By Kathryn Alfisi and Thai Phi Le
Bread for the City’s Ju Garners Scoutt Prize
Su Sie Ju, the Northwest Legal Clinic supervisor at Bread for the City, was named the winner of the 2013 Jerrold Scoutt Prize by the District of Columbia Bar Foundation.
The prize is given out each year to a public interest attorney who has devoted much of his or her career working with the District’s low–income residents, providing needed legal services with great compassion and proficiency.
“I am honored and grateful to receive the Scoutt Prize. I have long admired past recipients, and being part of this group is both surprising and humbling,” Ju said. “This award is really a reflection of collaborative efforts to help vulnerable, low-income families—efforts made possible thanks to the support of my incredible colleagues at Bread for the City and of so many extraordinary legal services attorneys here in D.C.”
Ju has worked at Bread for the City since 2000, seeking policy reforms in child support, kinship care, language access, and public benefits. Whether helping a grandparent secure benefits to care for their grandchildren or assisting a resident with a limited grasp of English navigate the justice system, Ju has helped hundreds of low-income clients find their voice.
“The Scoutt Prize Award Committee particularly noted that the strength and breadth of Ms. Ju’s contributions to the legal services [community] were deserving of recognition,” said Katherine L. “Katia” Garrett, executive director of the D.C. Bar Foundation. “Ms. Ju has worked steadily for years to serve individual clients and families, to effect constructive systemic change to the institutions that affect the lives of thousands of D.C. residents, and to mentor and support public interest and pro bono attorneys.”
In addition to her work at Bread for the City, Ju cofounded and directs the Child Support Community Legal Services Project, which provides same-day representation to parties in child support matters. The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia is a partner in the project. Ju also serves as a member of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, D.C. Bar Family Law Task Force, and the Paternity & Support (P&S) Branch Rules Drafting Committee and P&S Branch Child Support and Employment Working Group of the family court of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
“The individuals and families we serve at Bread for the City are truly inspiring, and I am fortunate to be part of a public interest legal community dedicated to increasing access to justice and working together to achieve social justice,” Ju added.
The Scoutt Prize is named in honor of Jerrold Scoutt Jr., a founding partner at Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger, LLP, who was committed to helping the poor get access to legal services. The winner receives a stipend of $2,500, which is funded by the firm.
The D.C. Bar Foundation will present the Scoutt Prize on April 19 at the Judicial Reception, part of the larger District of Columbia Judicial and Bar Conference. For more information, contact Katia Garrett at 202-467-3750, ext. 12, or firstname.lastname@example.org.—T.L.
Bar Seeks Nominations for 2013 Annual Awards
The D.C. Bar is seeking nominations for outstanding projects and contributions by Bar members, to be recognized at the Bar’s 2013 Celebration of Leadership: The D.C. Bar Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting. The deadline for submissions is March 29.
Bar members are encouraged to submit nominations for the following awards: Best Bar Project/Frederick B. Abramson, Best Section, Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year, and Pro Bono Law Firm—one for small firms (2–50 lawyers) and one for large firms (51 lawyers or more).
Award nominations may be submitted in one of the following ways: (1) online at www.dcbar.org/awards; (2) by e–mail to email@example.com; or (3) by mail to Katherine A. Mazzaferri, Chief Executive Officer, District of Columbia Bar, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005-4210. Electronic submissions are encouraged.
The winners will be honored on June 18 at the Celebration of Leadership, which will be held at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW. The Bar also will present its Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service and its William J. Brennan Jr. Award to outstanding Bar members.
Board Approves Changes to Bar’s Nominations Process
The D.C. Bar Board of Governors has approved changes in the Bar’s By-laws to remove the office of president-elect from the list of positions for which individuals may be nominated by petition and to set the threshold requirement for petition candidacies for the remaining elected leadership positions at a percentage of the active membership instead of an absolute number.
In its memorandum originally proposing the changes to the Board, the Bar’s Leadership Development Committee described them as “consistent with the Bar’s core value of visionary leadership and the strategic plan’s objective to develop an organizational culture that produces outstanding leaders who are committed to making the D.C. Bar the national leader in the legal profession for professional excellence, preeminent programs, and exemplary public service.”
Under the Bar’s By–laws, the Bar’s Committee on Nominations puts forth the names of at least two, and no more than three, active members for the offices of president-elect, secretary, and treasurer, as well as for vacancies on the Board of Governors and vacant positions on the American Bar Association House of Delegates. With the changes, individuals who are not named by the Committee on Nominations for any position other than president–elect may be nominated by obtaining the signatures of at least one–half of 1 percent of the active membership of the Bar. The number of active members is based on a census of the Bar as of the first business day in the calendar year in which the elections are held. As of January 2, 2013, the Bar’s active membership was 72,042, making this year’s petition threshold 361 signatures. Previously, petition candidates were required to obtain the signatures of 100 active members.
The By–law changes also clarified that petitions must be submitted in accordance with procedures established by the Board and must contain handwritten, legible signatures accompanied by the D.C. Bar member identification number of the signers.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton Lee Jr. poses with one of the graduates of the Fathering Court program in January.
