Washington Lawyer

Legal Beat

From Washington Lawyer, April 2009

By Kathryn Alfisi and Steven J. Stauffer

D.C. Bar Nominations Committee Announces Candidates for Office
The D.C. Bar Nominations Committee has selected Alfred F. Belcuore, managing shareholder at Montedonico, Belcuore & Tazzara, P.C., and Ronald S. Flagg, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, as candidates for D.C. Bar president-elect for the 2009–2010 term. The president-elect serves for one year before becoming president, and continues in office a third year as immediate past president.

Alfred F. Belcuore. Photo by Jay PremackBelcuore’s legal career, spanning 35 years, includes service on two D.C. Bar award-winning task forces: the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Task Force and the Task Force on Civility in the Profession, which both received the Bar’s Frederick B. Abramson Award in 1995 and 1997, respectively.

He has been active with the Bar’s Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program, serving as CLE Committee member from 1983 to 1989.

Belcuore’s career is also marked by numerous awards recognizing his leadership and efforts to restore civility to the practice of law, primarily through his work with the Federal Bar Association (FBA) where he was national president from 1991 to 1992. In 1997 Belcuore received the FBA’s highest honor, the Earl W. Kintner Award for Distinguished Service.

In addition to numerous lectures and presentations on litigation, Belcuore also has delivered more than 50 oral arguments in the appellate courts of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers of America and named one of “Washington’s Top Lawyers” by Washingtonian magazine.

Belcuore received his law degree in 1973 from the Georgetown University Law Center, where he has been an adjunct professor of trial practice for 25 years.

Ronald S. Flagg. Courtesy of Sidley Austin LLPFlagg, the firm-wide chair of Sidley Austin’s Committee on Pro Bono and Public Interest Law, is a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors. He formerly served as a member and later chair of the Bar’s Pro Bono Committee as well as member of the Bar’s 2008 Dues Ceiling Committee.

He is credited with helping develop and roll out the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program’s Graduate Fellowship Program, under which incoming law firm associates in the District spend the first 10 weeks of their career working with legal services providers.

In leading a team of pro bono lawyers at Sidley Austin for the past 10 years, Flagg has seen the firm’s pro bono hours grow more than twofold—from 52,000 to more than 125,000—between 2004 and 2007.

At Sidley Austin, Flagg’s area of expertise includes the practice of complex commercial and administrative litigation for professional firms and regulated industries. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Flagg also is actively involved in several other legal services organizations such as the National Veterans Legal Services Program, where he sits as board chair; the AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly; and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

The Nominations Committee also announced the selection of candidates for other positions.

Nominated for one-year terms on the Bar’s Board of Governors are, as secretary, Meredith Fuchs of The National Security Archive and Paula M. Potoczak of Paula M. Potoczak LLC, and, as treasurer, Thomas C. Mugavero of Whiteford, Taylor and Preston, L.L.P. and R. Justin Smith of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Seeking to fill the five vacancies on the Bar’s Board of Governors for a three-year term are Ralph P. Albrecht, Venable LLP; incumbent Johnine P. Barnes, Baker & Hostetler LLP; Thomas W. Brunner, Wiley Rein LLP; incumbent Paulette E. Chapman, Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P.; David B. Deitch, Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler; Stephen I. Glover, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Geoffrey M. Klineberg, Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, P.L.L.C.; Lena Robins, incumbent treasurer, Foley & Lardner LLP; James W. Rubin, Hunton & Williams LLP; and Javier G. Salinas, incumbent secretary, Ernst & Young.

There are three seats open on the American Bar Association’s (ABA) House of Delegates, one of which is reserved for a candidate under the age of 35. Seeking the regular seats are Arthur D. Burger, Jackson & Campbell, P.C.; Patrick McGlone, ULLICO Inc.; incumbent Donald Michael Remy, Latham & Watkins LLP; and incumbent Mark H. Tuohey III, Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.

E. Barrett Atwood IV of the U.S. Department of Justice, Todd R. Overman of Hogan & Hartson LLP, and Amy Yeung of WilmerHale LLP are seeking the ABA’s under-35 seat.

Ballots will be distributed to the Bar’s active membership by mail and electronically on April 30. Ballots must be received by June 5.

