Washington Lawyer

Legal Beat: News and Notes on the D.C. Bar Legal Community

From Washington Lawyer, December 2009

By Kathryn Alfisi and Thai Phi Stone

District of Columbia Celebrates First National Pro Bono Week
In a unified effort to draw attention to the increased need for pro bono services and to recognize those who have committed to helping the underserved population, lawyers across the country took part in the first-ever National Pro Bono Celebration on October 25–31. Nearly 600 events were celebrated in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

In the District, people were invited to participate in a host of events ranging from seminars to a citywide fundraiser. Lawyers and law students also held free information sessions for the public on consumer credit, borrowing, and how to build a good credit record. The sessions were tailored to a variety of groups, from teenagers to senior citizens.

The celebration, launched by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, kicked off on October 25 with a forum on the opportunities for and responsibilities of lawyers interested in serving on the board of directors of a nonprofit.

Attorneys have a unique relationship when sitting on a board, said James P. Joseph, a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP. Often they are asked for legal advice, but Joseph stressed that is the role of a general counsel. “They wear the legal hat. You wear the policy hat. You don’t want to be in that position. You are there to implement policy,” he said.

Marcia Tavares Maack (left), President Kim Keenan (center) and Rawle Andrews Jr.(right). Photo by Donald Tanguilig Joseph was joined on the panel by Kim M. Keenan, D.C. Bar president and principal of The Keenan Firm; Regina M. Hopkins, director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program Community Economic Development Project; and Kevin S. Levey, a partner at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P. Marcia Tavares Maack, assistant director of pro bono activities at Mayer Brown LLP, served as moderator.

The panelists discussed the commitment and fundraising responsibilities of board members, as well as how attorneys should choose an organization with which to work. All agreed that serving on a nonprofit board was one of the most rewarding experiences of their careers. “I don’t really think I’ve ever given more than I’ve gotten,” Keenan said.

Keenan also was on hand later that day to accept a mayoral proclamation from Rawle Andrews Jr., managing attorney for the AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly, on behalf of D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. The proclamation recognized the many professionals who donated thousands of hours in pro bono services to residents in need.

Capping the first day of activities was a panel on launching a career in immigration and human rights law, jointly sponsored by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the University of the District of Columbia.

From left, D.C. Long Term Care Ombudsman Gerald Kasunic and participants at event. Photo by Donald TanguiligThe celebration continued throughout the week with a calendar full of events. For attorneys who wanted to expand their reach, Dechert LLP, Hogan & Hartson LLP, and Mayer Brown hosted on October 29 a forum on pro bono opportunities abroad. On the same day, AARP brought in experts for a session on wills, advance directives, and adult guardianship considerations for volunteers. Panelists Gerald M. Kasunic, D.C. Long Term Care Ombudsman; Faith Mullen, clinical assistant professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law; and Alysia Zens, pro bono counsel at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, emphasized the importance of life-planning documents and discussed the legal process of preparing for the future.

The D.C. celebration also featured receptions held in honor of legal services providers, federal attorneys, nonprofit organizations, and volunteer attorneys participating in the family court and whose work has helped increase access to justice at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program-operated resource center at the D.C. Superior Court.

To mark the end of the celebration, law firms were encouraged to participate in the “Go Casual for Justice–Jeans Day” fundraiser where employees donated $5 or more to wear jeans to work on October 30. Funds raised during the event were donated to the D.C. Bar Foundation to support grants to local nonprofit legal services providers, as well as the foundation’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program for poverty lawyers working on behalf of the District’s poor.

The National Pro Bono Celebration come at a time when the need for pro bono legal services has never been greater. In the District, one in five of its nearly 600,000 residents live below the poverty line with only a small fraction of their legal needs met.

“With the economy in a major downturn, local legal services providers are facing reduced funding just as the number of clients seeking help is growing daily. We are seeing more people come to our walk-in clinics and our court-based resource centers,” said Maureen Thornton Syracuse, director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program. “This is a time for our legal community to recommit to our professional obligation to make the legal system accessible to all. Each one of us can make a difference if we choose to act.”—T.S.

Bar to Conduct Judicial Evaluations
The D.C. Bar Judicial Evaluation Committee has kicked off its 2009 evaluation program. Selected attorneys are invited to provide feedback on the performance of 32 judges who preside over the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

This year, more than 5,000 attorneys have been given the opportunity to participate in the evaluation program. These attorneys have appeared before the judges in the 24-month period (July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2009) prior to the evaluation. Attorneys can submit a hard copy or online response. All participants will remain anonymous. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2010.

