gentrification in the past two decades
has forced longtime residents to move to
the city's outskirts and eroded the District's
once mighty Black population. According to
the U.S. Census, the city's Black population
dropped from 60 percent (343,312) to 41
percent (285,810) between 2000 and 2020.
Over the course of his career, Rome has represented
hundreds of tenant associations as well
as numerous nonprofit housing developers, cooperatives,
and condominiums. He is also the
longest-serving volunteer at the D.C. Bar Pro
Bono Center's Advocacy & Justice Clinic, where
he mentors other volunteer attorneys.
" Whenever the Advocacy & Justice Clinic has
a complex affirmative litigation matter in
which substantial damages are available to
a pro bono tenant, Eric is our go-to mentor, "
says Adrian Gottshall, the Pro Bono Center's
managing attorney for public benefits. " Eric's
mentoring makes pro bono victories possible. "
For Rome, mentoring is a two-way street.
" These are very smart attorneys in their own
fields. Sometimes they raise different issues or
read statutes differently, which causes me to
think. I learn from that. The dialogues I have
with these attorneys are always positive
[learning] experiences, " he says.
FINDING HIS CALLING
Rome grew up in Queens, New York. He says
his sense of justice was cultivated, in part, by
his parents, an electrical engineer and a stay-athome
mom. He also credits Highland School,
the private high school he attended, for planting
the seeds of his social activism.
" I was in high school during the last years of
the Vietnam War, " Rome recalls. " In those days,
if you were a teacher, you were exempt from
being drafted into the military. So, [Highland
School] had a lot of anti-war teachers who
were activists. "
After earning his bachelor's degree from the
State University of New York in Buffalo, Rome
arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1979 to study
law at the Antioch School of Law (now the
University of the District of Columbia David
A. Clarke School of Law). His original goal was
to become a juvenile rights lawyer, but that
changed after doing a rotation at a landlord-
tenant legal clinic. Rome recalls working on a
case in 1982 in which a landlord was depriving
tenants in three Columbia Heights buildings of
hot water and other basic amenities, prompting
Rome to file a series of motions for injunction
to force the landlord to make repairs.
" The judge in that case held the landlord in
contempt and threw him in jail until he made
all the repairs, " Rome says. " That was the first
time that happened in anybody's memory. It
40 WASHINGTON LAWYER * NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
was even reported in the Washington Post. I got
all this positive feedback. I got a lot of satisfaction,
not necessarily [from] putting somebody
in jail, but from helping these tenants. That
continued my interest in housing law. "
While in law school, Rome worked for the
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of
the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights
Division, where he says he learned the importance
of a thorough investigation. " You have to
verify those facts no matter how strongly you
believe there has been a wrong, or strongly
believe that there is an issue or a claim, " he
says. " You got to have the facts to back it up. "
Rome was also involved with the National
Housing Law Project, where he was mentored
by the dean of housing attorneys in the District,
Florence Roisman. Rome says Roisman
Margarita Corporan

Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022

Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Planting the Seeds: Pro Bono Helps Nonprofits Flourish
A Primer on D.C.’s New Debt Collection Law
Eviction Writ Quashing: Last Line of Defense for Tenants
Employment Law Implications of Dobbs
How Immigration Can Help Solve the U.S. Pilot Shortage
Ten Things You Might Have Forgotten Since the Pandemic
SPECIAL SECTION Young Lawyers Bring Passion to Public Interest Work
Attorney Briefs
Taking the Stand
Disciplinary Summaries
On Further Review
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Speaking of Ethics
The Learning Curve
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 4
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 6
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Planting the Seeds: Pro Bono Helps Nonprofits Flourish
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - A Primer on D.C.’s New Debt Collection Law
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Eviction Writ Quashing: Last Line of Defense for Tenants
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Employment Law Implications of Dobbs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - How Immigration Can Help Solve the U.S. Pilot Shortage
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Ten Things You Might Have Forgotten Since the Pandemic
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - SPECIAL SECTION Young Lawyers Bring Passion to Public Interest Work
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 32
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 43
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 45
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 48
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 51
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover4
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/novemberdecember2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/januaryfebruary2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/januaryfebruary2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/januaryfebruary2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/januaryfebruary2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/januaryfebruary2022
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/novemberdecember2021
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2021
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2021
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/marchapril2021
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/marchapril2021
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/novemberdecember2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/novemberdecember2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/septemberoctober2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/june2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2020
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/october2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/june2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2019
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/June/July2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/March2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/February2018
https://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/december2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/November2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september 2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september 2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/july2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/June2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/february2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/december2016
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2016/
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/october2016
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september2016
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com