By Kathryn Alfisi and Thai Phi Le
2012 D.C. Bar Elections Open for Nominations
The D.C. Bar is accepting résumés from members wishing to be candidates in the 2012 Bar elections. The deadline for receipt of résumés is January 6.
The D.C. Bar Nominations Committee is charged with nominating individuals for the positions of D.C. Bar president–elect, secretary, and treasurer; five members of the D.C. Bar’s Board of Governors; and three vacancies in the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates. All candidates must be active members of the D.C. Bar, and all candidates for ABA House positions must also be ABA members.
Nominations may be submitted online at www.dcbar.org/inside_the_bar/structure/nominations, or mailed to the D.C. Bar Nominations Committee, Attn: Katherine A. Mazzaferri, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005-4210.
In addition, the Nominations Committee will hold a public meeting at 12:15 p.m. on January 24 at the D.C. Bar headquarters, at which time members of the Bar are invited to speak briefly on their own behalf or on behalf of persons whom they propose for nomination. Anyone wishing to speak at that meeting should call Ms. Wynn at 202-737-4700, ext. 3221, to schedule time.
For more information, contact D.C. Bar Chief Executive Officer Katherine A. Mazzaferri at 202-737-4700, ext. 3220, or email@example.com.
The Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia (HBA–DC) held its 34th Annual Equal Justice Awards Reception on November 10, honoring individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the Hispanic community. Pictured, from left, are HBA–DC president William Alvarado Rivera, HBA–DC incoming president Lyzka DeLaCruz, D.C. Superior Court Judge Hiram Puig–Lugo, and U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Ricardo M. Urbina.—K.A.
Bar Seeks Nominees for 2012 Rosenberg, Marshall Awards
The D.C. Bar is calling for nominations for its 2012 Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service and 2012 Thurgood Marshall Award. Both awards will be presented at the Celebration of Leadership: The D.C. Bar Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting on June 19.
The Rosenberg Award is presented annually to a D.C. Bar member whose career exemplifies the highest order of public 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.
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. Nominees must be current or former employees of any local, state, or federal government agency. For more information on the Rosenberg Award criteria, visit www.dcbar.org/rosenbergaward/rosenberg_info.cfm#criteria.
The Bar established the Thurgood Marshall award in 1993, which is presented bi–annually in alternating years. Candidates for the Thurgood Marshall Award must be members of the D.C. Bar who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the pursuit of equal justice and equal opportunity for all Americans.
Nominations for both the 2012 Rosenberg and Marshall awards should be submitted to Katherine A. Mazzaferri, Chief Executive Officer, District of Columbia Bar, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005-4210. The last day for submissions is February 10.
For more information about the Marshall Award, e–mail firstname.lastname@example.org; for information on the Rosenberg Award, e–mail email@example.com. Information for both awards can be found at www.dcbar.org/awards.
To learn more about the Bar’s 2012 Celebration of Leadership, which will be held at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW, visit www.dcbar.org/annual_dinner.—K.A.
Superior Court Issues New Rule on Electronic Devices in Courtrooms
In November the Superior Court of the District of Columbia issued a new rule on the possession and use of electronic devices in courtrooms and hearing rooms.
Administrative Order 11–17 explains that while the court already had in place rules regulating cameras and recorders, advances in technology have made it possible for other electronic devices such as phones and computers to record images, sounds, or both.
“[T]echnology has made it possible to capture images or sound, or both, and to disseminate or broadcast them either immediately from the courtroom or at some point in the future, contrary to court policy,” Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield wrote in the order. “The use of such devices in the courtroom when not part of court proceedings may be disruptive to the court proceedings.”
The order mandates individuals, including members of the media and students, to turn off all electronic devices before entering a courtroom. Pocket–sized electronic devices should also be turned off and put away so they are not visible. Bar members and other individuals who are authorized to sit in designated rows of the courtroom are exempt. Members of the media may be given permission by the presiding judge to use electronic devices for official business.
Individuals who violate these procedures may be ejected from the courtroom and found in civil or criminal contempt of court.
The administrative order in its entirety can be viewed by visiting www.dccourts.gov.—K.A.
Jack Keeney Sr. Dies at 89
On November 19 John C. “Jack” Keeney Sr., a legendary figure in the legal community, passed away at 89. For nearly six decades, he dedicated his career to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), retiring in 2010 as deputy assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division.
