Legal Beat: News and Notes on the D.C. Bar Legal Community
From Washington Lawyer, November 2009
By Kathryn Alfisi and Thai Phi Stone
D.C. Bar Seeks Nominations for 2010 Beatrice Rosenberg Award
The D.C. Bar is calling for nominations for the 2010 Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service.
The award is presented annually to a D.C. Bar member whose career exemplifies the highest order of public service. In keeping with the exceptional accomplishments of Ms. Rosenberg, nominees should have demonstrated outstanding professional judgment throughout long-term government careers, worked intentionally to share their expertise as mentors to younger government lawyers, and devoted significant personal energies to public or community service.
The Bar established the award in honor of Beatrice “Bea” Rosenberg who dedicated 35 years of her career to government service and performed with distinction at the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She also served as a member of the Board on Professional Responsibility.
The 2010 presentation of the Rosenberg Award will be made on April 9 at the D.C. Judicial and Bar Conference’s keynote luncheon. The conference is scheduled for April 8 and 9. In 2009 the award was presented to Catherine G. O’Sullivan, chief of the Appellate Section for the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department.
Nominees must be members of the D.C. Bar and current or former employees of any local, state, or federal government agency.
Submissions must be received by October 30. Nominations may be submitted online at www.dcbar.org/rosenbergaward or in writing to Katherine A. Mazzaferri, Executive Director, District of Columbia Bar, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005-4210.
For more information on the Beatrice Rosenberg Award, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.—K.A.
Thanks A Million
The D.C. Bar Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program held its annual Faculty Appreciation and Awards ceremony on September 9, honoring faculty members (from left) Patrick J. Attridge, Barry E. Cohen, Kate Sylvester, Gene Shipp, Ronald A. Schechter, and Emilio Jaksetic. The honorees received special recognition from D.C. Bar President Kim M. Keenan (fifth from left) for their 15 years of excellent service. While thanking all CLE Program faculty, Keenan noted that they had donated $1 million worth of time over the past year teaching more than 4,000 students. Not pictured were honorees Jody Beck, L. Barry Boss, Patrick J. Coyne, William E. Davis, Terrence C. McShane, Dwight D. Murray, L. Jackson Thomas II, and Theodore C. Whitehouse.—T.S.
Children’s Law Center Honors Attorney General Holder
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was honored with the 2009 Distinguished Child Advocate Award by the Children’s Law Center (CLC) at its ninth annual Helping Children Soar celebration and benefit on September 30 at the Kennedy Center Roof Terrace Restaurant & Bar.
“I’m really humbled by this award because I’m so committed to CLC’s vision of a future where every child has a safe home, a meaningful education, and a healthy mind and body. As a prosecutor and a judge, I have seen the importance of high-quality legal services. When children have high-quality representation, their outcomes are much better,” Holder told the audience.
As the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Holder created the first domestic violence unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also launched the U.S. Department of Justice’s Children Exposed to Violence Initiative and the Safe Start Initiative during his time as U.S. deputy attorney general.
CLC Executive Director Judith Sandalow said the award was also a personal thank you to Holder for all the strategic advice and counsel he had provided for CLC before he became attorney general.
Helping Children Soar is also a fundraising event for CLC, and this year it raised more than $45,000, which was beyond the $40,000 benefit goal.
“Tonight is really our opportunity to celebrate the children who have triumphed over adversity this year and the many people who have helped them along the way,” Sandalow told those in attendance.
The CLC assists low-income children who have special education and health needs and those in the child welfare system. CLC aids children though various programs such as the Family Permanency Project, Health Access Project, and Guardian Ad Litem Program, as well as by working with children who have witnessed domestic violence and providing advocacy, training, and technical assistance.—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/bar-resources/publications.
CLE Brings Back Two-Part Real Estate Litigation Series
The D.C. Bar Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program held its annual series “Issues You Need to Consider in Litigating and Trying Real Estate Cases” in September, providing participants with important, practical information about real estate cases through the use of materials, demonstrations, and lectures.
