From Washington Lawyer, July/August 2014
By Kathryn Alfisi and David O’Boyle
Webster Claims D.C. Bar President-Elect Post
Timothy K. Webster, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, has been elected president-elect of the D.C. Bar for the 2014–15 term. Webster assumed office on June 17 and will serve in that post for one year before becoming president, and will continue in office for a third year as immediate past president.
Webster served three two-year terms as the Bar’s general counsel from 2004–2010. As general counsel, he had two main responsibilities: providing legal advice to the Bar on a wide range of issues related to the organization’s core mission, and representing the Bar and its employees and affiliates in litigation. At Sidley, Webster focuses his practice on civil and criminal environmental matters. Previously, he served seven years as a trial attorney in the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Virginia Environmental Law Journal.
Also elected for one-year terms were, as secretary, Matthew G. Kaiser of The Kaiser Law Firm PLLC, and, as treasurer, Sarah Shyr of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC.
Elected to the Bar’s Board of Governors were Steven N. Berk of Berk Law PLLC; Sara Kropf of the Law Office of Sara Kropf PLLC; Annamaria Steward of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law; Keiko K. Takagi of Sughrue Mion, PLLC; and Benjamin F. Wilson of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.
Elected for two-year terms on the American Bar Association House of Delegates were Jack C. Keeney Jr. of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, Laura A. Possessky of Gura & Possessky, and Lucy L. Thomson of Livingston PLLC.
All newly elected officers, board members, and delegates took office on June 17 during the 2014 Celebration of Leadership: The D.C. Bar Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting.
D.C. Bar 2014 Election Results
(Winners in bold) President-Elect: Timothy K. Webster, 3,217; Stephen I. Glover, 3,042. Secretary: Matthew G. Kaiser, 3,179; Christopher P. Zubowicz, 2,595. Treasurer: Sarah Shyr, 2,964; Laura Sierra, 2,613. Board of Governors: Sara Kropf, 3,659; Annamaria Steward, 3,452; Benjamin F. Wilson, 2,986; Keiko K. Takagi, 2,872; Steven N. Berk, 2,575; *Susan Kovarovics, 2,423; *Mark A. Salzberg, 2,020; Sadina M. Montani, 2,005; Sergio F. Oehninger, 1,966; Ariel Levinson-Waldman, 1,958. ABA House of Delegates: Lucy L. Thomson, 4,133; Jack C. Keeney Jr., 4,012; Laura A. Possessky, 3,552; Beth L. Law, 3,269.
*Kovarovics and Salzberg will serve on the Bar’s Board of Governors due to resignations of incumbents.
Benitez Sworn In as President at Annual Awards Dinner
On June 17 Brigida Benitez, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, was sworn in as the 43rd president of the D.C. Bar during its 2014 Celebration of Leadership. The evening’s events also included the presentation of awards to distinguished individuals and programs in the legal community.
“The D.C. Bar’s core mission is to enhance access to justice, improve the legal system, and empower lawyers to achieve excellence,” Benitez said in her opening remarks as Bar president. “So, my theme for the coming year is ‘commitment to service.’”
Benitez plans to continue to promote the Bar’s service to the community through its support for pro bono services and access to justice as well as to implement a strategic planning process for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program. In addition, she will encourage mentors and role models for young lawyers to aid in the development of future leaders. Benitez pledged her support for the John Payton Leadership Academy, reflecting on the impact that Payton, a former Bar president, had on her as a mentor and friend. Benitez also will revisit the Bar’s first strategic plan, implemented five years ago, to review the Bar’s progress.
The evening also featured the presentation of the Bar’s annual awards recognizing individuals for their excellence in and commitment to the legal community. U.S. Air Force Colonel Tonya Hagmaier was presented the 2014 Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service. Hagmaier has been on active duty since 1986 and has dedicated a significant amount of her time and energy to public service, serving as a mentor and example to many of the personnel she supervises.
During her remarks after receiving the Rosenberg Award, Hagmaier shared that she has benefitted from her work with the Bar and its members for over 25 years. She also expressed her gratitude for the opportunity she has had in serving her country while working with many dedicated men and women.
"Beatrice Rosenberg established the art of service,” Hagmaier said. “For me to have been selected for an award that honors her is beyond anything I could have imagined.”
