In AARP Foundation’s efforts to improve the lives of the most vulnerable 50+, the four impact areas of Hunger, Housing, Income and Isolation often draw the most attention, as we work to create solutions for those struggling to secure the basic essentials of life. Just as important, though, are the efforts of the AARP Foundation Litigation (AFL) team, who act as advocates in courts nationwide for the rights of people 50+, ensuring they have a voice in the judicial system, including before the highest court in the nation, the Supreme Court.
AFL attorneys defend the rights of the elderly both by directly representing 50+ individuals and class-action groups in significant court cases and by filing amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in other cases to ensure that issues particularly affecting older people come to the court’s attention. Our legal advocacy efforts focus on a wide variety of practices and policies of industry, business and government that affect the daily lives of older Americans, including age and disability discrimination, financial fraud, health and long-term care, housing and all forms of public benefits.
The first Monday in October — October 7 this year — is when the Supreme Court begins hearing cases after its summer recess. This year, AFL will be focusing on a number of cases coming before the Court that could have an impact on people over the age of 50. One of the most significant of these cases has ramifications for our work in helping to support adequate and affordable housing for vulnerable seniors.
The residents of Mount Holly Gardens, a largely minority-populated section of Mount Holly Township, have contested the township’s plans to redevelop their neighborhood, which the township has declared to be “blighted.” The heart of the problem is that the plans involve the wholesale demolition of existing homes and the construction of replacement homes that current residents can’t afford. To make matters worse, the township began purchasing and demolishing homes even though some were attached to still-occupied residences, further disrupting lives.
On the surface, it’s a racial discrimination issue, but AFL attorneys are serving as co-counsels for the residents because most of them are low-income older homeowners who have paid off their mortgages and are living on fixed incomes — a group that faces all sorts of challenges that AARP Foundation seeks to address. Helping to provide legal protection for this vulnerable group is directly in line with the Foundation’s fundamental goals.
Other cases on the docket involve age discrimination in employment, limitations on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and many other issues affecting those over the age of 50. AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys will be there fighting for the rights of older Americans and making sure the Supreme Court justices are fully briefed on the concerns of this population. Everyone in the Foundation takes great pride in these efforts on the legal front; they’re vital to ensuring that vulnerable older people have the protections they need.
Please visit the legal advocacy section of our website for more information about AFL, and you can read an extensive preview of all the Supreme Court cases on AFL’s radar in their preview of the coming court year: “The Supreme Court 2013: What’s At Stake For 50+ In America (PDF).”