His 59 years of service to the government made him the longest-serving federal prosecutor, serving under a dozen U.S. presidents and more than 20 attorneys general. During his tenure at DOJ, he helped build and expand the Organized Crime Division as well as investigated major cases of fraud. He noted in an interview with Washington Lawyer that one of the most important projects he worked on was a treaty negotiation with Switzerland, which allowed the United States access to numbered Swiss bank accounts when needed during a criminal investigation.
John C. Cruden, president of the Environmental Law Institute and former D.C. Bar president, reflected on the years he worked with Keeney. “I worked down the hall from Jack for the last 20 years,” he said. “He was for me the model of a DOJ prosecutor: intellectually confident, courageously determined, and fair in all matters. Jack often helped me through the thickets of bureaucratic webs, and often encouraged some idea I had which others disclaimed. And in all matters he led by example—his work ethic, his love of his family, particularly his grandchildren, and his commitment to justice. He was more than a mentor for me; he was the guide post by which I measured my own conduct. He set a standard of excellence that will not be surpassed.”
Keeney’s work was admired by those who knew him and often honored by his peers. Throughout his career, he has received the highest honors from numerous organizations. In 1990 he won the DOJ Criminal Division’s Henry E. Petersen Award. By 1996, he had received both the Attorney General’s Award from DOJ and the Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Outstanding Government Service from the D.C. Bar.
To honor Keeney, the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law will pay tribute by naming its Semester in Washington Program after its legendary alumnus.
Keeney is survived by five children, including John Keeney Jr., a former D.C. Bar president, Terence Keeney, Jeanmarie Keeney, Joan Keeney, and Kathleen Keeney, and four grandchildren.
“The D.C. Bar is profoundly saddened by the loss of Jack Keeney. His contributions to our profession and his service to the public provide tangible examples of the true meaning of service, integrity, and leadership,” D.C. Bar President Darrell G. Mottley said.
Added Cruden, “He was widely admired as a public servant and loved as a friend …. We will miss you, Jack. Godspeed.”—T.L.
Bar Sections Announce Steering Committee Openings
The D.C. Bar sections are seeking members interested in steering committee positions for all of the Bar’s sections. Members wishing to be considered should submit a Candidate Interest Form and résumé to the Sections Office by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, February 2. All section members have been notified by e–mail or postal mail about the availability of Candidate Interest Forms, which can be found online at www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/sections
Nearly all steering committee vacancies are for three–year terms. Each section has two, three, or four available positions. A list of vacancies can be found at www.dcbar.org/
The sections’ nominating committees will review all Candidate Interest Forms to find the best qualified, diverse candidates. Two to three candidates will be nominated for each position. Previous leadership experience with voluntary bar associations or with the Bar’s sections is highly desirable.
The elections will take place in the spring of 2012, and the results will be announced in June. The winning candidates will assume their new steering committee roles on July 1.
For more information about the elections, visit www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/sections/section_elections.
Former D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Hamilton Dies
Eugene N. Hamilton, who served 30 years on the bench and was the second African American to serve as chief judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, died on November 19 at the age of 78.
Hamilton was born in Memphis where he attended public schools before receiving degrees from LeMoyne College and the University of Illinois.
Following law school, Hamilton served on active duty in the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate General Officer. He then joined the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice as a trial attorney, working there until his appointment to the Superior Court in 1970.
“He was a man of many talents who led our court during the crucial years of revitalization. His commitment to the children of D.C. was evident in his final days, as he ruled on a case involving a child abandoned at Children’s National Medical Center, ensuring he got the treatment he needs,” said Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield.
Hamilton served in every division of the Superior Court and was a member of the D.C. Courts’ Joint Committee for Judicial Administration, the governing body of the courts, from 1991 to 2000. In 1993 Hamilton became the second African American to serve as chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court.
For the next 15 months, Hamilton served as chair of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Youth Safety and Juvenile Justice Reform.
Hamilton was a former member of the executive committee of the National Conference of State Trial Judges of the Judicial Administration Division of the American Bar Association. He also served as chair of the Continuing Legal Education Advisory Board at Georgetown University Law Center, and was on the faculty at Harvard Law School as a lecturer on law.
Among the awards and recognition Hamilton received were the United Black Fund’s Calvin W. Rolark 2000 Humanitarian Award, University of Illinois Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Alumni Award, Washington Bar Association’s Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit, and Greater Washington Urban League’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. Community Service Award.
He also was the recipient of an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.