Brooksley Born, a retired partner of Arnold & Porter LLP, was presented with the Justice Thurgood Marshall Award for her excellence and achievement in, as well as commitment to, the fields of civil rights and individual liberties. Throughout her career, Born has worked to open the legal profession to women and to encourage their participation and involvement in the leadership of the profession.
“Looking back over a career of 50 years in the legal profession, the work that’s been the most rewarding to me has been my pro bono and public service [work],” Born said. “During my career, the efforts of lawyers have contributed so significantly to social justice, to the civil rights movement, to the expansion of women’s rights and opportunities, to the rights of the LGBT community, to equal rights for the poor or the disabled, and many other disadvantaged groups.”
Born acknowledged her concern over the rising inequality in income and wealth in the United States and called on her colleagues and members of the legal profession to consider and combat the problem, which she called a “growing threat to equal opportunity and equal treatment.”
The Bar also presented D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson and V. David Zvenyach, the Council’s general counsel, with the Exceptional Service Award; the D.C. Bar Antitrust and Consumer Law Section with the Section of the Year Award; Kurt Jacobs of Sidley Austin LLP and Allen Snyder of the Children’s Law Center with the Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyers of the Year Award; Arnold & Porter LLP with the Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year Award; the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee and the Family-Based Immigration Law Book Project with the Bar Projects of the Year Award; and the Limited Scope Working Group with the Frederick B. Abramson Award.—D.O.
Ken Feinberg Gives Insight Into Work as Top Compensation Expert
Conflict resolution expert Ken Feinberg discussed his distinguished legal career at the D.C. Bar Law Practice Management Section’s 10th annual Legends of the D.C. Bar Luncheon on June 12.
Feinberg is considered the go-to man for administering relief funds, from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation. Time magazine dubbed him the “compensation czar.” He has also been involved in compensation relief efforts for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, BP oil spill, and most recently, General Motors recalls. He is the founder and managing partner of Feinberg Rozen, LLP.
Feinberg started his legal career thinking he would be a courtroom litigator, but then a chance involvement in a 1984 litigation involving Agent Orange (he knew the federal judge who was working on the case) changed his career path. “I got into this niche by accident,” he said. “That one case had a seismic impact on my career because then everyone started calling me and saying, settle my case, mediate my case, arbitrate my case. It just changes your life.”
He said that speed, cost effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency are all important elements to doing what he does. “The building blocks of any of these types of programs are the same. Eligibility, methodology, proof, due process, there you are.”
He also discussed the stress that comes with meeting with claimants, victims, or people who have lost loved ones.
“You’re a sounding board for people who understandably, through no fault of their own, are very, very angry and frustrated and distraught. You keep in the back of your mind what you are asked to do as a professional,” Feinberg said.
Meeting with the 9/11 claimants was “chilling, absolutely horrific,” and he related a few specific incidents that arose out of those meetings.
According to Feinberg, the likes of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which was funded by taxpayer money, is unlikely to be seen again. “That was a unique response to an unprecedented American tragedy,” he said.
The event was cosponsored by the D.C. Bar Administrative Law and Agency Practice Section; Arts, Entertainment, Media and Sports Law Section; Corporation, Finance and Securities Law Section; Courts, Lawyers and the Administration of Justice Section; Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Section; Health Law Section; and Litigation Section.—K.A.
Presidents’ Reception Generates $800,000 for Pro Bono Program
The 22nd annual Presidents’ Reception was held on June 17 welcoming Brigida Benitez as the Bar’s 43rd president and benefiting the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program.
“One of the best parts of this job has been a chance to work on pro bono service in the District, my hometown,” said Immediate Past President Andrea Ferster before announcing that the reception had raised more than $800,000, which will constitute about a third of the Pro Bono Program’s annual budget. “Working together, we enable thousands of lawyers to make a difference in the lives of the most impoverished and also the most vulnerable residents of our community.”
James J. Sandman, Pro Bono Committee chair and former Bar president, followed with an update of the Pro Bono Program’s achievements in the past year. He said the program’s Advocacy and Justice Clinic provided full-service representation to 350 people, its Saturday Advice and Referral and Immigration Clinics served 1,400 clients, its four resource centers at the D.C. Superior Court served 6,500 clients, and its Community Economic Development Project matched 60 nonprofit organizations with pro bono counsel and trained 1,700 pro bono executives and staff in legal matters related to their operations. In addition, the program launched six new plain-language, Turbo Tax-style online interviews to enable pro se litigants in family law cases to complete form pleadings online.