PART Luncheon Identifies Pro Bono Needs, Opportunities
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program held a Pro Bono Partnership (PART) luncheon on February 12, featuring representatives from Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the University Legal Services (ULS), and the D.C. Office of the Attorney General (OAG), to discuss pro bono needs and opportunities.

PART is a network of more than 100 D.C. law firms and federal agencies committed to providing pro bono legal services to low-income residents. It holds bimonthly meetings where legal services organizations discuss their pro bono needs and law firms exchange ideas on how to enhance their pro bono services.

KIND pro bono coordinators Jennifer Kelley and Paul Lee said their organization is aiming to provide legal representation for unaccompanied minors as they navigate the immigration legal system. Launched in October 2008, KIND is a joint initiative of Microsoft Corporation, actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, and 25 law firms and corporate law departments.

Kelley and Lee said they would like to work with attorneys who are new to this area of law and willing to serve as mentors.

More information on KIND can be found at www.supportkind.org. To learn more about their pro bono services, contact Jennifer Kelley at 202-682-7067 or jkelley@supportkind.org, or Paul Lee at 202-682-7166 or plee@supportkind.org.

The ULS, while it is not a new organization, has not had a high-profile status among pro bono attorneys, staff attorney Richard Perry said.

However, Perry said ULS is trying to change that by starting a new pro bono program and disseminating information about its important services for individuals with mental, developmental, and physical disabilities.

The organization’s most ambitious effort so far has been addressing problems at St. Elizabeths Hospital, a mental health care facility in the District.

Perry discussed the numerous patient rights violations at St. Elizabeths, some of which have resulted in death and have been documented in a ULS report issued last year.

Perry said ULS is in need of pro bono attorneys to protect the rights of mentally ill individuals in administrative proceedings and in court cases. ULS also is seeking assistance in conducting investigations, reviewing medical records, and writing reports. ULS staff attorneys will serve as mentors and assist pro bono attorneys.

For more information on ULS, contact Richard Perry at 202-547-0198, ext. 132, or rperry@uls-dc.org.

Pro bono opportunities also are available at several divisions of OAG. Pro bono coordinator Bennett Rushkoff said a lawyer can do pro bono work for the attorney general’s office even if his or her law firm has a case against the D.C. government.

Pro bono services are needed in the criminal, juvenile, and neighborhood and victims services sections of the Public Safety Division, and the domestic violence and child protection sections of the Family Services Division, all under OAG. Additionally, the D.C. government’s Office of Human Rights and Office of the Solicitor General are calling for pro bono legal assistance.

For more information, contact Bennett Rushkoff at 202-442-8404 or bennett.rushkoff@dc.gov.

The next PART meeting will be held on April 15 at the D.C. Bar, 1250 H Street NW, sixth-floor conference room.—K.A.

History and Celebration
Dr. Ira Berlin. Photo by Steven J. StaufferDr. Ira Berlin, history professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on slavery and emancipation in the District of Columbia, was the featured guest speaker February 27 at a D.C. courts event celebrating Black History Month at the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse. Berlin said slavery was many things, but it was foremost “a contradiction; an attempt to make a thing out of a human being.” Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield also was on hand and reminded the audience that April 16 is Emancipation Day, the day President Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act freeing slaves in the District of Columbia.—S.S.

D.C. Bar Headquarters Relocating
The D.C. Bar is relocating its headquarters this coming May to 1101 K Street NW, two blocks north of its current location.

The move was necessitated by the end of the Bar’s lease at its current location, where it has operated for more than 15 years. The new location was selected by a special Building Committee that explored scores of lease and purchase options before making its recommendation to the Bar’s Board of Governors, which approved it unanimously.

The new headquarters site offers expanded space on the street level for the Bar’s extensive offering of Continuing Legal Education and Section programs. There will be adequate office and conference room space on the building’s second and third floors to accommodate current needs as well as anticipated growth over the 12-year lease term.

The Bar will continue operating until May 22 at its current location at 1250 H Street NW.

D.C. Superior Court Extends Public Access Through Internet System
In February the Superior Court of the District of Columbia further widened public access to information with the successful implementation of its Remote Access to Court Dockets (RACD) System.

The system allows Internet access to dockets in civil, criminal, domestic violence, tax, and large and small estate probate matters. Cases can be searched by name or case number, and all docket entries are displayed.

“This is part of our ongoing effort to enhance access to the courts and to court information. We hope it will assist the D.C. community in learning about cases and, if they are involved in a court case, in keeping track of court dates,” Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield said.