The following D.C. Court of Appeals judges will be evaluated: Chief Judge Eric T. Washington; Senior Judges John M. Ferren, Warren R. King, Theodore R. Newman, William C. Pryor, Frank E. Schwelb, and John A. Terry; and Associate Judge Stephen H. Glickman.

The following D.C. Superior Court judges will be evaluated: Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield; Senior Judges Mary Ellen Abrecht, Bruce D. Beaudin, Leonard Braman, Frederick Dorsey, Stephen F. Eilperin, Eugene N. Hamilton, Ronald P. Wertheim, and Patricia A. Wynn; and Associate Judges Jerry S. Byrd, Stephanie Duncan-Peters, Brook Hedge, Brian Holeman, Craig Iscoe, William M. Jackson, Ann O’Regan Keary, Cheryl M. Long, Judith N. Macaluso, Robert E. Morin, Hiram E. Puig-Lugo, Judith E. Retchin, Robert I. Richter, Michael Ryan, and Fern Flanagan Saddler.

Judges are evaluated in their 2nd, 6th, 10th, and 13th year of service, and senior judges are evaluated once before the end of each term.

Each evaluated judge, along with the chief judge of each court, will receive a copy of the survey results. Evaluation results of senior judges and judges in their 6th, 10th, and 13th year of service also will be sent to the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure.

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 completed the course 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; the on-site fee is $279. December 8 is the final course date for 2009. Course dates for 2010 are January 9, February 2, March 6, April 13, May 8, June 8, and July 10. Advanced registration is encouraged.

For more information or to register online, visit www.dcbar.org/membership/mandatory-course.

Meyer Foundation Honors Five Nonprofit Executives
D.C. Bar members Lindsey Buss and Jonathan Smith were among five nonprofit leaders honored in October by the Meyer Foundation with its 2009 Exponent Award for their outstanding leadership.

Buss is president and chief executive officer of Martha’s Table, an organization that provides food, clothing, and educational services to low-income and homeless residents in the area. Smith is executive director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, which protects the legal rights of those living in poverty in matters such as consumer law, domestic violence, eviction prevention, family law, preservation of affordable housing, and public benefits.

“The antipoverty community in the District has many terrific advocates and leaders, and it is humbling to be singled out for this recognition,” Smith said. “In making this award, the Meyer Foundation honors Legal Aid as much as me…. The staff and the board have worked extremely hard to ensure that we provide the highest quality legal assistance to persons living in poverty in the District.”

Buss voiced similar sentiments. “Whether it is a volunteer in our clothing or food programs, or a client balancing school, work, and raising a family, or one of our staff motivating a teenager, Martha’s Table works because it is a community effort. I share this award with all of our clients, volunteers, supporters, and staff, and we are very grateful for the recognition,” he said.

Also honored were Ana Lopez, executive director of Community Bridges; David Andrew Snider, producing artistic director and chief executive officer of Young Playwrights’ Theatre; and Kelly Sweeney McShane, executive director of Community of Hope.

The recipients’ respective organizations will receive a grant of $100,000 over a two-year period to be used for leadership development.

The Meyer Foundation is a private group that serves the Washington metropolitan area. It created the Exponent Award in 2006 as a response to a national study that showed that three out of four nonprofit executive directors of small and midsized organizations were likely to leave their jobs due to various factors.

The award recognizes strong and effective nonprofit leaders who have a track record of accomplishment and the potential for future growth.

For more information about the Meyer Foundation and the Exponent Award, visit www.meyerfoundation.org.—K.A.

Judge Inez Smith Reid Receives Ollie May Cooper Award
From left, Washington Bar Association President Ronald C. Jessamy Sr., District of Columbia Court of Appeals Associate Judge Inez Smith Reid, and chair of the 2009 Ollie May Cooper Award Committee Johnnie D. Bond Jr. Photo by Donald TanguiligOn October 29 the Washington Bar Association (WBA) presented District of Columbia Court of Appeals Associate Judge Inez Smith Reid with the prestigious Ollie May Cooper Award, recognizing her commitment not only to the law but the greater community. The presentation of the award was part of WBA’s 31st Annual Ollie May Cooper Award Ceremony and 29th Founders’ Lecture Series.