Hamilton is survived by his wife, Virginia David Hamilton; nine children, Alexandra Evanzz, Steven Hamilton, James Hamilton, Eric Hamilton, David Hamilton, Rachael Hamilton, Jeremiah Hamilton, Michael Hamilton, and Marcus Hamilton; 15 grandchildren; and one great–granddaughter.—K.A.
Bar Conducts Judicial Evaluations
The District of Columbia Bar Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC) is conducting its 2011–2012 evaluation program. Attorneys are invited to provide feedback on the performance of certain judges who preside over the D.C. Court of Appeals and D.C. Superior Court.
The JEC invites all active D.C. Bar members who reside/work in the Washington metropolitan area to complete evaluations for judges before whom they have appeared in the past two years (November 1, 2009, to October 31, 2011). The link to the survey has been e–mailed to all eligible D.C. Bar members. All participants will remain anonymous. The deadline for responses is 10 p.m. EST on January 13, 2012.
The following eight Court of Appeals judges will be evaluated this year: Michael W. Farrell, John R. Fisher, Theodore R. Newman, Kathryn Oberly, William C. Pryor, Frank E. Schwelb, John A. Terry, and Annice Wagner.
The following 25 Superior Court judges will be evaluated this year: Judith Bartnoff, Leonard A. Braman, Patricia A. Broderick, A. Franklin Burgess Jr., Arthur Burnett Sr., Zoe Bush, Erik Christian, Laura Cordero, Rufus G. King III, Neal E. Kravitz, Lynn Leibovitz, Jose M. Lopez, Cheryl M. Long, Juliet McKenna, Stephen G. Milliken, Florence Pan, Rhonda Reid Winston, Maurice Ross, Linda D. Turner, Paul R. Webber III, Ronald P. Wertheim, Susan R. Winfield, Peter H. Wolf, Melvin R. Wright, and Joan Zeldon.
Judges are evaluated in their 2nd, 6th, 10th, and 13th year of service. Additionally, senior judges serving four–year terms are evaluated during the second year, and those serving two–year terms are evaluated once during their term.
Each evaluated judge, along with the chief judge of each court, will receive a copy of the survey results. Evaluation results of senior judges and judges in their 6th, 10th, and 13th year of service also will be sent to the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure.
What is the first recorded act of the District of Columbia Circuit Court when it was first convened in June 1801? Answer: It appointed a grand jury. The three judges of the then newly created D.C. Circuit Court named a foreman, 20 jurors, and a bailiff from among the District’s 8,100 residents. Even though Maryland and Virginia had ceded the land to the federal government in the early 1790s, it remained within the jurisdiction of each state until December 1800. The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit has recently obtained a copy of this earliest entry with the help of Robert Ellis, the archivist for judicial records at the National Archives.—T.L.
Judge Griffith Explores Power of Congress in D.C. Circuit
On November 15 Judge Thomas B. Griffith of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit delivered this year’s Harold Leventhal Lecture, focusing his speech on the power of Congress in the D.C. Circuit.
Originally, Griffith was planning to provide a comprehensive review of the Senate’s history as a litigant before the D.C. Circuit, but when confronted with so many cases, Griffith joked that he realized he bit off more than he could chew.
Instead, Griffith focused on a comparison of the D.C. Circuit’s 1974 decision in Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities v. Nixon and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Nixon that same year. At the center of the cases was the issue of whether President Richard Nixon had to surrender the now infamous White House tapes. The D.C. Circuit ruled that Nixon did not have to give up the tapes, but was overturned by the Supreme Court.
In both cases, the decisions were unanimous. Why did the Senate lose and the special prosecutor win, Griffith asked. “Why did the court find the Senate’s asserted need for the tapes less compelling than the needs of the criminal justice system?”
In the D.C. Circuit case, the court rejected the argument of the Senate Select Committee that Congress needed the tapes to make informed decisions about enacting campaign finance laws and what details the laws should contain. On the other hand, in United States v. Nixon, the special prosecutor was able to convince the Supreme Court to reject Nixon’s assertion of executive privilege.
“These contrasting instances provide, I will argue, insight into the judiciary’s notions of societal values, and they also provide fodder for rumination of the proper role of the courts under the Constitution,” Griffith said.
Griffith debated whether the need for information was higher in the criminal justice system than in Congress. “Perhaps the criminal justice system implicates core concepts of individual liberty that we value more highly than informed legislation by the elected representatives,” he pondered.
