By Kathryn Alfisi and Thai Phi Le
Sometimes love is right next door. Hattie Bittle and Gregory Jones have known each other since they were kids, but it wasn’t until their parents moved next door to each other that they connected. Two years after they first started dating, the two were married at the D.C. Superior Court on Valentine’s Day, one of 14 weddings held that day at the court.—T.L.
D.C. Bar Nominations Committee Announces Candidates for Bar Office
The D.C. Bar Nominations Committee has selected Brigida Benitez of Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Lorelie S. Masters of Jenner & Block LLP as candidates for D.C. Bar president–elect for the 2013–2014 term. The president–elect serves for one year before becoming president, and continues in office a third year as immediate past president.
Benitez serves as a member of the D.C. Bar Board of Governors and on the Bar’s Budget Committee. She previously served on the Bar’s Strategic Planning Committee, Nominations Committee, Pro Bono Committee, and Steering Committee of the Bar’s Courts, Lawyers and the Administration of Justice Section. She also has served as president of the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia and as a member of the board of directors of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia (WBADC). A litigator with a practice focused on global dispute resolution, investigations, and compliance issues, Benitez is a graduate of the University of Florida and Boston College Law School.
Masters also serves on the D.C. Bar Board of Governors and chairs its Screening Committee. She previously served on the Bar’s Judicial Evaluation Committee, chaired the Nominations Committee, and served on, as well as chaired, the Steering Committee of the Bar’s Litigation Section. She is a former president of the WBADC and a current member of the WBA Foundation’s board of directors. She serves on the Council of the ABA Section of Litigation, and in August finished a three–year term on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. A litigator focusing primarily on complex commercial disputes and international arbitration, Masters graduated from Georgetown University and Notre Dame Law School.
The Nominations Committee also announced the selection of candidates for other Bar positions. Nominated for secretary are Michelle W. Cohen of Ifrah Law and Sara Kropf of the Law Office of Sara Kropf PLLC, and for treasurer are Steven N. Berk of Berk Law PLLC and Morton J. Posner of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The following are candidates for five vacancies on the Bar’s Board of Governors for three–year terms: Lily M. Garcia of Strayer University; Stephen I. Glover of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Kirra L. Jarratt of the American Bar Association; Susan M. Kovarovics of Bryan Cave LLP; Bridget Bailey Lipscomb of the U.S. Department of Justice; Richard J. Marks of DLA Piper US LLP; Thomas C. Mugavero of Whiteford Taylor & Preston LLP; Daniel Schumack of Schumack Ryals PLLC; Bradley A. Thomas of the Law Offices of Bradley A. Thomas; Michelle C. Thomas of M. C. Thomas and Associates, PC; and Jonathan Tycko of Tycko & Zavareei LLP.
The Nominations Committee also announced candidates for the American Bar Association House of Delegates, including one position reserved for a candidate under the age of 35. Running for two regular seats are Arthur D. Burger of Jackson & Campbell, P.C.; Paul M. Smith of Jenner & Block LLP; D. Jean Veta of Covington & Burling LLP; and Christian A. Washington of Polsinelli Shughart PC.
Seeking the under–35 seat are Natalie S. Walker of Webster, Fredrickson, Correia & Puth, PLLC; Courtney L. Weiner of Lewis Baach PLLC; and Vladlen David Zvenyach of the Council of the District of Columbia.
The candidates for president-elect will speak, and all other candidates will be introduced, at a forum on April 10, from 12 to 12:30 p.m., at the D.C. Bar Board Room, 1101 K Street NW, second floor.
Ballots and instructions for voting, by mail or online, will be distributed to all active Bar members on April 30. The deadline to vote is May 24.
Results of the election will be announced on the Bar’s Web site and during the 2013 Celebration of Leadership, which includes the Bar’s Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting, on June 18 at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW.
D.C. Bar Leadership Academy Holds First Training Session
The D.C. Bar Leadership Academy kicked off its first session on March 1, aiming to identify potential new Bar leaders and help them develop the skills they need to become effective leaders as they assume leadership positions and move up in their careers.
Nineteen Bar members who had been accepted through an application process attended the full–day program, which began with an introduction to the Bar and how the new academy fit into the organization’s mission, purposes, and strategic plan.
The participants heard from many Bar leaders, including Kim Keenan, president of the Bar from 2009 to 2010; Annamaria Steward, a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors; Katherine A. Mazzaferri, chief executive officer of the Bar; Monika Varma, executive director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program; and current Bar President Tom Williamson Jr.