The annual award was established in honor of Ollie May Cooper, the prestigious alumna from Howard University School of Law who stood out as a legal pioneer in the early 1900s. While she was only one of about 25 African American female lawyers in the United States at the time, Cooper went on to launch her own law firm.

“Like Ollie May Cooper, [Judge Reid] paved the way for so many of us,” D.C. Superior Court Associate Judge Anita M. Josey-Herring told the crowd at Howard University School of Law’s Moot Court Room. “Her work has shaped social justice, not just in the District but in the nation.”

D.C. Court of Appeals Associate Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby called Reid “a quiet, yet fierce, longstanding, committed warrior for justice.”

Among other notable members of the legal community who praised Reid’s work were Judge Lynn J. Bush of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims; D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings Chief Administrative Law Judge Tyrone T. Butler; Yaida O. Ford, chair of the WBA Young Lawyers Division Executive Committee; WBA President Ronald C. Jessamy Sr.; D.C. Bar President Kim M. Keenan; D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield; and Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The evening also featured Founders’ Lecturer W. Sherman Rogers, professor of law at Howard University School of Law. Rogers explored the economic roles of African American entrepreneurs from the days of slavery to the present. With stories of struggles and triumph, he recounted the lives of people who began with limited resources and built their own business empires.

Wrapping up the evening, Judge Reid offered a piece of advice in her speech: “As we confront those hurdles placed so squarely or deceptively before us, and as we seek to make it a better and just society for all, let each one of us remember each day to do our best and to be true to ourselves.”—T.S.

Pro Bono Partnership Program Stages Annual Luncheon
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program held its annual Pro Bono Partnership (PART) Fall Kickoff Luncheon at Jones Day on October 28 to coincide with the first annual National Pro Bono Celebration sponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.

PART is an initiative linking more than 120 law firms and government agencies with organized pro bono programs with local legal assistance programs so that interested attorneys can be identified for future pro bono projects. In 2009 three new firms signed up for PART: Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Haynes and Boone LLP, and Troutman Sanders LLP.

The luncheon began with a pro bono fair in which representatives from local legal services providers talked and provided information to lawyers from PART member firms about the types of available pro bono work.

The information session and lunch were followed by remarks by H. Guy Collier, chair of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee and a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP; Kim Keenan, D.C. Bar president and principal at The Keenan Firm; and D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric T. Washington, who said it was “heartwarming to know there was such dedication to the higher calling of the law.”

The event also featured a panel discussion on the impact of major law firms’ changing business models on pro bono, bringing in experts such as Carol Clayton, a partner and managing partner at WilmerHale LLP; Lisa Dewey, a pro bono partner at DLA Piper LLP; Eric Jackson, vice chair of the Pro Bono Committee and a partner at Jenner & Block LLP, who moderated the panel; and Alan Wiseman, who chairs Howrey LLP’s Pro Bono and Charitable Activities Committee.—K.A.

Pro Bono Partnership Program Stages Annual Luncheon
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program held its annual Pro Bono Partnership (PART) Fall Kickoff Luncheon at Jones Day on October 28 to coincide with the first annual National Pro Bono Celebration sponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.

PART is an initiative linking more than 120 law firms and government agencies with organized pro bono programs with local legal assistance programs so that interested attorneys can be identified for future pro bono projects. In 2009 three new firms signed up for PART: Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Haynes and Boone LLP, and Troutman Sanders LLP.

The luncheon began with a pro bono fair in which representatives from local legal services providers talked and provided information to lawyers from PART member firms about the types of available pro bono work.

The information session and lunch were followed by remarks by H. Guy Collier, chair of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee and a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP; Kim Keenan, D.C. Bar president and principal at The Keenan Firm; and D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric T. Washington, who said it was “heartwarming to know there was such dedication to the higher calling of the law.”

The event also featured a panel discussion on the impact of major law firms’ changing business models on pro bono, bringing in experts such as Carol Clayton, a partner and managing partner at WilmerHale LLP; Lisa Dewey, a pro bono partner at DLA Piper LLP; Eric Jackson, vice chair of the Pro Bono Committee and a partner at Jenner & Block LLP, who moderated the panel; and Alan Wiseman, who chairs Howrey LLP’s Pro Bono and Charitable Activities Committee.—K.A.