However, he said legislation can have real effects on people’s liberties. “Giving proper weight and deference to Congress’ needs for information to legislate is vital to ensure its vibrancy among the branches.”
The aftermath of the Nixon case, Griffith said, was that the D.C. Circuit became more hesitant to intervene in legislative and executive branch disputes.
The Leventhal Lecture was moderated by Michael Stern, cochair of the D.C. Bar Administrative Law and Agency Practice Section.—T.L.
Raising the Bar Campaign Draws More Support From Local Firms
Since its launch in December 2010, the D.C. Access to Justice Commission’s Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign has nearly tripled its number of supporters, with 22 law firms pledging a percentage of their revenues to local legal services providers.
“The law firm community has responded enthusiastically to the campaign. The growing list of participating firms includes firms of all sizes that have committed to helping increase access to quality legal services to the underserved population,” said Jessica Rosenbaum, the commission’s executive director. “We are deeply grateful to the private bar for stepping forward in this time of urgent need.”
With the support of the D.C. Bar Foundation and the D.C. Bar, the initiative was developed to substantially raise financial support to the District’s legal services community by establishing benchmarks for law firm giving and recognizing law firms that generously give at those levels.
The campaign recognizes three levels of giving: platinum, gold, and silver. The platinum level signifies those that donate at least .11 percent of their office revenue. Those on the gold level have pledged .09 percent, and silver recognizes firms that donate .075 percent. The percentage includes cash donations, donated attorney’s fees, and support for fellowships.
“District law firms are unparalleled in their commitment to providing pro bono and financial support to serve the legal needs of indigent District residents,” said Andrew Marks, Access to Justice commissioner and partner at Crowell & Moring LLP. “The private bar recognizes that District communities living in poverty are in crisis, and is stepping forward to dramatically increase resources to serve those most in need.”
Law firms in the Leadership Circle and that pledge to donate funds at one of the three levels in 2011 are Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Arnold & Porter LLP; Arent Fox LLP; Banner & Witcoff, Ltd.; BuckleySandler LLP; Covington & Burling LLP; Crowell & Moring; Delaney McKinney, L.L.P.; DLA Piper LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; Jones Day; Kirkland & Ellis, LLP; Klein Hornig LLP; Law Offices of Gary N. Horlick; Mayer Brown LLP; McDermott Will & Emery LLP; McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP; Sidley Austin LLP; Steptoe & Johnson LLP; Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.
R. Bruce McLean, partner and chair at Akin Gump, said “D.C. law firms take seriously their obligation to ensure equal access to justice. As a matter of principle, we share a commitment to helping those who are most vulnerable.”
Firms that donate at a benchmark level in 2011 will be honored during a ceremony in early 2012. For more information or to join the campaign, contact Rosenbaum at 202-344-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.—T.L.
Superior Court Fields Juror Questions Through Live Chat
District of Columbia residents who have questions about jury duty can submit their queries online and get immediate responses through a live chat feature on the D.C. Superior Court’s Web site.
Implemented in November, the live chat service is available weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. Messages submitted at other times are answered through e–mail.
“The court relies on jurors to ensure the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers. We try to make jury duty as convenient as possible and have an online system for registering, checking on last date of service, and deferring jury service to a more convenient date,” Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield said. “The live chat feature is just the most recent step in many efforts to be as accommodating as we can to potential jurors. We still answer questions by phone, but some prefer to e–mail questions and we thought this approach would be a good addition.”
As of November 16, Superior Court Jurors’ Office staff had responded to more than 220 questions online on topics such as jury service deferrals, juror numbers, the online juror registration/deferral system, and amenities available to those serving jury duty.
To use the court’s live chat service, go to www.dcsc.gov/dccourts/superior/special_ops/jurors.jsp.—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 onsite fee is $279. Upcoming dates for 2012 are January 7, February 7, March 10, April 10, May 12, June 5, and July 14. Advanced registration is encouraged.
For more information or to register online, visit www.dcbar.org/mandatorycourse.
Corporate Counsel Group Seeks Nominations for Recognition Program
The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is seeking nominations for its newly created ACC Value Champions, which honors law departments and law firm leaders who have worked to implement best practices that improve the value of legal spending.
The recognition program is part of the larger initiative ACC Value Challenge, which aims to reconnect the value and cost of legal services. About three years ago, the ACC wanted to help start a conversation about how best to apply traditional business principles to the delivery of legal services to ensure the greatest value to an organization’s clients. Since then, the ACC has dedicated a lot of resources to the effort, including posting practical tips online.
