Meghan Carter is a staff attorney in LAF’s Housing Practice Group. She sent us this reflection on this weekend’s holiday, and we wanted to share it with all of you.
“But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., in an address at Western Michigan University, 12/18/63
Dr. King’s words apply to all people bound in struggle who seek protection under the law. I was introduced to the above quote by Marca Bristo, a disability rights activist who worked to create and pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the time Ms. Bristo introduced me to these words, I was a law student who ardently hoped for the opportunity to use the law to restrain the heartless. Now, as an attorney in the Housing Practice Group at LAF, I try to live this goal for each of my clients.
LAF attorneys cannot lobby for changes in the law (we are prohibited from doing this due to congressional restrictions on our funding), but we can make the law as it exists work for our clients. In LAF’s housing practice, our clients come to us when they are on the defense, facing eviction from subsidized housing or termination of a housing voucher without which they would become homeless. Our clients live in poverty, and are people with disabilities, people of color, single mothers, unemployed fathers, seniors, and victims of crime, abuse, and marginalization. My colleagues and I give our clients a fighting chance in a system that otherwise may have steamrolled them. We do this by forcing this system to follow the law. Through just that, sometimes, we are able to restrain the heartless.