The RACD is part of the Superior Court’s initiative to meet the goals of the D.C. courts’ strategic plan for 2008–2012 and enhance public access to case information through expanded Internet availability. The court already has in place an electronic filing system for Civil I and Civil II cases.

The courts’ Privacy and Public Access to Electronic Court Records Committee examined the impact of providing information over the Internet before implementing the RACD system.

To access the system, visit www.dccourts.gov and click on the Remote Access to Superior Court Dockets icon, or go directly to www.dccourts.gov/pa.—K.A.

Hispanic Law Conference Assesses Obama’s Challenges, Priorities
12th Annual Hispanic Law Conference. From left, Robert Raben, Sam Jammal, Sandra Grossman, Emiliano Garcia Coso, and Claudio Grossman. Photo by Rich Reinhard/WCLThe American University Washington College of Law (WCL) held its 12th Annual Hispanic Law Conference on March 5, focusing on how the Obama administration and Congress plan to—and should—address issues of concern to the Latino community.

Conference events included a luncheon where Latino high school and WCL students could meet and talk, a career forum for WCL students, and two panel discussions.

The first panel, which addressed the first 100 days of the Obama administration, featured Robert Raben, founder of the Raben Group; Sam Jammal of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Sandra A. Grossman, immigration attorney at Grossman Law, LLC; and Emiliano García Coso, professor at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Spain.

“No matter what side you’re on in the immigration debate, you’re probably aware that our current system is pretty broken,” Grossman said.

She said every day in her law practice she sees the results of laws that often are confusing and contradictory, and businesses that employ undocumented workers.

While Grossman said it’s too early to tell what impact President Barack Obama will have on immigration issues, she thinks his ideas to bring undocumented workers out in the open, have the United States work with Mexico, and improve the immigration bureaucracy are promising ones.

Grossman acknowledged the economy will push immigration to the backburner, but she noted that in a February speech, Obama mentioned putting together a leadership group to look at immigration issues.

As far as other members of the presidential administration, Grossman was pleased with the selection of Janet Napolitano as head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She said Napolitano has gained years of experience on immigration policy as former governor of Arizona.

Recently, according to Grossman, Napolitano mentioned that the focus should be on those who employ undocumented workers, and on understanding the effects of deportation on people.

Grossman was encouraged by statements made by U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. about due process as a right of people in deportation proceedings.

García Coso, on the other hand, talked about the Obama administration’s agenda in relation to the European immigration perspective.

He said the immigration rates of the United States and the European Union (EU) are not that different from each other, and, therefore, the challenges are somewhat similar.

The Obama administration’s plan of action includes improving the immigration system, removing incentives for people to enter illegally, creating secure borders, working with Mexico, and bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows. The EU is focusing on organizing legal immigration, controlling illegal immigration, making border controls more effective, and creating partnerships with immigrants’ countries of origin.

“The objectives, instruments, and challenges of both [the United States and European Union] are very similar. Due to this similarity, it would be beneficial to have immigration as part of the transatlantic agenda between the United States and the European Union to try to advance toward a larger international agreement among destination and source countries,” García Coso said.

Looking specifically at the United States, Jammal discussed the role of the Latino community in getting Obama elected, and the possibility of having the community’s voice heard when it comes to bigger issues.

Jammal said not only is comprehensive legal reform needed, but issues concerning education, health care, housing, and the economy have to be addressed.

Raben echoed Jammal’s comments about the presidential election, saying the Hispanic community can now be taken seriously because they provided the crucial vote in certain states.

The conference also featured an awards dinner honoring organizations and individuals who have significantly contributed to the progress of the Latino community.

This year the annual Diversity Award was presented to educational community service provider Escuela Bolivia, the Edward Bou Alumni Award to the first board of the WCL Latino/a Law Students’ Association, and the Premio Inspiración Award to Erik Swanson of the WCL Class of 2009.—K.A.

Bar Members Must Complete Practice Course
New members of the District of Columbia Bar are reminded that they have 12 months from the date of admission to complete the required course on District of Columbia practice offered by the D.C. Bar Continuing Legal Education Program.

D.C. Bar members who have been inactive, retired, or voluntarily resigned for five years or more also are required to complete the course if they are seeking to switch or be reinstated to active member status. In addition, members who have been suspended for five years or more for nonpayment of dues or late fees are required to take the course to be reinstated.