“We want to identify and celebrate those who have gone within their departments and done work on this on the ground—actually, in the trenches—and taken those principles and applied them in their business functions in a way that drove real change for their client,” said Amar D. Sarwal, vice president and chief legal strategist at the ACC.
ACC Value Champions are innovative leaders who developed or expanded programs that have helped an organization reduce its costs to corporate clients while still achieving strong profits.
“They don’t just talk the talk. They walk the walk,” Sarwal added. He emphasizes, however, that ACC Value Champions do not have to be the “Steve Jobs types” at their company. “There are those folks, too … but they are also people who do things that are replicable on the ground level,” he said. “They don’t have to change the world and [have] created the iPhone. What they needed to have done is driven value in a measurable way for their company.”
Nominations should include the scope and duration of the project as well as any management tactics, tools, templates, or dashboards used or developed in the process. The project can either be part of a multiyear effort or a single project that has produced measurable results.
Law department leaders (both outside and inside counsel) can be nominated or nominate themselves for in–house team projects that did not involve a law firm or firms. Law department and law firm leaders can co–nominate firm/client partnerships.
The ACC is the world’s largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, and other private–sector organizations around the globe.
Nominations are due by March 15 and will be reviewed by the ACC staff and ACC Value Challenge steering committee members. Winners will be announced in spring 2012. To access the nomination form or for more information, visit www.acc.com/valuechallenge/valuechamps/.—T.L.
RAISING AWARNESS AND FUNDS
Equal Justice Works held its 25th Anniversary Gala, featuring guest speakers U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. (pictured), NBC’s Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The gala raised a record $2.7 million to support the creation of public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers.—K.A.
Superior Court Celebrates 25th Annual Adoption Day With children excitedly tugging on their own balloons and families happily scrambling for their seats in the atrium, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia commemorated its 25th Annual Adoption Day on November 19.
The event celebrated the finalization of 29 adoptions, as well as encouraged others to open their hearts and families to adopting or fostering a child in the city’s public child welfare system.
“Let me express my appreciation for the children and families for inviting myself and others to participate in their celebration,” said DebraPorchia–Usher, interim director of the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency. “This is a demonstration of their commitment to each other for a lifetime. They have agreed to participate in this journey together as they begin to reconfigure their families, as they begin to learn how to love each other, as they begin to learn how to help each other grow.”
Adoption Day 2011 began with speeches from D.C. Superior Court judges, including Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield, family court presiding Judge Zoe Bush, Associate Judge Juliet J. McKenna, and Senior Judge Bruce S. Mencher. The crowd also heard from the District’s deputy mayor for Health and Human Services, Beatriz Otero, and Renette Oklewicz of the Freddie Mac Foundation.
The ceremony featured musical acts from local children that brought some in the audience to tears while others quietly sang along. “There can’t be a happier place in the city right now,” said Oklewicz, who later presented a video montage of adoption at the court over the past 25 years.
Barbara Harrison, NBC4 news anchor and a regular to Adoption Day, emceed the ceremony as judges signed the adoption decrees. Harrison spoke about each family and the child who had found his or her “forever family.” To complete the adoption, the families were joined by the judge who oversaw their case, as well as their social worker.
“The family is society’s most fundamental unit for human happiness. Every child deserves to be a member of a loving and nurturing family,” said Judge Mencher, who helped develop the Superior Court’s first Adoption Day in 1987. “For many children, this becomes possible only in an adoptive family. Adoption brings to both children and parents joy beyond measure.”—T.L.
CCE Report: Joblessness Among Previously Incarcerated Impacts District’s Economy, Safety Joblessness among District of Columbia residents who have previously been incarcerated is exacerbating the city’s already high unemployment rates, raising the possibility of a return to crime, and threatening public safety, according to a report released in November by the Council for Court Excellence (CCE).
The report, “Unlocking Employment Opportunity for Previously Incarcerated Persons in the District of Columbia,” is the first major study to document unemployment among the previously incarcerated and to offer solutions for addressing the problem. D.C. Council members joined D.C. Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Barbara Lang and others on November 17 when CCE presented the report.
The study shows that about 10 percent of the District’s current population, or an estimated 60,000 people, have criminal records. About 8,000 people return to the District each year after being released from prison or jail; statistics suggest that within three years, about 4,000 of them are reincarcerated.