Stephen O. Hessler, principal at Hessler & Associates, Chartered, and Vernon W. Johnson III, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, served as faculty for the two-part series.
Part one of the series, held on September 16, introduced attendees to the basic concepts behind real estate cases and covered topics such as adverse possession, easements, filing suits, nuisance, partition, and statute of fraud.
Part two, held on September 23, focused on discovery needs and strategies, exhibits and preserving the record, persuasive techniques, and pretrial procedures. The series aimed to provide participants with “the building blocks so [they] could get to the point where [they] can put all the pieces together and present them to judge and jury,” Hessler said.
Hessler and Johnson started part two by giving mock opening statements for a trial based upon an actual real estate case one of them had handled.
The series also looked at the basics of defending against certain foreclosure claims. Participants were given a binder of materials containing statutes, sample documents, and complaints relating to foreclosure in the District of Columbia.
Course books and udio of the series are available for sale by calling 202-626-3488 or visiting www.dcbar.org/cle and clicking on “Course Materials.”—K.A.
Handbook Helps Journalists Navigate D.C., Federal Courts
On September 23, the Council for Court Excellence (CCE) released the Journalists’ Handbook to the Courts in the District of Columbia, the first guide developed for legal reporters who cover the District and federal courts. The handbook highlights the unique nature of the local judicial system and aims to enhance reporting of the courts.
“We wanted to cover things that were not covered anywhere else,” said June Kress, executive director of CCE. The Journalists’ Handbook breaks down the structure of the District and federal courts and discusses topics such as accessing court records, dealing with gag orders, interviewing judges, observing court proceedings, and technology. It also contains key court and agency contact information, frequently asked questions for journalists, and a glossary of legal and court terminology.
The Journalists’ Handbook is the result of a two-year effort by a diverse cross-section of journalists, judges, court public information officers, media attorneys, and the civic community.
The project committee was led by CCE board members Lanny A. Breuer of Covington & Burling LLP (who served on the board from October 2007 to December 2008); Laura R. Handman of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; and Eric N. Lieberman, vice president and counsel at The Washington Post. Its members included Barry Coburn, Coburn & Coffman PLLC; Lucy Dalglish, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Jerald N. Fritz, Allbritton Communications Company; Leah H. Gurowitz, District of Columbia Courts; Ronald C. Jessamy, Law Office of Ronald C. Jessamy, PLLC; Lee Levine, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP; Lee F. Satterfield, chief judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Sheldon L. Snook, United States District Court for the District of Columbia; Arabella Teal, Office of Administrative Hearings; and Kurt Wimmer, Covington & Burling LLP.
Copies of the Journalists’ Handbook may be obtained from CCE. To keep the guide fresh and accessible to handheld device users, the handbook also is available online at www.courtexcellence.org/PublicationsNew/
NLCHP Honors Homeless Advocates at 11th McKinney–Vento Awards
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) held its 11th Annual McKinney–Vento Awards dinner on September 24, honoring America Online vice chair and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, among others, for his work on behalf of the homeless.
Leonsis received the Stewart B. McKinney Award for producing the documentary film Kicking It about the Homeless World Cup. Leonsis shared the award with film director Susan Koch and executive producers Rick Allen (SnagFilms), Kat Byles (Homeless World Cup), Keith Clinkscales (ESPN), Jack Davies (Venture Philanthropy Partners), Raul Fernandez (ObjectVideo), and Shelia C. Johnson (Salamander Hospitality, LLC).
“It really shone a light on the humanity of people who are homeless,” Leonsis said of the film, which he considers a work of “filmanthropy,” a phrase he coined to describe films that bring attention to important issues, activates discussion, recruits new volunteers, and raises funds for the cause.
U.S. Representatives Maxine Waters (D–Calif.) and Keith Ellison (D–Minn.) received the Bruce F. Vento Award, while WilmerHale LLP was honored with the Pro Bono Counsel Award.