BADC Honors Judges
The Bar Association of the District of Columbia's annual Judicial Reception. From left, James G. Flood, Royce C. Lamberth, Alfred S. Irving Jr., Emily C. Hewitt, Rafael Diaz, Joseph E. Beshouri, and James Robertson. Photo by Donald TanguiligThe Bar Association of the District of Columbia (BADC) held its annual Judicial Reception on October 6 at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse where it honored judges who have recently been installed, have retired, or taken senior status. Pictured from left are BADC President James G. Flood; U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth; D.C. Superior Court Associate Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr.; U.S. Court of Federal Claims Chief Judge Emily C. Hewitt; D.C. Superior Court Associate Judge Rafael Diaz, who retired on March 26; D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Joseph E. Beshouri; and U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge James Robertson, who assumed senior status on December 31, 2008.—K.A.

Bar Publishes 18th Edition of D.C. Practice Manual
The 18th edition of The D.C. Practice Manual is available to purchase for $265.

This two-volume manual is an important resource that provides information on the basics of practicing law in the District of Columbia and includes citations to key statutes, regulations, court rules, and cases, as well as relevant forms.

The 18th edition includes 25 revised chapters covering a range of topics: administrative procedures, alternative dispute resolution, antitrust, appellate practice in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, art, child abuse and neglect, commercial law, consumer protection, corporate practice, criminal law and practice, criminal traffic offenses, domestic relations, employment law, environmental law, government contracts, Health Maintenance Organization Act, intervention proceedings, legal ethics and attorney discipline, mental health proceedings, partnerships, personal injury, taxation, United States District Court practice, wills and estates, and workers’ compensation.

To purchase the 18th edition of The D.C. Practice Manual, call 202-737-4700, ext. 3268, or visit www.dcbar.org/publications.

logo for legal trends
Beyond Prosecutors: JNC Seeks All Kinds of Lawyers for Judgeships
The District of Columbia is unique in several ways. For instance, it is the center of all three branches of government, but it also has no voting representation in the U.S. Senate. However, it also stands apart when it comes to its judicial selection process. The District of Columbia is the only place in the country where local judges are appointed by the president of the United States.

Before the president chooses a judicial nominee to go before Congress for confirmation, however, it is up to the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission (JNC) to get the process started. Under its mandate, the JNC sends the names of three, well-qualified candidates to the president within 60 days of a judicial vacancy in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia or the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

“We focus on who we believe will serve the residents of the District of Columbia as outstanding judges. We also think it’s appropriate to take a snapshot of the court at any given time to see what it looks like for diversity purposes,” says U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who serves as JNC chair.

The seven members of the JNC are appointed by several different entities: one is appointed by the president, two (one lawyer and one nonlawyer) by the mayor, one nonlawyer by the Council of the District of Columbia, two by the D.C. Bar Board of Governors, and one by the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The commissioners serve a six-year term, with the exception of the president’s appointee, who serves for five years.

Once the JNC has knowledge of a judicial vacancy, it posts an announcement on its Web site and sends it to various media outlets, the D.C. Bar, and other bar groups. Applications also are available to download on the JNC’s Web site.

Long-Term Commitment
To qualify, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen; an active member of the D.C. Bar; and a bonafide District resident, having lived in the city for at least 90 days prior to the nomination. Applicants must also have been engaged in the practice of law, or have served on the faculty of a law school, in the District for the five years preceding the nomination.

One qualification an applicant is not required to have (although it is helpful) is trial experience, something the JNC would like more people to know about to create more diversity—both in terms of professional and racial and cultural backgrounds—in the applicant pool.

“We certainly would like practitioners from small and large firms to consider applying for these very important positions. We get accused of sending the names of too many prosecutors to the president, but the truth of the matter is that the prosecutors apply more than any other group of practitioners,” Sullivan says.

Sullivan says the JNC has submitted the names of transactional attorneys, professors, and general counsel to the president for consideration.

In an effort to encourage lawyers from all walks of life to apply, the JNC reaches out to bar groups such as the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia, as well as the directors of local and federal public defender agencies.

Those who decide to apply should be aware that not only can the application process be involved and time-consuming, but the appointment for a judgeship is 15 years.

“It’s not a commitment that one should take lightly. The person should ask him- or herself whether he or she is willing to make that commitment,” Sullivan adds.

Requirements and Background Checks
The application materials consist of a five-page questionnaire, an authorization to release information to the JNC, a criminal history request form, a release from liability form, a tax check waiver, and a tax compliance letter.