During Keenan’s term, the Bar created the Leadership Task Force to analyze ways to promote leadership within the organization. During her luncheon presentation, “Lessons in Leadership, Part 1,” Keenan offered advice from her own experience campaigning for leadership positions at numerous bar associations, and later leading many of them. Keenan’s message: Emulate the best of leadership. Work to your strength. Find people to bolster what you don’t do well. Focus on the quality of initiatives and not the quantity. Inspire people.
“The person who chairs, the person who leads, is first a servant. You are serving. You are trying to find a way to get people to see this thing and see that it can be done,” Keenan said. “You really have to decide you want to do something and get people to see that together we can do this thing better.”
Speakers Jill McCrory and Daniel Martinage of Leadership Outfitters led the other sessions, which involved discussions on what qualities make a leader and the different leadership styles, as well as how to communicate and persuade a wide range of audiences.
For more information on the D.C. Bar Leadership Academy and how to apply for future courses, contact Rebecca Gilliam at 202-737-4700, ext. 3234, or email@example.com.—T.L.
D.C. Courts Release New Strategic Plan
In February the District of Columbia Courts released its third strategic plan that lays out the court system’s goals and priorities for the next five years.
Titled “Open to All, Trusted by All, Justice for All: Strategic Plan of the District of Columbia Courts, 2013–2017,” the strategic plan focuses on five key areas to help the courts navigate a “changing terrain.”
“This plan will enable us to build on the successes of our previous plans as we continue to enhance our ability to serve our community,” said D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric T. Washington, chair of the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration.
The five main goals outlined in the strategic plan are fair and timely case resolution, access to justice, a strong judiciary and workforce, a sound infrastructure, and public trust and confidence in the courts.
The strategic plan also includes an updated statement of court values, which describes how the courts achieve its purpose, or the means and methods of accomplishing its work. Those values are accountability, excellence, fairness, integrity, respect, and transparency.
“The D.C. Courts constantly strive to improve our service to the public—through timely decision making, improved access, and fair procedures. This plan will help us to take our successes to another level, as we integrate key court values throughout our processes,” said D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield.
For more information on the strategic plan, visit www.dccourts.gov/internet/about/orgperf/strategic-2013-2017.jsf. —K.A.
A Month of Celebrations
The D.C. Courts celebrated Black History Month in February with weekly performances and events. Pictured is The New York Times reporter Rachel L. Swarns talking about her book American Tapestry, which tells the story of several generations of First Lady Michelle Obama’s family. The celebration also featured the showing of the documentary Choc’late Soldiers From the USA and a speech about the Emancipation Proclamation by Hari Jones, assistant director and curator of the African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation and Museum.—K.A.
Judge Sentelle Claims Senior Status; Judge Garland Takes Helm as Chief
Chief Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit finished his term on February 11 and will continue to serve as senior circuit judge. Judge Merrick B. Garland has assumed the role of chief judge of the D.C. Circuit.
Chief Judge Garland was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in April 1997 by President Clinton. From 1994 until his appointment as U.S. circuit judge, Garland served as principal associate deputy attorney general, where his responsibilities included the supervision of the Oklahoma City bombing and Unabomber prosecutions.
Sentelle was appointed to the court by President Reagan in October 1987, moving up to chief judge in February 2008. During his tenure, he served as chair of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States and as presiding judge of the Special Division for the Purpose of Appointing Independent Counsels. As part of the special division, Sentelle joined a three-judge panel that appointed Kenneth Starr to replace Robert Fiske Jr. in the Whitewater prosecution.
Among Sentelle’s most notable cases were United States v. Oliver L. North and United States v. John M. Poindexter, where he voted to reverse the convictions of both North and Poindexter, who were involved with the Iran–Contra Affair.—T.L.
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. Upcoming 2013 dates are April 2, May 11, June 4, July 13, August 6, September 7, October 8, November 2, and December 10. Advanced registration is encouraged.
For more information or to register online, visit www.dcbar.org/mandatorycourse.
Bill Seeks to Facilitate Transition to Elected D.C. Attorney General
On February 14 Mayor Vincent Gray and Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan introduced a bill before the D.C. Council that would create greater autonomy between the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Executive Office of the Mayor once the attorney general position becomes an elected one.