The program, which Lee oversees, is designed to help fathers returning from prison reenter society and reconnect with their families. It combines needs assessment, skill development opportunities, case management, peer support, and completion of a mandatory curriculum. The program also puts noncustodial parents in contact with community resources.
According to the D.C. Superior Court, one in four D.C. prisoners owes court–ordered child support; the Fathering Court helps fathers reconnect with their children both financially and emotionally. The recidivism rate for participants in the program, now on its fifth year, has been less than 10 percent.—K.A.
Volunteers Needed for Mock Trial Championship
The American Mock Trial Association is seeking volunteers to judge its 29th annual national championship tournament on April 12–14 in Washington, D.C. The tournament, which will take place at the E. Barrett Prettyman and H. Carl Moultrie courthouses, is sponsored by the University of Virginia Law School.
Interested volunteers must have a law degree to evaluate the competitors. Recent law school graduates and experienced attorneys in any practice area are encouraged to apply. Previous judging experience is not required.
Rounds will be held Friday (6–10 p.m.), Saturday (9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2–6 p.m.), and Sunday (9 a.m.–1 p.m.). The four–hour rounds include the one–hour orientation for judges. No advance preparation is needed before the trial–court level competition.
2013 Section Steering Committee Voting Moves Online
For the first time, the D.C. Bar section steering committee elections will be conducted primarily online, with paper ballots made available only upon request.
Each steering committee has either two or three positions available. Elections will be held in the spring of 2013, with results announced in mid–June. Steering committee terms run for three years, from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2016.
Section nominating committees will review all Candidate Interest Forms to select candidates who reflect the D.C. Bar’s core organizational values of diversity and inclusion. Two to three candidates will be nominated for each position.
Section members in good standing can access their ballots by logging into the Bar’s Web site during the spring voting period to cast their ballots. Paper ballots will be provided to section members who request them before April 15.
To request a paper ballot or view a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/
sections/section_elections. For more information, e–mail the D.C. Bar Sections Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
D.C. Court of Appeals Holds Court at Local Law Schools
On January 15 the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law hosted a formal ribbon–cutting ceremony for its new moot courtroom. Within an hour, the room was already being put to use by the D.C. Court of Appeals, which presented three cases before an audience of nearly 100 observers.
Chief Judge Eric T. Washington, Senior Judge William C. Pryor, and Associate Judge Kathryn A. Oberly heard oral arguments in Ramon Estopina v. Susan O’Brian, Travis Littlejohn v. United States, and Louis Monteilh v. AFSCME, AFL–CIO.
The off–site courtroom sessions are part of a larger collaborative effort by Chief Judge Washington and local law school deans to offer students a chance to observe and learn from real–world litigation. The education outreach initiative allows students to ask judges questions about the legal proceedings after the oral arguments are presented. The three–judge panel, which can change with each session, cannot discuss the issues involved with the specific cases heard that day, but it does explain the process.
“It takes patience to give each case its due,” Judge Pryor said during the question–and–answer portion of the program. “We have to sit, study, prepare, and explore. It’s not a laundry list where you go in and multiply, divide, and go on.”
The judges fielded questions about what they look for in potential law clerks, why they chose to become judges, their analysis of evasive counsel answers, and the judicial process following oral arguments, among many others.
Spencer Richards, a first–year law student at UDC, remarked about the experience, “We see the court in action. The 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) [discussed in the Monteilh case]—it’s all stuff I took a test on,” he said. “It’s cool to go to school, to go to class, and see what we learn will be applied in the real world.”
As part of the program, the D.C. Court of Appeals judges traveled to the moot courtroom at Howard University School of Law on January 29 to hear three more oral arguments in pending appeals.—T.L.
Legal Aid Receives Over $40K Cy Pres Award
On December 6, 2009, Philip Friedman of Friedman Law Offices PLLC, and Amy Mix, supervising attorney at the AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE), filed their first complaint in a class action lawsuit against a national debt collection company. After a signed settlement in the spring of 2012 and an extensive search for claimants, the two were left with nearly $45,000 of unclaimed funds. The last thing they’d have to do in the case was decide where the remaining money would go.
Formally known as cy pres awards, leftover funds from a class action lawsuit often are donated to a group that works in an area that relates to the purpose of the case. The choice is left to counsel, but it must be court–approved.
In this particular case, Friedman and Mix sued the debt collection service and its law firm for violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for filing debt collection lawsuits past the statute of limitations. In the District, that number is three years after the debts go into default.
They won, with the debt collection company agreeing to pay $180,000. There were 130 people affected by the lawsuit, and Friedman and Mix tried to find as many as possible to let them know they had money coming if they made a claim. After about three months, nearly $45,000 of the settlement funds remained undistributed. As part of the settlement, Friedman and Mix already had decided that any unclaimed money from the case would go to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.
“Philip and I talked about it and decided we wanted [the recipient] to be an office that does direct services on debt collection cases. It fit the bill to go to Legal Aid,” Mix said. Legal Aid already was well versed on debt collection defense work and had recently partnered with LCE to launch a court-based legal services project for debt collection defendants in small claims court.