New members who do not complete the mandatory course requirement within 12 months of admission receive a noncompliance notice and a final 60-day window in which to comply. After that date, the Bar administratively suspends individuals who have not attended and forwards their names to the clerks of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and to the Office of Bar Counsel.

Suspensions become a permanent part of members’ records. To be reinstated, one must complete the course and pay a $50 fee.

The preregistration fee is $219; on-site fee is $279. The next course dates are April 7, May 2, June 9, July 11, August 11, September 12, October 6, November 7, and December 8. Advanced registration is encouraged.

BPR Requests Volunteers for Hearing Committees
The Board on Professional Responsibility is seeking volunteers for its Hearing Committees. The committees hear lawyer discipline cases and draft reports with findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommended sanctions.

Hearing Committee members, composed of District of Columbia Bar members and members of the public, are appointed periodically by the Board on Professional Responsibility and are eligible to serve two consecutive three-year terms.

Interested parties should submit a cover letter and résumé to Elizabeth J. Branda, Executive Attorney, Board on Professional Responsibility, 515 5th Street NW, Room 102, Washington, DC 20001.

For more information about volunteering on a committee, contact the Board on Professional Responsibility at 202-638-4290.

Brookings Panel Pinpoints Obstacles Facing Immigration Court System
The Brookings Institution held a panel discussion February 20 on some of the problems facing the U.S. Department of Justice’s immigration courts as they try to keep up with the increasing number of immigrants fighting government removal or deportation proceedings.

The program, titled “Immigration and the Courts,” featured Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Chair Juan P. Osuna, and Georgetown University Law Center visiting professor Andrew I. Schoenholtz, who is also deputy director of the school’s Institute for the Study of International Migration, as panelists.

The event was part of Brookings’ Judicial Issues Forum, which regularly hosts public discussions on jurisprudence and the role of the courts, and on major legal debates and current events and their potential implications.

Moderator and Brookings visiting fellow Russell Wheeler opened the discussion with a brief overview of the role of the country’s 58 immigration courts and the BIA, both of which are served by judges appointed by the U.S. attorney general, as well as the U.S. Courts of Appeals in removal cases.

According to Wheeler, the immigration courts heard approximately 272,000 removal matters in 2008, which translates to 1,200 cases per judge, compared to the average federal district court caseload of 480 per judge. Last year the BIA, a 15-member board that functions under the Justice Department, heard close to 23,000 removal cases.

The number of removal cases brought before the appellate courts is also growing, particularly in the Second Circuit and Ninth Circuit.

In the Second Circuit, Katzmann said the immigration case docket jumped from 4 to 39 percent between 2001 and 2008. About 90 percent of federal agency appeals heard at the court come from the BIA, he added.

Katzmann said part of the reason for the increase is that in 2002, the BIA, in an effort to eliminate its huge backlogs, passed along about 4,000 cases to the courts of appeals, although those cases have all been resolved.

“We eliminated the backlog, but, at the same time, the number of cases keeps coming, and there seems to be no end in sight, and we are continuing to adjudicate somewhere from 32 to 48 cases a week…These cases are a steady part of our diet at this point, and it seems to me that unless and until there are larger changes, we can expect these cases to continue to be part of our diet,” he said.

The panelists agreed that immigration courts are overburdened and under-resourced. The main problem, according to Osuna, is that there are simply too many cases and not enough judges.

Osuna said there should be a balance between the number of cases coming into the system and the number of judges handling them. This would be easier to achieve, he said, if there was a more selective process for removal proceedings.

“Why are we putting people in removal proceedings that have visa petitions pending at the Department of Homeland Security that are likely to result in their getting a immigration visa to remain in the country permanently?” he asked.

On the other hand, Schoenholtz said it’s important to understand that immigration is a neglected area of law, and that the courts are overburdened due, in part, to a complex set of laws enacted by Congress that place immigrants who commit any type of crime into removal proceedings, despite equities they may have to stay in the country.

He attributed the courts’ shortage in resources to the government’s lack of political will to address immigration concerns and ensure a fair process, through representation and a chance at impartial review, for immigrants in removal proceedings.—K.A.

D.C. Bar staff writers Kathryn Alfisi and Steven J. Stauffer can be reached at kalfisi@dcbar.org and sstauffer@dcbar.org, respectively.