“The District’s voters made clear in 2010 that they want a fully independent attorney general, and this legislation is a crucial element in ensuring that the voters’ will is carried out,” Mayor Gray said. The District’s first elected attorney general will assume the role in January 2015.
The bill proposes three changes to the way the offices are currently structured. First, general counsel offices in executive branch agencies would no longer report to the D.C. attorney general. Instead, their chain of command would be to their agencies’ directors, who are appointed by the mayor. Second, the Child Support Services Division will be moved under the jurisdiction of the Department of Human Services, which reports to the mayor. Lastly, a small office of attorneys will be created to help the mayor handle some duties that are currently carried out by the attorney general. Those include directing cross-agency coordination on subordinate executive branch agency legal issues and lawyer–training responsibilities.
Despite the proposed reforms, the OAG will continue its duty to represent the District in a wide range of legal matters, from defensive civil litigation to providing advice and legal opinions to government officials.
Should the D.C. Council vote to approve the bill, the legislation would take effect in October 2014, about a month before the general election in November.
“We urge the Council to take prompt action to enact the changes proposed in this bill before individual candidates for the elected attorney general emerge, so that we have a set of reforms that will work in the long term to strengthen the institutions of the District’s Executive Office of the Mayor, as well as OAG,” said Attorney General Nathan.—T.L.
On February 12 the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Arent Fox LLP celebrated Black History Month by hosting a panel discussion featuring civil rights leader and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, author Eric Etheridge, former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, and others discussing the Freedom Riders. The Freedom Riders were the hundreds of Americans who entered the bus and train stations and airports in the segregated South in the spring and summer of 1961 to challenge state segregation laws. In Jackson, Mississippi, more than 300 people were arrested and convicted of the charge “breach of peace.” Pictured are some of the Freedom Riders signing copies of Etheridge’s book, Breach of Peace, after the panel discussion.—K.A.
American Bar Foundation Honors DC Fellows
The American Bar Association’s American Bar Foundation (ABF) honored three District of Columbia attorneys at its 57th Annual Fellows Awards Banquet in Dallas in February.
Ellen Jakovic, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Melvin White, lead counsel at Clearspire Law Co., PLLC; and John C. “Jack” Keeney Jr., director of the Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, all received the Outstanding State Chair Award. The three are chair, vice chair, and secretary, respectively, of the Washington, DC Fellows.
The award is presented to those who have demonstrated a dedication to the work of the ABF and the mission of the Fellows through efforts at the state level. The award is typically presented to a current state chair of the Fellows.
The ABF is the nation’s leading research institute for the empirical study of law. The Fellows of the ABF is an honorary organization of lawyers, judges, and legal scholars. The Fellows support the ABF’s research through financial contributions and sponsor programming.—K.A.
Judge Oberdorfer, Former Bar President, Dies at 94
On February 21 Louis Oberdorfer, a senior judge who served on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, died on his birthday at age 94. He also served as president of the D.C. Bar in 1977, but he left when he was appointed to the U.S. District Court.
In a statement released by the U.S. District Court, Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth talked about Judge Oberdorfer’s career and legacy.
“Judge Oberdorfer’s entire life was devoted to the highest principles of equality, fairness, and the rule of law,” Judge Lamberth said.
Oberdorfer was a long–time champion for civil rights, helping to create the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in 1963. As cochair of the organization, he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, which ordered schools in the South to begin desegregation without continued delay.
One of Oberdorfer’s most controversial cases involved the right of the Ku Klux Klan to march from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol in 1990. The National Park Service and D.C. government wanted the demonstration to be stopped, arguing that they would not be able to control the potential violence stemming from the protest. Oberdorfer disagreed, ruling that the KKK had a First Amendment right to march.
Oberdorfer is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Weil Oberdorfer, four children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
“The D.C. Bar and the entire legal community are saddened to learn of the passing of Judge Louis Oberdorfer,” said Katherine A. Mazzaferri, chief executive officer of the D.C. Bar. “Through his outstanding career in private practice as well as on the federal bench, Judge Oberdorfer has given us an example of the type of service, integrity, and leadership to which we all aspire.”—T.L.
Clemency Project Educates Both Law Students, Gov’t Execs
Michael Austin never wavered. He was innocent, he proclaimed. For more than 27 years he sat inside the Maryland House of Correction, convicted in 1975 of the murder of a Baltimore security guard.