In addition to the presentation of awards, the event also marked the 20th anniversary of NLCHP, which serves as the legal arm of the nationwide movement to end homelessness. It utilizes impact litigation, policy advocacy, and public education to address homelessness at the local, state, and national levels.
NLCHP Founder and Executive Director Maria Foscarinis said she had mixed emotions about the organization’s milestone. While she is proud of what NLCHP has accomplished in the past two decades, she regrets that there still is such a need for its services.
“We have so much more to do, but I believe that with increased public attention to the problem of homelessness, we can have a new opportunity to make change,” she said.—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 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. The next course dates for 2009 are November 7 and December 8. 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.
Brookings Forum Previews High Court’s Most Anticipated Cases
With a new justice in place and a full docket, the U.S. Supreme Court began its 2009–2010 term on October 5 and will hear a wide range of cases that may have far-reaching implications on individual rights.
On October 7 the Brookings Institution examined the major arguments before the Court—from campaign finance to dog fighting videos—during its Judicial Issues Forum, a series of public discussions on jurisprudence and the role of the courts.
Benjamin Wittes, a fellow and research director in public law at Brookings, moderated a panel of leading scholars and practitioners, which included Orin Kerr, a professor at The George Washington University Law School; Randolph Moss, a partner at WilmerHale LLP; and Stuart Taylor Jr., a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings and columnist for the National Journal.
The panelists highlighted cases they believe to be the most anticipated and important this year, among them Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which pits political speech against free speech. At the center of the battle is the 90-minute film Hillary: The Movie, produced by Citizens United and partially funded by corporate money. The film was banned by the commission. The case poses the question of whether the film is subject to restrictions under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, or protected under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. The ruling, experts say, could cause a major overhaul of campaign finance reform.
Kerr, Moss, Taylor, and Wittes also debated possible outcomes in United States v. Comstock, United States v. Stevens, Bilski v. Doll, and McDonald v. City of Chicago. Comstock takes a look at the limits of federal power, in particular whether Congress has the authority to civilly commit sexual offenders after serving their federal prison terms. Stevens, on the other hand, revolves around a dog fighting video and if a new exception to the First Amendment should be made to prohibit the sale of videos depicting animal cruelty.
The Court, in Bilski, will rule on whether business processes and procedures are patentable; deliberate on a challenge to Chicago’s ban on handguns in McDonald; and take up two cases in Florida that review sentences of life without parole for juveniles.
With so many cases to hear, how important are the Court’s rulings to the everyday life of the average American? “Supreme Court decisions are like tectonic plates moving under the Earth,” Taylor said. “You don’t notice any difference in your life right away, but it may lead to an earthquake or continents splitting apart. That’s why we pay so much attention to it.”—T.S.
Marlon Quintanilla Paz, president of the Hispanic Bar Association (HBA-DC) of the District of Columbia, joins Judge Vanessa Ruiz of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals as she was being honored as a Latina Leader by HBA-DC during a reception recognizing other Latina achievers on September 23.—K.A.
Kilpatrick Stockton Makes Strides Against Breast Cancer
People around the country may remember Brian Piccolo as a former running back for the Chicago Bears and subject of the movie Brian’s Song, but for David Zacks, a partner at Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, he was a suitemate and close friend at Wake Forest University. For nearly 40 years since Piccolo’s death in 1970, Zacks has been a staunch supporter of the American Cancer Society (ACS), getting his firm involved in the cause.
Over the years, Kilpatrick Stockton has donated about $800,000 to the ACS Patient Navigator Program, which helps patients, families, and caregivers navigate the many systems needed during their cancer journey. The firm’s lawyers also have provided free legal advice to indigent people with cancer.
On October 31 attorneys took an even more active role—literally—by slipping on sneakers for the Washington, D.C., Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at the Washington Nationals Ballpark. For the second year in a row, Kilpatrick Stockton was a flagship sponsor.
