January 11, 2010

Profiles in Awesomeness: Vytas V. Vergeer wins the 2010 Jerrold Scoutt Prize

A lot of things come to mind when one considers Bread for the City’s Legal Clinic Director Vytas V. Vergeer: fierce defender of tenant’s rights… preventer of evictions… champion of the disenfranchised… staunch advocate of the poor… feared opponent of landlord counsel… um, snazzy dresser. Well, we can add another item to the list: co-recipient of the DC Bar Foundation’s prestigious 2010 Jerrold Scout Prize. This is THE top honor that one can receive in the local non-profit legal services community. It is awarded annually to an attorney who has: worked a significant portion of his or her career at a non-profit organization providing direct hands-on legal services to the District’s needy; has demonstrated compassionate concern for his or her clients; and has exhibited a high degree of skill on their behalf.

So what makes Vytas so special? He has dedicated virtually his entire legal career to serving the poor. He started practicing in the District’s Landlord & Tenant Court in late 1994, and has been an almost daily fixture in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ever since – defending thousands of tenants facing eviction, filing tenant petitions and major lawsuits alike, and testifying before the City Council. He also is a champion for reform in Landlord & Tenant Court, pushing to make the Court more navigable for unrepresented litigants and to make it possible for tenants to bring actions against landlords who refuse to make essential building repairs. Of course, you can’t discuss Vytas without noting his distinctly wry sense of humor. At times bedeviling, though more often endearing, his humor, coupled with his sharp legal mind, make Vytas an effective advocate for DC’s low income community both inside and outside the courtroom.

In addition, as a manager responsible for helping chart the course of Bread for the City, Vytas brings a sense of thoughtfulness to his work with his colleagues coordinating programs, developing budgets, and communicating to the media, our funders and the public the challenges our low income neighbors face in accessing legal services -- and justice -- in DC. And in true Bread for the City fashion, you can also find Vytas answering phones, unloading food trucks, or setting up the reception hall for the annual fundraiser event.

To Vytas, the hard work and long hours he puts in isn’t about just being a lawyer and winning cases, it’s about providing justice for all. For all that he has done and continues to do in service to the low-income community, we congratulate Vytas on this latest accolade.

Warmest congratulations also go out to Eric Angel, legal director at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and the other co-recipient of this year’s prize. And in a simple twist of fate, Eric’s wife is none other than Su Sie Ju, a six-year veteran of Bread for the City and current NW Legal Clinic Supervisor. And Eric’s co-worker, Appellate Director at the Legal Aid Society, happens to be Bonnie Robin-Vergeer, Vytas’s better half. Just goes to show you how small the world of legal services for the District’s poor really is.

In summation… V3 1, Chicago Cubs 0. Maybe 2010 is the year for the Cubs too?

1 comment:

Justice said...

Is award recepients employing each other's wives an indication of "how small...the community is" or how incestuous and rife with nepotism it is? One hopes the award is merit based and that we aren't just hearing the grinding of the self-serving gratuitous praise machine. Awesome indeed!