“A steady flow of individuals into our communities who are short on skills and face barriers to getting a job is likely to create unemployment challenges for years to come. The possibility of criminal behavior related to lack of opportunity could present ongoing challenges in preserving public safety,” reads the report.
Since 2005 CCE, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the administration of justice in local and federal courts, has been addressing the issue of “the collateral consequences for persons with criminal records” as part of its justice system reform efforts.
In 2006 CCE proposed the D.C. Criminal Record Sealing Act, which was subsequently adopted by the city council. CCE held a public forum in 2008 on the effects of the Revitalization Act, which had made significant changes to the criminal justice system. Out of these efforts grew the organization’s D.C. Prisoner Reentry Initiative, and starting in 2009, the putting together of a report.
“The committee [behind the report] was composed of our board members, people from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, advocates for former offenders, and law enforcement and corrections workers. It seemed to us that these were the major groups that would have ideas about what might be accomplished. We wanted to try to get consensus from this group about what we could do to identify and promote legislation and policy,” said Peter Willner, CCE’s senior policy analyst.
The report is based on the responses of 550 previously incarcerated individuals in the District concerning their employment challenges, as well as on in–depth interviews with nearly 20 District employers and representatives of local business associations.
While the major barriers to reentry into society for the previously incarcerated include health care, housing, and substance abuse, the committee decided to focus solely on employment.
“Fixing the whole reentry system is not realistic, so we began to focus more narrowly on the subject of employment and its close relationship to recidivism,” said June Kress, executive director of CCE.
The executive summary of the report echoes Kress’ sentiments. “While the lack of a job is only one factor leading to recidivism, research shows that when the previously incarcerated have stable employment they are less likely to return to crime and public safety improves,” it states.
For Willner, the results generated by the survey were not entirely unexpected, but some still managed to surprise him.
“One of the report’s findings that I found interesting was that one of the most frequent types of jobs that respondents reported having were positions of trust, such as a manager or supervisor. A third of those people had been convicted of a crime of violence or a fraud-type of crime. To me that counters the view that someone who has committed this type of crime could never be employed in a position of trust,” he said.
Among the report’s other findings: 46 percent of those surveyed said they were unemployed; 80 percent said they were asked “all the time” about their criminal record while looking for a job; there was little or no difference in unemployment rates for those who earned a GED or job certificate before or after prison and those who did not; and 77 percent said they received no assistance from “anyone at the facility” in helping them look for a job.
After analyzing the survey results, CCE came up with the “5 percent solutions,” which are intended to be used as “part of an overall policy to improve employment prospects for the previously incarcerated.”
“With the 5 percent solutions, the idea is that if you have things like liability protection and certificates of good standing, you aggregate small changes over time,” said Willner.
Call for Action
The solutions Willner alluded to involve the D.C. Council enacting liability protection for employers who hire previously incarcerated persons to “help minimize the risk of negligent hiring lawsuits when businesses employ those with a criminal record.”
CCE is also proposing for D.C. criminal justice system agencies to consider establishing a “certificate of good standing” program to promote licensing and hiring of previously incarcerated persons.
Other solutions listed in the report are for the D.C. Justice Grants Administration to annually review the performance of D.C. government contracts and grants related to reentry and develop a compendium of best practices to better direct future reentry funding; for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and, if necessary, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and U.S. Parole Commission to regularly review and revise employment programming available to D.C. residents based on current employment trends and job forecasts; and for the D.C. Superior Court to not establish a reentry court.
Getting liability protection legislation passed will be the first part of implementing CCE’s recommendations. According to Kress, Councilmember Phil Mendelson (At–Large) has already publicly said that he is ready to proceed with a bill in January. Kress said she doesn’t anticipate much of a challenge since the D.C. Chamber of Commerce is on board.
While CCE issued the report with the purpose of informing D.C. policymakers and business leaders of its recommendations and urging action on them, the other purpose of the study is to educate the community of the effects of a criminal record on obtaining employment.“In addition to the specific recommendations, we really wanted to educate a vast part of the city about this issue. Wards 7 and 8 have a first-hand understanding of the collateral consequences of incarceration, but there are other parts of the city where people really don’t know about it,” Kress said. “So the report was intended to educate people and to show that there are economic implications if we don’t address this issue. After a three-year period, many people go back to being incarcerated because they can’t find jobs, which really hurts the city overall.”—K.A.