To raise awareness for the walk and to honor the ACS, Kilpatrick Stockton hosted a pre-walk reception on October 6 at the W Hotel. Bill Dorris, the firm’s comanaging partner, said, “Cancer touches everybody’s life, from our lawyers to our clients and the community. To be part of something so special, to raise money for such an important cause—well, that’s why we do it.”
Nearly 150 guests, including clients, firm attorneys, ACS dignitaries, and other flagship sponsors, were on hand to hear Paula Mohan, chief executive officer of the ACS South Atlantic Division, speak about the ongoing fight against breast cancer. Mohan recounted the day she found out her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer—her sister’s 50th birthday—and the months upon months of excruciating treatments.
“Because of you and what you do every day to help fight cancer, more lives are saved every year,” Mohan said. “Because of you, my sister is having another birthday.”—T.S.
Chief Judge Washington Delivers Lecture at Catholic University Law
District of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric T. Washington underscored the problems facing unrepresented litigants, who are growing in numbers nationwide, when he delivered the 41st Annual Pope John XXIII Lecture on September 15 at The Catholic University of America (CUA) Columbus School of Law.
“This ever-rising tide of litigants without lawyers is really a national phenomenon,” Washington said. “This trend is leading to an erosion of the public trust that our courthouses are open to all.”
Washington told the audience, mostly made up of CUA students, that the willingness of lawyers to participate in pro bono work can make a difference in addressing the problem, which is aggravated further by the current economic climate.
“All over the world, millions of people long for our system of justice. Unfortunately, millions of our citizens long for it, too,” he said. “I challenge you today to do whatever you can.”—K.A.
Off the Beat
Challenging Economy Breeds New Opportunities for Deferred Associates Across Town
Walk into any gathering among the younger legal community, and you’ll hear the stories. Did you read about the firm that made offers to only two of its summer associates? What about the person whose offer was rescinded because she hadn’t formally accepted yet? The most common tale, however, appears to be that of the deferred associate.
Across the nation, firms are asking first-year associates to delay their start dates anywhere from one month to indefinitely—some with large stipends, others with nothing. The reason? Bad economy.
“We feel a great deal of loyalty to our existing lawyers,” said David Mills, hiring manager at Dow Lohnes PLLC, which deferred seven associates for a full year. “We wanted to make sure we had enough work for our current associates and didn’t want to bring in a new class when there wasn’t as much work as there had been in the past.”
To compensate for the lack of work, some original deferrals are being pushed back even later. Reactions are scribbled on sites throughout the blogosphere. One person wrote, “I understand that firms are struggling and that work is drying up, but there has to be a better way than stringing us all along to the cliff’s edge.” Another comment simply read, “I’m scared.”
“I would be worried myself,” said Mills. “When we did this, there were some firms that were deferring for one, two, or three months. We decided, ‘Let’s do this for a year. Let’s make a commitment we think we can actually honor.’” The strategy appears to have eased fears.
Better Deferred Than Nothing
Keith Marshall, one of the firm’s deferred associates who currently works at the AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE), stated, “My firm was really proactive. They were really good about helping us identify organizations that we could work with. I’m not disgruntled. I’m in a good place.”
Marshall’s colleague at LCE, Erica Jackson, echoes his sentiments. “Our graduating class, we’re all the same. Everyone has been deferred. The stigma that you would ordinarily think of has been washed away.” Jackson was deferred from Sidley Austin LLP until November 2009.
The two are among a large group of recently deferred graduates who are content—the promise of a job in a bad economy being better than nothing at all. “It’s very hard to see this negatively when far more experienced, qualified people are getting laid off by the month, by the day,” said Albinas Prizgintas, a deferred associate for WilmerHale LLP who is spending the year at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. “It’s not often in life where someone is going to say to you, ‘Here’s a significant amount of money. Do what you want with it for the year.” Prizgintas receives a $75,000 stipend for the year. Another deferred associate, who asked to remain anonymous, stated, “I’m happy about the deferral because I’m getting paid while I’m going to school.”
