In Memoriam

The Legal Clinic mourns the recent passing of two champions of justice.

Lois G. Williams

Our first introduction to Lois was in the late 1980’s when, as the pro bono partner at then Howrey & Simon, she worked with Mitch Snyder and others at the Community for Creative Non-Violence, challenging conditions in DC’s singles shelter system at a time when the District of Columbia had a year-round right to shelter but operated facilities that were in deplorable condition. The case, Atchison vs. Barry, effected improvements in the shelters and also led to the development of permanent affordable housing through the Affordable Housing Trust, using $4 million in contempt fines the District government was ordered to pay for its failure to comply with the Consent Decree in that case.

Lois did many other wonderful things when she was at Howrey, all aimed at making DC a more inclusive community.  She played an instrumental role in the crafting of the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place, forging a positive outcome from significant neighborhood conflict over the proposed siting of a shelter at the Guy Mason Rec Center near Wisconsin Avenue north of Georgetown. From that experience, Lois helped to launch an effort that we called the Campaign for New Community (CNC). CNC took a multi-faceted approach to addressing conflict over the siting of housing and services for residents who were low income or homeless, had a disability or were otherwise vulnerable or marginalized. Her work led to positive reform of zoning laws in DC, which broke down some of the structural barriers to these important programs. Through CNC, Lois helped to unite faith leaders, community activists, lawyers, service providers, journalists and advocates toward a common goal of extending greater community hospitality to our neighbors in need. It was a great privilege to work with Lois on this effort.

Lois served on the Legal Clinic’s board of directors for about ten years beginning in the mid-1990’s.

She left private practice to work full time in the public interest at the Washington Lawyers Committee. From there, she joined the Peace Corps and spent several years in Lesotho.  In retirement, Lois relocated to San Francisco to be close to her son Patrick. She was a great inspiration and role model to many of us. Beyond being a brilliant lawyer, Lois was a joyful spirit. She clearly loved her work, her clients, her colleagues…and her family and friends most of all. She enjoyed a good fight with the forces of injustice, too!

After a struggle with cancer and a recent heart attack, Lois Williams passed on October 13.

 Thomas J. Mikula

We first met Tom when Shea & Gardner, the firm at which he practiced (since merged with Goodwin Procter), very generously gave the Legal Clinic a home in its office space at Dupont Circle. Tom was, and until his death on October 9th remained, a positive force for pro bono within the firm, most recently serving as the DC office pro bono chair. He led Goodwin Procter’s participation in the DC Bar Pro Bono Program’s Advocacy and Justice Clinic, through which Tom and his colleagues assisted low income DC residents in matters such as landlord tenant cases and SSI appeals. As noted on the Goodwin Procter website, “Having performed pro bono work regularly since being admitted to the bar, Tom led through example, and his judgment, expertise and accessibility were instrumental to the transformational leadership he brought to the firm’s pro bono program.”

Tom also served on the board of directors of the Washington Council of Lawyers, a voluntary bar association dedicated to promoting the public interest practice of law and pro bono service. Tom was a great role model, to young lawyers at his firm and well beyond, for how a lawyer in private practice can be a champion of justice for those without the resources to pay for counsel.

May they rest in peace.

About Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless envisions a just and inclusive community for all residents of the District of Columbia, where housing is a human right and where every individual and family has equal access to the resources they need to thrive. Our mission is to use the law to make justice a reality for our neighbors who struggle with homelessness and poverty. Combining community lawyering and advocacy to achieve our clients’ goals, our expert staff and network of volunteer attorneys provide low barrier, comprehensive legal services at intake sites throughout the District of Columbia, helping our clients to access housing, shelter, and life-saving services. Rooted in the experiences of this client work, we effectively blend system reform efforts, policy advocacy, community education and client engagement to advocate for long term improvements in local and federal programs that serve the low- and no-income community.
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