“I believe the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program is the strongest program in the United States,” Sandman said. “I say that because of the breadth and quality of the services it offers to clients who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. Because of the variety of opportunities, training, and support it offers to lawyers who want to do pro bono work, and because of the strength of the pro bono culture that permeates our Bar and fuels the program.”
Sandman also took the time to remember Laura N. Rinaldi, a managing attorney for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program who passed away in 2013. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award was renamed in her honor this year.
“She was a passionate and effective advocate for her clients. She was a leader and an innovator,” Sandman said. “Laura’s name will always be associated with the highest ideals of our Bar.”
Benitez gave closing remarks, in which she said she was “proud to be coming in as president of a bar that has a pro bono program with so many innovative clinics, resource centers, and programs that serve thousands of D.C. residents every year.”
“The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program is a pillar of our community and a model nationally,” she said.—K.A.
Don’t Lose Your License! Pay Bar Dues by September 30
D.C. Bar members whose Bar dues and/or late fee, if applicable, are not received or postmarked by September 30 automatically will be suspended for nonpayment and subject to additional reinstatement fees.
Dues are $268 for active members and $130 for judicial members and inactive members. When paying dues, members also may join a section or renew their section memberships and make contributions to the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program.
The deadline for paying dues was July 1. Dues not received or postmarked by July 15 were assessed a late fee of $30.
Payments may be remitted by mail or submitted online at www.dcbar.org/login. For online payments, members will need their username and password, which automatically can be retrieved if their e-mail address matches what the Bar has on file.
Members are encouraged to confirm all of their personal information on the dues statement, including e-mail addresses.
A Warm Welcome
The D.C. Bar Board of Governors and the D.C. Bar Membership Committee hosted a reception this spring to welcome attorneys who recently have joined the Bar. Pictured (from left) are D.C. Bar immediate past president Andrea Ferster, new member Ed Haenftling, attorney Ryan Hall, and D.C. Bar President Brigida Benitez.—K.A.
D.C. Bar Sections Elect New Steering Committee Members
The D.C. Bar’s 20 sections have elected new members to serve on their respective steering committees beginning July 1. In their roles, committee members will develop and organize substantive and social programs in their specific practice areas throughout the year. Except where noted with an asterisk, all candidates listed below have been elected to three-year terms, running from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017.
Administrative Law and Agency Practice: Michele C. Farquhar, Hogan Lovells; Matthew Henjum, Chesapeake Legal Alliance; and Connor N. Raso, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Antitrust and Consumer Law: Robert E. Hauberg Jr., Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC; Douglas B. Rathbun, U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division; and Wendy J. Weinberg, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Arts, Entertainment, Media and Sports Law: Lita T. Rosario, WYZ GIRL Entertainment Consulting, LLC; Alison B. Schary, David Wright Tremaine LLP; and John L. Simson, Lommen Abdo.
Corporation, Finance and Securities Law: Lillian C. Brown, WilmerHale LLP; Howard A. Scheck, KPMG LLP; and Julie A. Smith, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.
Courts, Lawyers and the Administration of Justice: Susan D. Bennett, American University Washington College of Law; Hon. Sharon E. Goodie, D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings; and Christine D. Smith, Children’s Law Center.
Criminal Law and Individual Rights: Brandi J. Harden, Harden & Pinckney, PLLC; Heather N. Pinckney, Harden & Pinckney, PLLC; Justin A. Okezie, Okezie Law, PC; *David B. Benowitz, Price Benowitz (Two-year term, ending June 30, 2016); and *Ariel S. Glasner, Blank Rome LLP (One-year term, ending June 30, 2015).
District of Columbia Affairs: Claude E. Bailey, Venable LLP; Joel M. Cohn, D.C. Office of Tenant Advocate; Nicholas A. Majett, D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs; and *Smruti V. Radkar, University of the District of Columbia (one-year term, ending June 30, 2015).
Environment, Energy and Natural Resources: James M. Auslander, Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.; Rachel Jacobson, U.S. Department of the Interior; William B. Pasfield, Alston & Bird LLP; and *Jessica L. Olson, Ayres Law Group (one-year term, ending June 30, 2015).
