Williams & Connolly associates Tracey Fung, Michaela Wilkes Klein, and Tony Sheh were featured by the Washington Council of Lawyers (“WCL”) and Children’s Law Center (“CLC”) for their work on behalf of six families left homeless when a fire broke out in their apartment building. The article, titled “Helping DC Families Secure Homes for Future Holidays,” is part of a series of profiles written for WCL’s 2020 Pro Bono Week.
According to the article, the residents of the apartment complex had appealed for years to management to fix terrible housing conditions – faulty electrical wiring, moldy ceilings and walls, rats, and more – without success. As a result of poor building management, the children who lost their homes in the fire not only had been traumatized, but their health had been endangered by unsafe conditions as well.
The Children’s Law Center brought in Williams & Connolly as co-counsel, knowing that a case of this size needed pro bono help from a team of litigators. As Tony Sheh explains, “[t]his was not a small case to litigate, and the firm empowered our team to investigate all of the facts and to present the best possible arguments on behalf of the clients at every stage of the case, including all the way through expert discovery and pretrial. I think that’s a testament to how seriously the firm takes its commitment to pro bono service.” Tracey Fung, who is also a member of CLC’s Advisory Board, agreed: “There were complex issues to tackle and doing so with not one, but six families was not easy.”
After more than two years, the case settled one month before trial. While the families involved knew the settlement wouldn’t bring back their homes, they were relieved to know that the property owner was being held accountable for the damage and loss it caused. “It was an honor to help the families we represented because our work empowered them,” reflected Michaela Wilkes Klein. “I also hope that our zealous representation of their cause sends a message to unscrupulous landlords that their tenants are not powerless in the face of uninhabitable and unsafe conditions and illegal treatment.”
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