President and Director-Counsel, Tzedek DC
Ariel Levinson-Waldman is the Founding President and Director-Counsel of Tzedek DC, an independent public interest center at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. Tzedek DC’s mission is to safeguard the rights and interests of low-income DC residents facing debt-related problems. Under his leadership, since its launch in 2017, Tzedek DC has provided free legal help to over 700 DC households facing debt collection, consumer, or credit problems, distributed know your rights materials to thousands of community college students, and championed reforms that led to 65,000 people whose drivers licenses had previously been suspended for unpaid traffic debts regaining the right to drive in the District of Columbia. His work has been published or featured in the Washington Post, DC City Paper, DCLine, Huffington Post, National Review, University of Chicago Law Review, the American Constitution Society, and Washington Jewish Week.
Previously, Ariel served in a series of government roles. Until January 2017, he served in the Obama administration as the Department of Labor Advisor to the White House Interagency Legal Aid Roundtable, a coordinated effort to promote low-income Americans' access to civil legal aid as part of the federal government's anti-poverty efforts.
He previously served as the Senior Counsel to the DC Attorney General, where he played a Chief of Staff role and helped direct the District’s consumer protection enforcement and policy advocacy efforts. For that work, he received the 2014 Daniel Curtin Award, given annually to one public lawyer in the country under the age of forty for outstanding service to the public and the highest ethics and integrity in the practice of public law.
Earlier in his career, he served under Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Office of General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he received a bi-partisan Tribute for Distinguished Service.
Before his government lawyer service, Ariel practiced for five years in the Litigation Department of WilmerHale, where his work included representing the NAACP, and he was a Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Voting Rights Project. Ariel began his legal career by serving as a law clerk to Judge Robert H. Henry of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Ariel has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and at the University of the District of Columbia David A Clarke School of Law, and in 2016 was appointed by Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the D.C. Circuit's Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services. He is a graduate, with honors, of Northwestern University (1996) and of the University of Chicago Law School (2001), where he was a student attorney in the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic Employment Discrimination Project and an editor on the University of Chicago Law Review.
His commitment to access to justice in our society stems in part from his grandparents' experiences as Holocaust survivors and his father's experience as an immigrant to the United States. Ariel lives in the District of Columbia with his wife Rachel Levinson-Waldman, a civil liberties lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice, and their daughter and son.