Take on Dating Violence During 11th Youth Law Fair
The Rihanna and Chris Brown incident was all over the news in 2009. Photos of the beaten and bruised pop songstress were littered online. Unfortunately, their fight was not an isolated occurrence. Youth dating violence is on the rise, and with more teens connected to more technology, it will only grow.
On February 27 more than 150 students, ranging from eighth to 12th grade, tackled this issue at the 11th annual Youth Law Fair, presented by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Bar Litigation Section.
The event kicked off with tours of the courthouse in the morning, after which D.C. Superior Court Associate Judge Melvin R. Wright and D.C. Bar President Kim M. Keenan welcomed the students to the fair.
“Today is a day where you get to see the [legal] process,” Keenan said. “Take advantage of it. Learn everything you can about what we do and how we do it.”
Next on stage was Curtis Etherly, vice president for public affairs and communication at Coca-Cola Enterprises. With great animation, Etherly engaged the audience in a discussion about the potential dangers of cell phones and new media, citing “sexting” and the increased ability of significant others to harass without the knowledge of friends and family.
“One in three adolescent girls is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse in the United States,” Etherly said. “It is a major, major problem. No one says don’t have friends. No one is saying don’t have a cell phone. You need to learn to be smart.” He then told a fictional story of three teens that involved the distribution of a nude photo and alleged threat to do bodily harm.
The story served as the backdrop to the mock trials, where the teens broke into groups. Guided by attorney volunteers, the students acted as defense attorneys, prosecutors, jurors, judges, and witnesses.
Ashia Ryan, a freshman at Western School of Technology and Environmental Science in Baltimore, was taking it all in. “I’m aspiring to be a lawyer. I hope to learn what I need to do to be a good and productive lawyer in the future,” she said.
Following the mock trials, students visited tables set up by area organizations with scholarship opportunities and law-related career information, and awaited the much-anticipated door-prize drawings that included tickets to see rapper Jay-Z.
The 2010 Youth Law Fair hosted seven exhibitors and was cosponsored by the Administrative Law and Agency Practice Section; Antitrust and Consumer Law Section; Arts, Entertainment, Media and Sports Law Section; Corporation, Finance, and Securities Law Section; Courts, Lawyers and the Administration of Justice Section; Criminal Law and Individual Rights Section; Computer and Telecommunications Law Section; District of Columbia Affairs Section; Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Section; Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section; Family Law Section; Government Contracts and Litigation Section; Health Law Section; Intellectual Property Law Section; International Law Section; Labor and Employment Law Section; Law Practice Management Section; Real Estate, Housing and Land Use Section; Taxation Section; and Tort Law Section.—T.S.
Bar Seeks Nominations for 2010 Awards Ceremony
The D.C. Bar is seeking nominations to recognize outstanding projects and contributions by Bar members at the 2010 Annual Business Meeting and Awards Dinner on Thursday, June 24, at the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW.
The Bar will present its highest honor, the Thurgood Marshall Award, to a Bar member who has demonstrated exceptional achievement in the pursuit of equal justice and equal opportunity for all Americans. The Bar also will present the Frederick B. Abramson Award, which is given in recognition of extraordinary service to the profession.
Bar members also are encouraged to submit nominations for the following awards: Best Bar Project, Best Section, Best Section Community Outreach Project, Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year, and two Pro Bono Law Firm Awards—one for small firms (2–50 lawyers) and one for large firms (51 lawyers or more).
The awards will recognize contributions made between April 1, 2009, and March 31, 2010.
Award nominations must be submitted by April 2 to D.C. Bar Executive Director Katherine A. Mazzaferri, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005-4210, or online at www.dcbar.org/awards.—K.A.
Superior Court Adds Three Famous Washingtonians to Wills Project
Following a live rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” that echoed through the halls of the Probate Division/Office of the Register of Wills at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the wills of Charles Hamilton Houston, Admiral Robert E. Peary, and Alice Roosevelt Longworth were officially added to the Wills Project on February 17. The apprenticeship contract for John Brunley also joined the current exhibit.
Guests at the reception enjoyed viewing the new wills, learning more about the three historical Washingtonian figures and what items they deemed valuable during their lifetime.
Houston was a prominent attorney who played a role in virtually every civil rights case before the United States Supreme Court from 1930 to 1954. Peary claimed to be the first person to reach the North Pole, while Longworth’s antics made her a popular, but controversial socialite.
The wills and contract were framed alongside 13 others already on display—those of Alexander Graham Bell, Grover Cleveland, Frederick Douglass, Julia Dent Grant, Euphemia Lofton Haynes, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Dolley Madison, James Madison, James Monroe, Franklin Pierce, Edwin Stanton, Daniel Webster, and Woodrow Wilson.