Twenty years after his conviction, Centurion Ministries, a nonprofit whose mission is to free innocent individuals convicted of a crime, began reviewing his case. There were holes in Austin’s case, including an unprepared defense attorney, very little physical evidence, and unreliable witness testimony.
By 2001 the prosecutor of the case, Joseph J. Wase, told The Baltimore Sun that he believed in Austin’s innocence. Armed with the new information, Judge John Carroll Byrnes of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City ordered that Austin be released from jail on December 28, 2001.
On January 3, 2002, Austin was a free man following the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s decision not to retry the case. One year later, then Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. gave him a full pardon. It was one of the 249 pardons and commutations given out by Ehrlich during his four years as governor.
Power of Clemency
“Clemency has literally almost disappeared from our political landscape. It was once a regularly exercised power,” said Cara Drinan, an associate professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (CUA Law). President Obama has pardoned only 39 people and commuted the sentence of one during his presidency so far, and in his eight years, former President George W. Bush pardoned 189 individuals and commuted the sentences of 11.
Ehrlich, however, prioritized pardons during his term, holding monthly meetings to review clemency requests. He looked at more than 450 cases during his term. “I had always understood it as part of the job description,” he said. “In Maryland, that had not been the case for many of my predecessors. We changed the rules of the game in Maryland.” The emphasis on criminal justice reform, in particular with clemency, was one of the legacies Ehrlich hoped to leave behind after his term ended.
Ehrlich’s commitment has not waned since he left office in 2007. Now working as senior counsel in the government advocacy and public policy practice group at King & Spalding LLP, Ehrlich announced in February 2013 a partnership with CUA Law to bring greater awareness about how and when to use the executive clemency power. Collaborating with a law school was a natural fit for Ehrlich, who wanted to provide law students a chance to get real–world experience.
The end goal of the partnership? “Lighting a fire with regards to both federal and state clemency policies, [but] particularly in the executive branch. We know how broken the pardon’s office is at [the U.S. Department of Justice],” said Ehrlich. “A fire has already begun, but it’s still a brush fire.”
A Shifting Focus
The partnership takes on a three–pronged approach. The first is the expansion of CUA Law’s Innocence Project Clinic, renamed the Innocence Project Clinic and Clemency Project. In August, students will help prepare clemency applications. The university has made a commitment that at least 25 percent of the workload at the clinic will be clemency-related.
“Traditional legal education doesn’t really talk about what happens after a person is sentenced and is serving time. We teach what is criminal under the law. We teach about the criminal investigation process. We teach criminal procedure of trial and conviction. Maybe some students will study sentencing, but usually that’s it,” said Drinan, who helped in getting the Clemency Project at CUA Law. “Clemency is really a post–conviction, and in some cases post–release, question. For our students, it will be a very unique opportunity for them to get exposure to a part of the criminal system that is largely overlooked.”
Sandy Ogilvy, the Ordinary Professor of Law at CUA Law and director of the clinic, believes that expanding the clinic offers students a fuller range of skills training, as well as a great perspective on the policy issues inherent in that work. Students will handle one to two cases in the fall and will be interviewing the client, conducting research, learning how to problem–solve, assessing client needs, and collaborating with outside professionals, including attorneys, social workers, and medical providers.
“I hope they not only get a full understanding of basic lawyering skills, but also an appreciation of the process and the importance of clemency in our justice system,” Ogilvy said. “[The system] is quite broken. It’s not working as it has in the past to allow for the people who have rehabilitated themselves to get rid of a conviction so they can get on with their lives.”
The second component of the partnership provides newly elected governors and their staff the opportunity to participate in training programs that will teach them how to standardize the process and administer clemency fairly and efficiently.
The third aspect focuses on education outreach. CUA Law will work hand in hand with Ehrlich, other politicians, and criminal justice reform activists to bring new programming to the school. Ehrlich, whose firm has already donated $5,000 to the partnership, plans to raise money to fund other activities at the clinic, including a public speaker series.
Daniel Attridge, dean of CUA Law, said the university hopes to host at least one public event a year relating to bipartisan criminal justice reform.For Attridge, offering students an opportunity that is consistent with the school’s mission was an equally important aspect of the partnership. He points out the saying engraved on the stone walls of CUA’s law school building: “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
“It’s very much viewed by us as a call to action,” Attridge said. “You notice the words ‘mercy’ and ‘do justice’ right there in the inscription. That’s what clemency is all about.”—T.L.