Estates, Trusts and Probate Law: Sarah M. Johnson, Venable, LLP; L. Laurel Lea, Furey Doolan & Abell, LLP; and Giannina “Gina” Lynn, Attorney-at-Law.
Family Law: Brandes S.G. Ash, D.C. Office of the Attorney General; Tanya M. Jones-Bosier, D.C. Office of the Attorney General; and Christopher M. Locey, Kuder, Smollar & Friedman, P.C.
Government Contracts and Litigation: Nancy K. Hapeman, D.C. Office of the Attorney General; and David M. Nadler, Dickstein Shapiro LLP.
Health Law: Jenifer A. Cromwell, Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC; Geoffrey W. Hymans, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Amy E. Nordeng, American Society for Radiation Oncology.
Intellectual Property Law: Azadeh Sophia Kokabi, Sughrue Mion PLLC; Lorraine S. Morrison, Northrop Grumman Corporation; and *Robert J. Kimmer, Rader, Fishman & Cramer, PLLC (two-year term, ending June 30, 2016).
International Law: Mary Ann McGrail, Law Office of M.A. McGrail; and Lorena E. Perez, Organization of American States.
Labor and Employment Law: Lorrie E. Bradley, Murphy Anderson PLLC; Megan Cacace, Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC; and Edgar Ndjatou, Law Office of Edgar Ndjatou, PLLC.
Law Practice Management: Brandon R. Cogswell, Burton Law, LLC; Natalie M. Koss, Potomac Legal Group, PLLC; Roya Vasseghi, Doumar Martin PLLC; and *Benjamin L. Grosz, Ivins, Phillips, & Barker, Chartered (two-year term, ending June 30, 2016).
Litigation: Julia M. Jordan, Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP; Robert N. Kelly, Jackson & Campbell, P.C.; and Katherine B. Yoder, Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata, LLP.
Real Estate, Housing and Land Use: Joshua M. Greenberg, Greenstein DeLorme & Luchs, PC; and David J. Walker, Saul Ewing LLP.
Taxation: Layla J. Aksakal, Miller & Chevalier Chartered; George A. Hani, Miller & Chevalier Chartered; and Amber L. Mackenzie, Internal Revenue Service.
Tort Law: Lawrence E. Eiser, U.S. Department of Justice; and Nicholas S. McConnell, Jackson & Campbell, P.C.
Bosco Replaces Curto on Bar’s Board of Governors
On June 10 the D.C. Bar Board of Governors voted to elect Rodney J. Bosco, director of Gnarus Advisors LLC, to fill its nonlawyer board vacancy for a three-year term beginning July 1. Bosco will be replacing Sabine Curto, senior director of administration at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, who has reached her term limit.
“My service on Bar committees and programs over the past 10 years, such as the Attorney/Client Arbitration Board and the Clients’ Security Fund Study Committee, has been richly rewarding and has allowed me to see how valuable the services of the Bar are to both the legal community and to the public,” Bosco said. “I am honored to join the Board of Governors and I look forward to continuing my work with Bar staff and leadership, through leveraging the skills and perspectives I have gained as a consulting economist to address the opportunities and challenges that await the Bar.”
Bosco has provided advisory and expert testimony services in adversarial settings for more than three decades and specializes in assessing the financial impact associated with commercial disputes.
Bosco received his BA in economics from Boston College and his MA in economics from the University of Michigan. He also holds professional certifications in business valuation, financial forensics, and fraud examination.—K.A.
CLE Program’s ‘Objection’ Course Wins Professional Excellence Award
The Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) has selected the D.C. Bar Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program as the recipient of its Award of Professional Excellence in the best program category for the course “Objection! Objection! Making and Responding to Objections.” This and other award-winning projects will be featured during the “ACLEA’s Best” showcase on August 5 at the association’s Annual Meeting in Boston.
“I was thrilled to learn that we had received this recognition from our peers,” CLE Program Director Lalla Shishkevish said. “The ACLEA awards selection process is rigorous and they look for the best in CLE. We knew our course was effective and could compete with the best in the CLE world, but to win the top honor from among all the great programs throughout the U.S. and Canada was really exciting.”
