Washington Lawyer

Legal Beat

From Washington Lawyer, June 2009

By Kathryn Alfisi  and Steven J. Stauffer

Fugere, Longtime Advocate for the Homeless, Receives Brennan Award
The D.C. Bar will honor Patricia “Patty” Mullahy Fugere, a cofounder of The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, as the 2009 recipient of the William J. Brennan Jr. Award—the Bar’s highest honor—for her extraordinary efforts in the pursuit of equal justice.

Fugere will be recognized during the Bar’s 2009 Annual Business Meeting and Awards Dinner on June 25 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW.

“I was deeply honored and at a total loss for words when [Bar President] Bob Spagnoletti called to tell me about the award,” Fugere said. “What an incredible blessing it is to be part of a legal community that embraces the importance of this work, especially at a time when life holds so many challenges for our clients and our programs. It gives me renewed hope to have such a wonderful affirmation of our efforts to make justice and inclusion a reality for people in need.”

As executive director of the legal clinic since 1991, Fugere has been responsible for its overall management, including fundraising and advocacy focused on affordable housing and shelter-related issues. Fugere also represents the organization in the District of Columbia Consortium of Legal Services Providers.

Prior to joining the clinic, Fugere spent seven years in private practice where she specialized in low-income housing and homelessness issues. Currently, she is an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Through the years Fugere has been a strong advocate for the homeless, serving on the Calvary Women’s Shelter from 1983 to 1988, and the Coalition on Financial Accountability from 1986 to 1989.

Fugere also serves on the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, established by the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2005 to address the unmet civil legal services needs of low- and moderate-income residents in the District.

The William J. Brennan Jr. Award is presented by the Bar every other year in recognition of individual excellence, achievement, and commitment in the fields of civil rights and individual liberties.

The 2007 recipient of the award was James W. Klein of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.

During the Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner the Bar also will present the following awards: The Frederick B. Abramson Award to the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program’s Tax Sale Redemption Project; Best Bar Project Award to the D.C. Bar Building Committee; Pro Bono Law Firm Award to Jones Day; Pro Bono Lawyer Award to Jenner & Block LLP partner David W. DeBruin; Best Section Award to the Health Law Section; and Best Section Community Outreach Project to the Litigation Section for its 10th Annual Youth Law Fair.

To learn more about the Annual Business Meeting and Awards Dinner, see pages 26–27, contact Verniesa Allen at 202-737-4700 or annualmeeting@dcbar.org, or visit www.dcbar.org/annual_meeting.—F.H.

Honoring Judges and Culture
The D.C. Bar Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section's 19th Annual Judicial Reception. Courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of IndonesiaCelebrants at the D.C. Bar Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section’s 19th Annual Judicial Reception on April 29 gather at the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia to honor past and present Probate Division judges. More than 150 people were in attendance for an evening of Indonesian cuisine and culture, which included speeches, gifts, prayers, and a Balinese dance.

Bar Foundation Awards $3.1 Million to Legal Services Providers
On March 31 the District of Columbia Bar Foundation announced that $3.13 million in publicly funded grants will be made in fiscal year 2009–2010 to civil legal services providers dedicated to helping poor and disadvantaged residents in the District.

This is the third year in a row that the Council of the District of Columbia has appropriated funds to expand programs for lawyers working on issues in economically challenged communities. Three areas of service, identified by the D.C. Council, will continue to be funded in fiscal year 2009–2010: (a) increasing legal services in underserved neighborhoods, (b) increasing legal services for housing-related issues, and (c) creating a shared legal interpreter bank. The foundation is tasked with administering these funds.

The grant recipients include four new awardees: the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center’s Housing and Community Justice Project; D.C. Employment Justice Center’s Bilingual Worker Rights Project; Legal Counsel for the Elderly’s Alternatives to Eviction; and the USCRI Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children’s D.C. Foster Children Project. A full list of this year’s recipients can be found at
the foundation’s Web site at www.dcbarfoundation.org.

The funds will help ensure that access to justice is within reach for people across the District during the current financial downturn, said D.C. Bar Foundation Executive Director Katherine L. “Katia” Garrett.

“The funds appropriated by the City Council provide a lifeline to legal help in some of the most deeply underserved neighborhoods and communities in our city. The economy has hit these communities hard, and it has dramatically diminished other long-standing sources of funding for legal services,” she said.

Additionally, income from Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), for example, which provides additional funding to the foundation for local legal services, is down by at least 50 percent, Garrett said.