In addition to asking for detailed personal information, the questionnaire requires the applicant to list his or her five most important litigated matters and articulate why they are significant, and provide two writing samples. Applicants for Court of Appeals judgeships also have to supply five of the most significant cases they have handled on appeal and submit five writing samples, three of which must be appellate briefs.

JNC commissioners also perform a fairly intensive background investigation that includes a credit check and requests for information from the Metropolitan Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Office of Bar Counsel, and U.S. District Court Committee on Grievances.

While not having a spotless record does not preclude someone from consideration, Sullivan said an applicant who has a history of not filing taxes on time, for example, would probably not have his or her name sent to the White House.

References, although not necessary, can be helpful if they are from people who have knowledge and understanding of an applicant’s legal abilities.

There is no standard time to spend on an application, but Sullivan said the process can and should take a long time because it is supposed to contain an applicant’s best thoughts and serve as the first opportunity to persuade the commissioners.

“What I encourage people to do, whether they are going to apply in the next six months or in the next year, is download an application and start working on it so it’s a work in progress. Then, when that person believes the timing is right to file, he or she has already done the necessary work,” Sullivan says.

Once the application is completed, a paper copy is filed with the JNC office and electronic copies are sent to all the commissioners. Some, but not all, JNC members like to schedule informal meetings with individual applicants; applicants should take the initiative and call the commissioners to set up such a meeting.

All applicants are invited and encouraged to attend an official meeting with the commissioners that lasts about 15 minutes.

Commissioners get together following the formal meeting to debate and discuss the applicants’ merits, and then vote by secret ballot to determine the three names to be forwarded to the White House and posted on the JNC Web site. The president has 60 days to select a nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.

To find out more about the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission, get contact information for the commissioners, or to download an application, visit http://jnc.dc.gov or call 202-879-0478.—K.A.

CLE Course Examines Appellate Advocacy From Bench to Lectern
The D.C. Bar Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program’s “Appellate Advocacy” course proved to be a popular draw for members of the legal community.

Attendees of the course’s 15th presentation on October 29 filled the room to hear practical advice on appellate advocacy in the federal courts from a wide range of experts, from judges to public defenders and from mediators to private attorneys. The course primarily focused on writing clear briefs and delivering effective oral arguments.

The morning session included perspectives and tips from Judges Brett M. Kavanaugh and Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“Remember that judges are generalists,” Kavanaugh said. “Take your expertise and funnel it to the judges.” Whether writing a brief or delivering an argument, it is important for lawyers to be clear, candid, and civil, he added.

To be effective, Rogers said lawyers must assume that judges will inevitably ask about the weakest parts of their case, and thus be ready with responses. She also stressed the importance of flexibility, saying attorneys need to be prepared to reset their arguments, depending on the line of questioning.

Corrine A. Beckwith of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; Richard D. Bernstein, a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP; A. J. Kramer of the Federal Public Defender of the District of Columbia; and Catherine G. O’Sullivan of the U.S. Department of Justice led a discussion on appellate briefs and shared tactics for success in brief writing.

Douglas N. Letter and Thomas A. Lorenzen, attorneys for the Department of Justice, and Paul M. Smith, a partner at Jenner & Block LLP, provided amusing anecdotes to illustrate the dos and don’ts of appellate arguments. The most important thing for lawyers, Letter said, is to answer the judges’ questions directly. “Don’t try to dance around it. You’re not accomplishing your purpose,” he added.

They also suggested focusing on one or two basic themes in an argument, learning both the legal and practical facts of the case, getting a sense of the panel of judges and the cases they’ve written about, and holding moot courts at least once before going to trial.

All panelists agreed with Rogers on the importance of flexibility, but Smith reminded attendees to know what concessions can be made—and which ones absolutely cannot be relinquished.

Outside of brief writing and arguments, other sessions focused on the new rules regarding electronic filing, the D.C. Circuit’s Appellate Mediation Program, and ethical issues that may arise during appellate litigation.—T.S.

50 and Fabulous
King & Spalding LLP reception. From left, J. Sedwick King & Spalding LLP held a reception on October 22 honoring partner and former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement (center) on his 50th oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. Also in attendance at the Willard InterContinental were his King & Spalding colleagues J. Sedwick “Wick” Sollers (left) and Robert D. Hays.—K.A.

Reach D.C. Bar staff writers Kathryn Alfisi and Thai Phi Stone at kalfisi@dcbar.org and tstone@dcbar.org, respectively.