D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Macaluso and trial attorney and law professor Daria J. Zane, who serve as course cochairs, drew on their experiences and observations in the courtroom in developing course materials, which provide an entertaining and engaging way to teach lawyers about objections.
The two-hour course utilizes a game show format modeled after “Jeopardy!” as well as a polling responder system to help attendees practice making and responding to objections. Attendees who provide correct responses are awarded with different size candy bars, based on the level of difficulty of each question.
The CLE Program will offer another session of “Objection! Objection! Making and Responding to Objections” from 6 to 8:15 p.m. on October 29 at the D.C. Bar Conference Center, 1101 K Street NW, first floor. For more information, contact the CLE Office at 202-626-3488 or visit us online.—D.O.
D.C. Bar Foundation Awards $600,000 in Private Grants
The D.C. Bar Foundation has awarded $600,000 in legal services grants in support of 20 civil legal services providers in the District of Columbia that serve low-income and underrepresented residents.
“The Board of the Bar Foundation is pleased that we could add $600,000 to the ability of civil legal service providers to undertake their important work. This is an important supplement to the $3.4 million that we disbursed earlier this year for the Access to Justice Grants program,” said Marc L. Fleischaker, president of the Bar Foundation’s board of directors. “We will continue to work hard so this support can continue to expand in the years ahead.”
The Bar Foundation received 26 grant applications requesting more than $1 million in funding. The organizations provide legal services in areas such as employment law, family matters, housing, immigration, and public benefits. This year’s grant recipients include the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs’ DC Prisoners’ Project, which received the most money at $100,000; Bread for the City; Ayuda; D.C. Employment Justice Center; Whitman-Walker Health; and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.
To see a full list of grantees, visit the Bar Foundation’s Web site at www.dcbarfoundation.org.—K.A.
Bar Honors Judges at Reception; Bishop Receives 2014 Scoutt Prize
The D.C. Bar hosted its 2014 Judicial Reception at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center where it honored four judges who have retired or taken senior status in the past year.
D.C. Court of Appeals Judge Kathryn A. Oberly, D.C. Superior Court Judges A. Franklin Burgess Jr. and Natalia Combs Greene, and U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Royce C. Lamberth received special recognition for their service to the bench.
The event also featured the presentation of the 2014 Jerrold Scoutt Prize to James D. Bishop, director of the Catholic Charities Legal Network of the Archdiocese of Washington. The prize is given annually by the District of Columbia Bar Foundation to a public interest attorney who has devoted a significant amount of his or her career to working with the District’s low-income residents by providing direct legal services to those in need.
When Susan Hoffman, vice president of the D.C. Bar Foundation and partner at Crowell & Moring LLP, asked colleagues to describe Bishop in one word, the responses included “peacemaker,” “compassionate,” and “saintly.”
Hoffman said Bishop has gone above and beyond in his work as a public interest lawyer. Hoffman shared a story of how Bishop once offered to take a client in a landlord–tenant issue to a hospital to pick up her child and drive both of them home. He even bought coloring books and crayons for the child. Upon leaving the hospital, Bishop noticed a handful of prescriptions for the child, and on the way to the client’s house he stopped at a pharmacy to have them filled.
“It is indeed a privilege to be recognized for my work in increasing the access of low-income people to pro bono legal services in the Washington area,” Bishop said in accepting the award.—D.O.
D.C. Law Students in Court Honors Tom Williamson, Heather Pinckney
The D.C. Law Students in Court (LSIC) recognized Thomas S. Williamson Jr., senior counsel at Covington & Burling LLP, and Heather Pinckney, a partner at Harden & Pinckney, PLLC, for their contributions and dedication to public service at its fourth annual Celebration of Service Tribute and Reception.
Williamson, former president of the D.C. Bar, received the Celebration of Service Award for his commitment to and efforts in representing low-income and underrepresented residents in the District of Columbia.
Williamson praised the importance of the organization’s work in assisting indigent individuals in need of legal services by pairing them with law students participating in LSIC. “LSIC is so special because it affords law students the opportunity to balance the power scales in favor of equal justice under the law,” he said.
Pinckney, who worked with LSIC while a student at The George Washington University Law School, was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Before establishing her own firm, Pinckney served as deputy trial chief for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.