The deferrals also are opening up opportunities for associates to expand their breadth of knowledge. Jackson, who will work in the health care and food and drug group at Sidley Austin, is learning about property tax and landlord/tenant issues. Her friend is getting the chance to work in Africa all year on an international pro bono case.
“It’s easy to get caught in the whole track of ‘I’ve got to get this internship. I have to do this summer thing. My entire life will be set when I’m a first-year [associate] at a firm, and in seven years I’ll be partner.’ It’s bad to get caught in that without exploring. This gives us a great opportunity to do that,” said Prizgintas.
An added perk of exploration: avoiding the much-talked about endless document review at private firms and instead receiving hands-on training. In two weeks, Prizgintas was drafting research memos, while Marshall was working to ensure that a local woman would receive appropriate levels of oxygen in her tank.
Public Interest or Bust
While working in public interest is not required, many associates are, and the extra help couldn’t have come at a better time. Jennifer Berger, supervising attorney at LCE, says the economy has brought more cases than ever before, with more at risk for the client. By having deferred associates on staff, existing lawyers can work on more complicated issues.
She also emphasized the benefits for the community. “Our clients stand taller when they have that combination of legal services experience and the enthusiasm that law firm associates bring to pro bono cases. They feel like, ‘I can get the same lawyer as someone who may have more resources can get.’ That speaks a lot to access to justice and evening the playing field.”
With so many advantages, are there any drawbacks? Yes. People may begin questioning the vitality of law firms. Are they faltering during the recession? A firm’s credibility could also take a hit if it continues to push back deferrals, leaving recent graduates with little to no commitment and a future hanging in the balance. “I was planning on buying a house, but I won’t do anything until I’m actually working,” said the anonymous associate.
For the public interest firm, there’s the cost. While most law firms cover health benefits and stipends, organizations most often foot the malpractice insurance and incidental costs. “There might be smaller organizations that could benefit from a program like this, but can’t afford to bring in one more body,” said Rawle Andrews Jr., managing attorney at LCE.
Most significant, however, are the associates’ temporary status. “If they’re on a short time span, they’re almost out the door by the time you have them fully trained,” said Arthur Bryant, executive director of Public Justice, a national public interest law firm. His firm will only consider hiring deferred associates for a minimum of one year.
How temporary the relationship is remains to be seen. “We hope to be creating law firm lawyers who will have long-term sustained commitment to pro bono work,” said Eric Angel, legal director at Legal Aid. Prizgintas already maintains that he will always be involved with Legal Aid, while Jackson aims to forge a stronger relationship between Sidley Austin and LCE after her departure.
Overhauling the System
While relationships between nonprofit and K Street lawyers may grow, what do the deferrals really mean for law firms? Are their business models facing a major overhaul? Mills doesn’t think so. “It’s a response to an immediate situation that came up fairly quickly. [Dow Lohnes] will probably go back to hiring people straight out of law school and getting them integrated into the firm right away.”
At the very least, however, firms may retool their hiring strategy, said Johnine Barnes, a partner at Baker & Hostetler LLP. “The economy has caused firms to really rethink their setup and model for employing associates. For a long time, a lot of firms hired a number of associates that exceeded the bare minimum of essentials.”
Number crunching aside, Barnes believes law firms may benefit from this way of training first-year associates. “Look at the medical profession. New doctors go off, do residencies, and get on-the-job training. We haven’t done that. This allows associates to get the training they need to learn the practice of law.”
“I endorse and applaud this model,” said Andrews of LCE. “If we get this right, the deferred associates program will be the Peace Corps for the legal services model that everybody can embrace and say, ‘Yes, this is the better way to do it. We will provide some infrastructure, as well as the paid talent,’ and give us the recruits and see what we can do.”—T.S.