The D.C. Bar Foundation administers the IOLTA program and receives interest earned on these accounts, which it distributes to legal aid offices in the District of Columbia. The diminishing IOLTA funds will dramatically reduce the operating grants the foundation makes to providers in June, Garrett said. “We’ll make grants, but [we] don’t know yet the precise level of funding, other than it will be roughly half of what was granted last year.”—S.S.

Dues Statements En Route; Deadline for Payment Is July 1
The D.C. Bar has sent its members their annual dues statements for fiscal year 2009–2010.

Dues amounts are $224 for active members, $126 for inactive members, and $113 for judicial 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 payment of dues is July 1. 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. As an added convenience, the Bar now accepts American Express.

E-mail addresses can be checked by visiting www.dcbar.org, selecting the “Find a Member” button at the top right side of the page, and locating the individual record. If the e-mail address is incorrect, corrections may be sent to memberservices@dcbar.org.

Dues not received postmarked by August 17 will be assessed a late fee of $30. Members whose Bar dues and/or late fee, if applicable, are not received postmarked by September 30 automatically will be suspended.

Members are encouraged to confirm all of their personal information on the dues statement, including e-mail addresses.

D.C. Bar Election In Progress
The D.C. Bar annual election is underway for positions on the Bar’s Board of Governors for the 2009–2010 term. The nominees are running for the positions of president-elect, secretary, and treasurer; five vacancies for three-year terms on the Bar’s Board of Governors; and three seats in the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association, one of which is reserved for a candidate under the age of 35.

The names of the candidates appear in the election coverage article on pages 36–41 of the May 2009 issue of Washington Lawyer. Candidate biographies also may be viewed online at www.dcbar.org/elections.

Ballots and instructions were distributed to all active D.C. Bar members and made available on the Bar’s Web site on April 30. Members have until June 5 to vote.

Results of the election will be announced on the Bar’s Web site and at the Bar’s Annual Business Meeting and Awards Dinner on June 25 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW.

Concurrently, the D.C. Bar Sections Office has announced nominees for vacancies on the steering committees of the Bar’s 21 sections. Election is determined by ballot among section members, who have until June 1 to vote. The Sections Office will announce election results the week of June 15.

Holder Garners Houston Award at Washington Bar Event
United States Attorney General Eric L. Holder Jr. was a guest speaker at the Washington Bar Association’s (WBA) Law Day dinner on May 2, where he received the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit Award.

Charles Hamilton Houston was a founding member of the WBA who served as vice dean of Howard Law School and general counsel to the NAACP. The award is presented to an individual who demonstrates a commitment to Houston’s ideals and jurisprudence.

Upon accepting his award, Holder, the first African American to serve as U.S. attorney general, took the opportunity to talk about the work that still lies ahead in the struggle for true equality.

“This year in particular, so soon after President Obama’s historic election, there is an understandable temptation to think that the struggle for full equality has finally been won, to conclude that we have finally achieved equal justice for all. But, my friends, we must resist that temptation. Our significant accomplishments notwithstanding, our work is not yet done,” Holder said upon accepting the award.

“Building a more just society will require the commitment and sacrifice of men and women who embody the spirit and character of Charles Hamilton Houston; attaining a more perfect union will require people from every background and corner of this country to do their part; and finishing the work of Charles Hamilton Houston will require us to face up to the challenges and controversies that have divided us and stalled our progress for far too long. I don’t view these challenges as obstacles; I view them as opportunities for change.”

Holder also spoke about creating a more equitable system of criminal justice that, for instance, doles out the same punishment for [possession of] cocaine regardless of its form. He said the Obama administration’s goal is “to ensure that our sentencing system is tough and predictable but also fair.”

Holder knew many of the people in attendance at the dinner. Starting in 1988 he served as an associate judge of the Superior Court for the District of Columbia for several years. He said the dinner was something of a homecoming for him, telling the audience that “to know that all of you have my back is especially gratifying.”

The annual Law Day event also featured greetings from the heads of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; United States District Court for the District of Columbia; District of Columbia Court of Appeals; Superior Court for the District of Columbia; District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings; as well as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The evening’s activities also included the presentation of the President’s Recognition Award to John Crump for his 30 years of service as the WBA’s executive director.—K.A.

D.C. Bar Headquarters Has Relocated
Effective Tuesday, May 26, the D.C. Bar’s headquarters will begin operations at its new location—1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005-4210—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 Sections 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.