In her remarks, Pinckney reflected on her career in public service and having the ability to represent underprivileged clients in the District, where she grew up. “There is no greater honor, in my opinion, than being able to stand next to a client and say, ‘Heather Pinckney on behalf of…’” she said.
In addition to the presentation of awards, LSIC Executive Director Moses Cook announced that the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law will be joining the consortium of law schools involved with LSIC. With UDC, there will now be six area law schools participating in LSIC, where students gain practical experience by providing quality legal representation, assistance, and counseling to low-income clients in the District.—D.O.
Bar Seeks Candidates for Various Committee, Board Vacancies
The D.C. Bar Board of Governors is seeking candidates for appointment in the fall to various committees. The deadline for submitting application materials is Friday, September 5.
Standing Committees: Community Economic Development Pro Bono Project Advisory, Continuing Legal Education, Election Board, Lawyer Assistance, Leadership Development, Membership, Practice Management Service, Pro Bono, Publications, Regulations/Rules/Board Procedures, Rules of Professional Conduct Review, and Technology.
Committees With Nonlawyer Designees: Community Economic Development Pro Bono Project Advisory, Lawyer Assistance, Membership, Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP), Practice Management Service, and Technology.
Additionally, the Bar is seeking candidates to fill vacancies on the NLSP and Committee on Nominations. The deadline to apply for these vacancies is Friday, October 3.
NLSP: The Board of Governors is accepting applications from D.C. Bar members who are interested in serving on the NLSP board of directors. Candidates must be licensed attorneys who are supportive of the Legal Services Corporation Act and have an interest in, and knowledge of, the delivery of quality legal services to the poor. The NLSP board is required to attempt to reflect the diversity of the NLSP client population in its recommendations to the Bar’s Board of Governors.
Committee on Nominations: The Bar is accepting candidate résumés for the seven-member Committee on Nominations. This body is appointed each year in accordance with the Bar’s bylaws and is responsible for nominating candidates for the Bar’s officer and Board of Governors positions for the next Bar election. Any active Bar member who is not a Board of Governors officer or member and who has not served on the Committee on Nominations during the past three years is eligible to apply.
To apply for a board or committee opening, please submit a résumé and a cover letter stating the committee(s) or board on which you would like to serve and a description of work or volunteer experiences relevant to the position(s) sought. Applications that do not include the requisite cover letter with a description of relevant experience will not be considered. Leadership experience with other D.C. Bar committees, voluntary bar associations, or the Bar’s sections is highly desirable. Descriptions of the committees can be found online.
Submit materials by e-mail to email@example.com or by mail to D.C. Bar Executive Office, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005-4210.
Disciplinary Conference Focuses on Innovation Beyond United States
The District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility held its 41st annual disciplinary conference this spring with the theme “Innovations in Lawyer Regulation in Australia and the United Kingdom: What Can We Learn?”
The conference featured a discussion on the regulatory framework in the UK and Australia, led by Steve Mark, chair of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists who served as Legal Services Commissioner of the Office of Legal Services from 1994 to 2013. The office receives complaints against lawyers and judges in New South Wales and seeks to improve the ethical behavior of lawyers.
According to Mark, one of the first things he did when he was appointed as commissioner was to identify the purpose of his office. He decided that the office’s goals were to reduce complaints against lawyers within a context of client protection, increase professionalism of lawyers, and provide support for the rule of law.
“My job was actually to do myself out of a job,” Mark said as he explained the role of the Office of Legal Services as a co-regulator of the legal profession and how it worked.
He also talked about alternative business structures in Australia in which legal practices are incorporated with other legal services providers who may or may not be legal practitioners. The creation of alternative business structures introduced a number of unique regulatory issues for the legal profession.—K.A.
43 Firms Raise More Than $4M to Aid Legal Services Providers
The District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission has honored 43 law firms that participated in the Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign by donating a benchmark percentage of their annual revenue to local legal services providers. Together the firms donated more than $4 million to organizations that serve the District of Columbia’s low-income population. The amount represents a more than $1 million increase for all participating firms that joined the campaign.
“We are extremely grateful to these firms for their extraordinary generosity and their unwavering commitment to the needs of vulnerable District residents. These funds make it possible for thousands of District residents to have an advocate by their side when their most basic human needs are in jeopardy,” said Peter Edelman, chair of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.
Edelman also said that for the second year in a row, the level of private giving was roughly equal to the D.C. government’s appropriation for legal services.