“This project is a great contribution to the District. It’s our history here in the District of Columbia,” said D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield. He was joined that evening by Rhonda Reid Winston, presiding judge of the court’s Probate and Tax Division, and Anne Meister, register of wills.
The event was sponsored by the Probate Division and the D.C. Bar Estates, Trusts, and Probate Law Section.—T.S.
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. Course dates are April 13, May 8, June 8, July 10, August 10, September 11, October 5, November 6, and December 7. Advanced registration is encouraged.
For more information or to register online, visit www.dcbar.org/mandatorycourse.
State Department’s Koh Speaks on Obama’s International
On February 17 U.S. State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh discussed the key foreign relations challenges facing the Obama administration, as well as his role as the government’s chief attorney on international law matters, during a luncheon sponsored by the American Society of International Law (ASIL).
The event, held at Arnold & Porter LLP, also was sponsored by the D.C. Bar International Law Section’s Public International and Criminal Law Committee and the Administrative Law and Agency Practice Section.
Koh has served as legal adviser since his confirmation in June 2009. He had taught at Yale Law School since 1985 before becoming its 15th dean in 2004, a post he held until 2009. From 1998 to 2001 Koh served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Before joining Yale, he practiced law at Covington & Burling LLP and at the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice.
At the State Department, Koh said he plays varied roles as adviser, litigator, negotiator, diplomat, and public spokesperson. While his first function is to act as legal adviser, not unlike any other general counsel of a government agency who answers clients’ questions, Koh said the Office of the Legal Adviser also serves as the government’s conscience in respect to international law issues, defender of U.S. legal interests in a number of international forums, and mouthpiece for America’s position on why international law matters.
In his speech Koh addressed the main international law issues facing the administration and how they are being handled.
“I know that on the [first] anniversary of the administration there has been lots of commentary about [our work] being characterized more by continuity than change. I think that anybody who has worked in the government knows that many of the policies don’t change—you don’t turn a ship in the ocean 180 degrees. But it seems to me that the key philosophies stressing international engagement—‘smart power,’ a belief that diplomacy can accomplish as much as harder tools; a commitment to the rule of law and living our values; and the idea that global leadership will flow to those who obey these legal tools and will make us stronger and safer—[are] a different kind of philosophy and one that I think we are attempting to apply as a strategic vision,” he said.
One of the main challenges facing the Office of the Legal Adviser is what Koh calls “the law of September 11” and how to formulate policies consistent with the government’s values, international obligations, and national interests.
Koh said making progress in detention and interrogation cases has been hard slogging and is far from over, but that achievements made are not insignificant. The Obama presidency, Koh added, is on its way to making more considerable changes.
Other international law issues of importance are international justice and dispute resolution, reaching certain kinds of accords with other nations, and the growth of what Koh referred to as “the law of globalization,” which includes cyber law.
“It may seem like these are huge obstacles…. I think that for this administration, when we rise above the day-to-day, the most brilliant opportunity for us to seize is not to treat these issues just as a series of isolated challenges but as an occasion for articulating this strategic vision, this Obama/Clinton doctrine,” he said.
Koh’s predecessor, John Bellinger, who served under then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and who now practices at Arnold & Porter, spoke briefly at the luncheon, praising Koh and asking him questions about current administration plans.
The luncheon concluded with an audience question-and-answer session.—K.A.
Bar Offers Discount on Sections Membership
The D.C. Bar is offering a 50 percent discount on memberships to all its 21 sections until June 30, 2010. With more than 26,000 members, the Bar’s sections offer premium networking opportunities through educational programs, judicial receptions, and other exclusive events.
Additional benefits include early notifications of events, newsletters, discounts on Sections and Continuing Legal Education programs, and access to publications at reduced rates. Members also get the chance to be part of more than 100 committees in specialized areas, from environmental law to telecommunications.
To join, visit www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/sections/join.cfm.—T.S.
Changes to Bar Dues Payment Schedule
This year D.C. Bar members must pay their annual dues by July 15—a month earlier than in previous years—to avoid being charged a late fee. The revision reflects a change in the bylaws that was adopted last year, but not implemented until now.
Dues statements for fiscal year 2010–2011 will be sent to Bar members in May, with a response deadline of July 1, allowing members a two-week grace period before a $30 late fee is assessed.
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. 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.
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 email@example.com.—K.A.
GAO Wants to Improve Hiring, Review of Administrative Law Judges
A report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests improving the hiring and evaluation process for administrative law judges because of potential “skill and competency gaps in the [administrative law judge] workforce in the near future.”
The need for review was based on the number of judges eligible for retirement and not on the quality of judges recently hired, according to the report titled Results-Oriented Cultures: Office of Personnel Management Should Review Administrative Law Judge Program to Improve Hiring and Performance Management. As of September 2008, 51 percent of all administrative law judges were eligible to retire; by 2013, 78 percent of administrative law judges employed as of September 2008 will become eligible. The GAO wants to ensure gaps in institutional knowledge and technical skills are minimal as new judges replace those who are retiring. The study suggests that to make a seamless transition, agencies hiring administrative law judges need to create a plan to address any competency deficiencies.
