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April 27, 2023

Equal Justice Conference tackles housing, other issues with broad agenda for meeting in Dallas

CHICAGO, April 27, 2023 — The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association will convene their 25th annual Equal Justice Conference May 4-6, with nearly 90 programs focusing on a wide range of topics, including multiple panels related to housing and evictions, and two programs featuring Ronald Flagg, president of the Legal Services Corporation.

Equal Justice Conference (EJC)

May 4-6, 2023 (all times CDT)

Sheraton Dallas
400 N. Olive St.
Dallas, Texas

This year’s EJC conference marks the silver anniversary of the annual conference, which has emerged as one of the most important annual gatherings of legal services and pro bono advocates who provide services to low-income persons. Its focus is strengthening partnerships among the key players in the civil justice system and will feature a host of top federal and state officials and practitioners in the legal services field.

Flagg will join a panel, “Educating Legislators About Legal Aid 2.0,” on Friday from 8:30-10 a.m. The panel will include LSC grantee representatives and others who will discuss efforts to educate federal and state legislators and their offices on supporting legal aid. He will also participate in the program, “Hot Topics in Civil Legal Aid,” later that day from 3:45-5:15 p.m., which will include NLADA Vice President Radhika Singh and Bryant Y. Yang, a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles who is chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense.

In a special opening session from 8:30-9:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of former President Lyndon Johnson, will join historian Mark Updegrove, president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation in Austin, Texas, to discuss the late president’s Great Society. Rooted in the 1960s, the Great Society represented an ambitious series of policy initiatives, legislation and programs with the goals of ending poverty, reducing crime, abolishing inequality and improving the environment.

With affordable housing a pressing issue in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and throughout Texas, several programs will focus on a range of housing-related issues. They include:

  • “Fair Chance Housing: Strategies for Increasing Access to Housing for People with Criminal Records” — The issue of expunging criminal records for people with criminal histories, particularly in the context of housing, has emerged as a hot topic nationally. The panel will look at key laws and rules regulating the rights of people with criminal records when seeking and maintaining housing and key advocacy strategies for increasing access to housing for this population.
    Thursday, 10-11:30 a.m.
  • “Injustice of the Peace” — During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas tax attorney Mark Melton began posting advice on social media for people facing eviction and eventually recruited over 175 attorneys who assisted more than 6,000 people facing eviction. He subsequently founded the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center, seeking to create systemic change in eviction courts. A recipient in 2022 of the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award, Melton will explain how he did it.
    Thursday, 1:30-3 p.m.

  • “Reimagining Housing Court: Increasing Access to Legal and Non-Legal Services” — Eviction courts are often high volume, fast-paced courtrooms, which have created many challenges to enacting significant reforms. During the pandemic, eviction courts rose to the occasion and embraced a new role as conveners and connectors. This program explores efforts across the country that are infusing legal aid and other stabilizing resources into the court process with the goal of promoting stability.
    Thursday, 10-11:30 a.m.

  • “Changing Face of Landlord Tenant Laws in a Post-Pandemic World” — This session will discuss changes in landlord/tenant laws and new programs that came about as a result of the pandemic with three panelists who have been in the trenches.
    Friday, 10:30-noon

Two other timely programs look at developments after recent significant legal and criminal events. They are:

  • “One Year Post-Roe: Litigation, Policy and Legislative Landscape and the Role of Pro Bono Lawyering Amidst a Public Health Crisis” — Abortion is illegal or severely restricted in at least 12 states, including Texas. In states with criminal abortion bans, women suffering miscarriages are being turned away from hospitals in life-threatening circumstances. This panel will provide a landscape of the litigation, policy and legislative landscape in the United States.
    Thursday, 10–11:30 a.m.

  • “Legal Aid Response to Mass Shootings in Texas” — Tragically, mass shootings have become commonplace. As with other disasters, legal aid is part of the response team although this type of trauma is very different from natural disasters. The panel examines two different Texas massacres — one at an El Paso Walmart and another at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde — to analyze the legal needs and other issues confronted by one legal aid program, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.
    Friday, 8:30-10 a.m.

The entire EJC conference program, with speakers, can be found online here. All sessions are open to the media, but reporters are required to register in advance by 5 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 2, by contacting Bill Choyke at [email protected].

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.