In his speech, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez thanked the participating firms for their “remarkable work.”
“I feel that the District of Columbia—the Bar here, the legal community, the business community—is among the most progressive in the country. And our capacity to expand opportunities is truly remarkable,” Perez said.
The Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign recognizes firms at three different levels. At the platinum level are firms that donated .11 percent of their D.C. office revenue to help fund the legal services community, at the gold level are firms that contributed .09 percent, and at the silver level are firms that contributed .075 percent.—K.A.
New 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 the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct and 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 onsite fee is $279. Courses will be held August 12, September 13, October 7, November 8, and December 9. Advanced registration is encouraged.
For more information or to register online, visit www.dcbar.org/membership/mandatory-course.cfm.
Sandman, Taifa Recognized With Wiley A. Branton Award
On June 18 James Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation and former D.C. Bar president, and Nkechi Taifa, senior policy analyst at Open Society Foundations, received the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs’ 2014 Wiley A. Branton Award at the Grand Hyatt Washington.
The award, named in honor of civil rights attorney Wiley A. Branton Sr., recognizes members of the legal and civil rights advocacy community who have demonstrated a deep commitment to pro bono services.
Sandman said he was honored to receive the award named after Branton, who was the principle lawyer in the case that desegregated the Little Rock Public Schools in Arkansas. “Wiley Branton is a hero,” Sandman said. “I’m no Wiley Branton. I’m no hero.”
After leaving his 30-year career at a big law firm to enter public service, Sandman said he is just starting the second half of his career, and that he is still “young enough to have time to earn” the award.
In her remarks before presenting the award to Taifa, retired Judge Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit called Taifa “more than an armchair general” and lauded her contributions to addressing critical civil rights issues.
“It may take a village to raise a child,” Judge Wald said, “but it takes an army led by someone like [Taifa] . . . to reform our antiquated, and sometimes vindictive, criminal justice system.”
The luncheon also featured the presentation of the Vincent Reed Education Award to Karen Grisez, special counsel at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and Joseph DeSantis, coordinator in the managing attorney’s office at the firm. DeSantis and Grisez were recognized for leading their firm’s partnership with School Without Walls Senior High School, bringing a variety of initiatives, including tutoring, writing workshops, and jury education programs, among many others.
Donald Kahl, executive director of the Equal Rights Center, received the Alfred McKenzie Award for his work in civil rights cases and his leadership of the center. Kahl was instrumental in developing unique legal strategies to address the failure of developers and builders to comply with requirements making new apartment buildings accessible to people with disabilities.—D.O.
Five Men Graduate From Superior Court’s Drug Intervention Program
Amid cheers and shouts of congratulations, five men donning colorful graduation gowns walked to the front of the courtroom at the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse on May 21 to be recognized for having successfully completed the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program, otherwise known as Drug Court.
Presided by D.C. Superior Court Judge Gregory E. Jackson, Drug Court was developed for nonviolent, substance-abusing defendants who volunteer to participate in the program in lieu of traditional criminal justice system case processing. Participants must complete four phases that include random drug tests and routine appearances at the court.
At the ceremony, Cathy Odom, who graduated from Drug Court in 2007, shared her story of recovery and how the program allowed her to overcome her addiction. She said her experience with Drug Court and its staff made her learn more about herself.
“[Drug Court staff] showed me I wasn’t a bad person, I just did bad things,” Odom said. “[The program] planted the seed to let me know that I could do this, that I could do this without drugs.”
Guest speaker Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, commended the graduates for completing their journey with Drug Court. Twenty-six years ago, Botticelli was in a very similar position to those gathered in the room. He struggled with addiction and was told by a judge that he could either continue down a destructive path or seek help and improve his life. He chose the latter and recently celebrated his 24th year of recovery.
“I am here to tell you that . . . we all make mistakes, all of us,” Botticelli said. “And we all should be given a chance to come back and to become productive members of society.”—D.O.
Civic Hackers, Government Lawyer Team Up to ‘Free’ D.C. Code
It all started when Tom MacWright, a coder and civic hacker, attempted to obtain an online copy of the District of Columbia Official Code to integrate the District’s bicycle laws into an application he was developing. He found that, only a year ago, the D.C. Code was available to the public in two forms: the hard-bound, physical copy available for purchase for $850 (but also found at D.C. libraries), and the copyright-protected, online version available through LexisNexis, which cannot be legally downloaded or copied. There was no way for MacWright to fully integrate the District’s laws into his app without violating terms of service or copyright law.