In addition, agencies were prohibited from tying performance to compensation to ensure that judges’ decisions were impartial, according to the report. GAO also recommended clearer explanations of the skills and criteria needed by administrative law judges to better perform their duties.
To view a copy of the report, visit www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-14. —T.S.
Group Advances Animal Welfare Agenda in Washington
In January Gene Baur, president and cofounder of Farm Sanctuary, left the rural town of Watkins Glen, New York, and moved to Washington, D.C., to bring his organization’s message of farm animal welfare to the nation’s capital.
“I’m very excited to be here and I’m looking forward to bringing the perspective of Farm Sanctuary and its experience of investigating farms and having farms in rural America, along with the animal protection mindset,” he said.
Farm Sanctuary was created in 1986 with the mission of addressing farm animal welfare through rescue, education, and advocacy work. The organization runs farm sanctuaries in Watkins Glen and in Orland, California, populated by rescued farm animals.
While Farm Sanctuary has long been involved with public policy and litigation campaigns, Baur hopes his move to Washington will increase its presence and advance the introduction of federal and state laws to protect farm animals.
“People are looking at these issues now more than ever,” Baur said. As evidence of what he sees as a burgeoning food movement in this country, Baur points to the popularity of books dealing with issues involving factory farming such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin’s Skinny Bitch, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals; the growing popularity of farmers markets and community gardens; the growth of the slow food movement; and concerns over health and environmental issues linked to our food and where it comes from.
Economics of Cruelty
However, farming industry representatives believe that arguments put forth by groups such as Farm Sanctuary are aimed more at generating public sympathy than based on fact, and that laws restricting certain farming methods ultimately wind up hurting farmers while failing to benefit the animals they propose to help.
Kelli Ludlum, senior director for congressional relations at the Washington-based American Farm Bureau, said successful efforts of groups such as Farm Sanctuary have a lot to do with the fact that only a small portion of the population now live on or near farms and are familiar with contemporary farm operations.
“There’s an information void out there for people who are interested in where their food comes from but don’t know a lot about farming so they rely on Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, and others to tell them about where their food comes from…. They have limited information on which to base their decisions,” Ludlum added.
Baur said Farm Sanctuary is not anti-farmer but anti-cruelty; he also believes that most people think farm confinement systems such as gestation crates, veal crates, and battery cages are cruel.
“For the factory farmer it really boils down to economics. If you put these animals in narrow crates you can put more in the same building…. The bottom line for any business is to put in as little input as possible for the maximum return on investments; [factory farms] have been cutting corners for decades and animal welfare has not been part of the calculation,” he said.
But Who Saves the Farmers?
These confinement systems have been the basis of many of the farm animal welfare legislation and ballot measures Farm Sanctuary has worked on, including a measure in Florida in 2002 that banned gestation crates, a 2006 Arizona ballot measure that banned gestation crates and veal crates, and Proposition 2 in California in 2008 that banned all three confinement systems.
To Ludlum these laws not only ignore the practicality and benefits of confinement systems, but they make it increasingly difficult for farmers to afford to stay in business.
“The housing systems most of our producers use are the products of years of research and input by engineers, animal scientists and animal behaviorists, universities that we rely on for expertise, as well as veterinarians who deal with the health and welfare of the animals every day,” she said.
“To have these things taken away by a ballot initiative is troubling because ballot initiatives don’t replace them with anything else; it’s up to the producer to figure out how to survive now that they’ve had this tool or asset taken away from them.”
In an effort to prevent similar laws from passing in Ohio, a coalition of state agriculture groups supported a successful ballot measure that created the 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board tasked with overseeing standards for farm animal care.
But while the measure passed in November, the battle may not be over as the group Ohioans for Humane Farms (supported by Farm Sanctuary and others) is working to get a measure put on the general election ballot that would require the standards board to comply with certain minimum standards regarding the treatment of farm animals.
Another issue Farm Sanctuary has been focusing on is preventing the slaughter of downed animals, which was given a big boost when President Obama announced a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that prohibits the slaughter of downed cattle for human consumption. Now Farm Sanctuary is hoping to see that federal prohibition applied to pigs.
In March a federal bill (Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act) was introduced, requiring that food purchased for federal programs must come from animals raised without confinement systems.
Despite such developments, Baur said change has not come easily. “Agribusiness is very much entrenched in Washington and on the state level, although I think it is starting to feel a lot of public pressure to align its behaviors with socially accepted practices. Right now most people are appalled to learn what happens to animals on farms, and agribusiness depends on those people to buy their stuff. More awareness is going to put agribusiness in a tough spot … but it is still a tough battle,” he said.—K.A.