D.C. Courts Hold Open House
In observance of Law Day on May 1, the District of Columbia Courts held an open house to allow the public to get a better understanding of the court system and foster trust and confidence in the courts.

Members of the public viewed the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse, which houses the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and the newly reopened Old Courthouse that now houses the D.C. Appeals Court and the Board on Professional Responsibility, among other offices. The event also featured activities such as a mock trial for elementary and high school students, mock mediations, and presentations about wills, the mental health diversion court, bankruptcy and debt management, family concerns for senior citizens, and the urgent care clinic.

Throughout the day, visitors took advantage of Court of Appeals and Superior Court information booths, as well as legal services information booths where people could talk to representatives from nonprofits such as Bread for the City, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program, Whitman-Walker Clinic, and many more.

During a judges town hall meeting, leaders of the Superior Court’s civil, probate, criminal, and family court divisions spoke about what each division does, and then answered questions from the public. D.C. Appeals Court Chief Judge Eric T. Washington also spoke at the town hall meeting.

“I’m so pleased to see so many of you out here today so that you can see how we administer justice,” Judge Washington said.

Washington discussed what goes on at the Court of Appeals and talked about some recent developments, including the move to the Old Courthouse at the end of April. (There will be an official opening celebration in the coming weeks.)—K.A.

Servants of Justice
Servants of Justice Awards Dinner. From Left, Martin Klepper, Anthony Herman, Julia E. Judish, Jonathan M. Smith, Marian Siegel, and Kurt L. Schmoke. Courtesy of Hyon Smith Photography.The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia held its 2009 Servant of Justice Awards Dinner on April 21, where it recognized honorees for their work in addressing the housing needs of low-income District residents. In attendance were, from left, Martin Klepper, Legal Aid Society board president; Anthony Herman, honoree and partner at Covington & Burling LLP; Julia E. Judish, honoree and counsel at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP; Jonathan M. Smith, Legal Aid Society executive director; Marian Siegel, executive director of Housing Counseling Services, Inc.; and Kurt L. Schmoke, honoree and dean of Howard University School of Law.—K.A.

BPR Conference Hosts Experts on Federal Disciplinary Enforcement
The Board on Professional Responsibility (BPR) of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals met with its federal counterparts on May 5 to discuss their missions and workings during the BPR’s 36th Annual Disciplinary Conference.

Held at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, the event featured a dinner, the distribution of the BPR annual report, and a panel discussion titled “Disciplinary Enforcement in the Federal Government.” The forum was moderated by Patricia G. Butler, partner at Howrey LLP and chair of the BPR Hearing Committee Eleven.

Speakers Jennifer J. Barnes, associate general counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR); Mary Patrice Brown, acting counsel for the Office of Professional Responsibility under Justice Department; Thomas J. Karr, assistant general counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; and Kenneth E. Kellner, deputy chief counsel/director of investigations and enforcement for the U.S. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct discussed their respective agencies’ standards for enforcing federal disciplinary requirements.

Kellner talked about the legislative self-disciplinary process, the authority for which flows directly from Article 1, Section 5, of the U.S. Constitution. Each house of the federal legislature is empowered by the Constitution to determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of its members, expel a member.

Since only the House itself can remove a sitting member, a congressional representative can legally remain in office when jailed, although that rarely happens, Kellner said. However, with House members standing for reelection every two years, the scandal of being found guilty of a crime—and subsequently jailed—usually is followed by either resignation or failure to win another term.

Barnes, on the other hand, outlined her office’s statutory authority to investigate and prosecute complaints concerning private immigration attorney misconduct before the nation’s approximately 55 immigration courts as well as the Board of Immigration Appeals. That authority is rooted in Title 8, Section 1362, of the U.S. Code, and was transferred to the EOIR by the Justice Department in July 2000 from the now defunct U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). (The INS was dissolved in March 2003 upon the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.)

The EOIR, staffed by only three people, handles approximately 300 to 400 complaints each year relating to criminal, unethical, unprofessional, or frivolous conduct by attorneys, sanctions for which can range from a warning letter or informal admonition to formal disciplinary proceedings seeking expulsion, suspension, or censure.—S.S.

BPR Relocates
The Board on Professional Responsibility has moved. Its new address is: Board on Professional Responsibility, Historic Courthouse, 430 E Street NW, Suite 138, Washington, DC 20001.

Reach D.C. Bar staff writer Kathryn Alfisi at kalfisi@dcbar.org.