MacWright scrapped the plan to build his app and set out to obtain a digital copy of the D.C. Code, with the goal of making it available to anyone who wanted to view the District’s laws and giving people the ability to use them in developing apps. He contacted the D.C. Council and representatives at LexisNexis, which holds the contract to publish the D.C. Code online, to try and obtain a digital copy of the Code. He never received a response from LexisNexis, and D.C. Council officials stonewalled his requests for months.
“I kept saying, What’s the big deal? I mean, you can go to the library. You can just check out the book, and look on [the D.C. Council’s] Web portal,” said V. David Zvenyach, the Council’s general counsel, referring to his response to MacWright’s initial requests.
But the problem was not that MacWright could not access the D.C. Code, it was that the version published through LexisNexis actually blocked users from copying from it. The Code, or all of the District’s laws and regulations, was available online from a single, copyright-protected source.
Zvenyach eventually agreed to look into the District’s options and found that the timing was perfect. The Council’s contract with its former vendor, Westlaw, had expired in 2012. As part of that contract to publish the D.C. Code online, Westlaw was to provide the Council with a clean, copyright-free, digital version of the Code at the end of the term. The Council secured the clean copy from Westlaw and committed it to the public domain.
On the day he received the clean version, MacWright assembled a small unit of civic hackers, a group which works to create technological approaches to solving civic problems, to develop a simple, unofficial Code browser that is fully searchable, easy to navigate, and open to anyone. In a single day, the team built dccode.org/browser.
A Crucial Mix of Technology, Government
Zvenyach noticed how quickly MacWright and his team completed the browser and recognized the potential that coding skills held in improving individual lawyers’ jobs as well as in the wider legal profession. Zvenyach spent months learning how to code and now considers himself proficient. He has built an application that calculates when he must file legal briefs, and he even teaches other lawyers how to code, holding what he calls “armchair coding sessions” with colleagues.
After MacWright and Zvenyach teamed up to create the first open copy of the D.C. Code, the OpenGov Foundation got involved and launched its own unofficial version of the Code as part of its America Decoded project. The project aims to post laws and regulations across the United States online in a copyright-free format with embedded legal definitions to translate legal jargon.
Founded by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R–Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Seamus Kraft, former director of Digital Strategy and press secretary for the Oversight Committee, OpenGov Foundation is an open government advocacy group that uses technological solutions to improve access to government information.
“When we were looking as to where do we want to decode next, it was a natural fit,” said Kraft, who serves as executive director and vice chair of the organization’s board. “D.C. has Dave [Zvenyach], so it has a user on the inside. It is a leader, nationally, on open government and open data issues, and we happen to be headquartered here, so it was a pretty seamless fit as far as getting D.C. Decoded off the ground.”
At this time, the only official copies of the D.C. Code that can be relied upon for legal purposes are the hard-bound, physical copy and the online copy, which are available through LexisNexis. Zvenyach hopes that in the near future, in addition to the official hard-bound version, a version of the Code will be made available online—and designated as official—in a copyright-free format open for developers and independent citizens to reference and use as they please, including in legal matters.
An Effort to ‘Free’ the Code
A part of Zvenyach’s efforts to create an official, copyright-free online copy of the Code has been the Cranch Project, whose goal is to create a digital ecosystem that is paired with the D.C. government to keep the Code accurate and up to date, with near real-time updates as legislation is created and passed.
For MacWright, Zvenyach, Kraft, and the wider community of civic hackers involved with efforts to “free” the D.C. Code, the motivation has been to publish reliable and accessible government data for citizens so that they may better understand the laws governing them and the opportunities and methods they have to interact with their government.
Traci Hughes, director of the D.C. Office of Open Government, has been a supporting force in the effort to make the District’s laws more widely accessible. “If you want people to abide by the laws, but yet you’re not giving them access and the ability to understand them, that’s a true disconnect,” Hughes said. “Particularly in this day and age where we can order coffee with an app, we should be able to do something as simple as looking up our laws and be able to understand what we’re reading.”—D.O.