So on January 10, 2013, Mix and Friedman presented a check to Eric Angel, executive director of Legal Aid. “We were surprised and extremely gratified to receive a cy pres award of this magnitude. The receipt of the award is critical to our ability to continue the important work of our consumer unit, which focuses on combating abusive debt collection practices as well as helping families avoid unnecessary foreclosures,” Angel said.
Angel said Legal Aid is “profoundly grateful” to Friedman and the LCE for recommending his organization to receive the cy pres award.—T.L.
Taking the Plunge
On January 9 the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Arent Fox LLP, and the D.C. Public Schools hosted the eighth annual GeoPlunge Geography Tournament at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The competition drew more than 220 public school students on 74 teams from 30 elementary and middle schools in the city. A team from Alice Deal Middle School won this year’s tournament. Arent Fox partner Alan Fishel (fourth from left, foreground) created the tournament in an attempt to make learning geography fun for students. The games are played with a set of cards representing the 50 states and encourage kids to learn state facts such as capitals, population, and border states. Pictured with Fishel are tournament monitors from Arent Fox and from cosponsors Goodwin Procter LLP, Presidio, and Sanyo.—K.A.
Historical Society Preserves Oral History of D.C. Circuit Figures
The voices of those who helped to shape the history of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit live on thanks to the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit’s Oral History Program.
The program focuses on judges, attorneys, and other figures who have played important roles in the circuit court. The Historical Society regularly trains attorney volunteers to conduct extensive interviews, in some cases up to 10 two–hour interviews with a subject, that can take more than a year to complete.
“These are prominent judges and lawyers who have made contributions through their work, and we think it’s important to have their histories available for posterity so historians, academics, [and] other lawyers can read about them and learn about their lives, what got them interested in the law, and how they got to where they did in their careers,” said Linda Ferren, the society’s executive director.
The program began in 1991, a year after the Historical Society was founded through the efforts of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (then a federal appellate court judge), with the initial mission of recording the history of the D.C. Circuit.
Currently there are 75 completed oral histories, 63 of which are available on the Historical Society’s Web site. All the histories are available in hard copy in the Judges’ Library at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, in the Manuscript Reading Room of the Library of Congress, and at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. A few oral histories are sealed until the subjects’ death under the terms of their donation to the Historical Society; some subjects allow their histories to be published in hard copy but not online.
The current collection of online oral histories includes those of legal luminaries such as Judges William B. Bryant and Thomas A. Flannery and attorneys Daniel M. Gribbon and Lloyd N. Cutler. Oral history subjects also have included longtime deputy U.S. marshal Richard Kirkland Bowden and the wives of Judges J. Skelly Wright and Carl McGowan, who were interviewed in the wake of their husbands’ deaths.
As of January there were 36 oral histories in the works, including one of attorney Fred Fielding. The Historical Society generally publishes five or more histories per year.
Historical Society president Stephen J. Pollak has worked on four oral histories himself and finds the interviews to be fascinating.
“It’s a real window into the living history of how justice is administered in the federal court in the District of Columbia, both the district court and the appellate court,” he said. The Historical Society “thinks that [it has] a significant value in understanding how justice is administered in the federal courts and who does it and how,” Pollack added.
To find out about volunteering for the Oral History Program or to suggest a future subject for an oral history, contact Ferren at 202-216-7346 or visit the Historical Society’s Web site at www.dcchs.org.—K.A.
D.C. Courts News Web Site Goes Live
Want to hear about the latest news and initiatives coming from the District of Columbia Courts? When is the Youth Law Fair? How did people celebrate during the Fathering Court graduation? To answer these types of questions and to help connect the public with stories about the local justice system, the D.C. Courts have launched a new Web site, D.C. Courts News, which is available at www.dccourtsnews.gov.
“We are pleased to have another avenue for getting the word out to D.C. residents about the various services, programs, and initiatives offered by the D.C. Courts,” said Chief Judge Eric T. Washington of the D.C. Court of Appeals. “We take seriously our responsibility to educate the public about the justice system and to earn the public’s trust and confidence.”
The new site is part of a larger outreach effort by the D.C. Courts to raise awareness and understanding about how the justice system functions and to increase communication with the public. The Web site regularly will highlight news stories and photos from recent events and programs. Web site features include an RSS feed, a Twitter feed, and links to the D.C. Courts’ Facebook page and YouTube channel.
In addition, readers can subscribe to an electronic newsletter, which contains current stories from the new Web site.—T.L.
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 March 9, April 2, May 11, and June 4. Advanced registration is encouraged.
For more information or to register online, visit www.dcbar.org/mandatorycourse.
2012 D.C. Practice Manual Still Available for Purchase
The D.C. Bar and its sections have released the District of Columbia Practice Manual, 2012 Edition, a two–volume, soft–cover guide covering the basics of law in the District of Columbia.
Produced with the assistance of Thomson Reuters, this easy–to–use format brings together the collective knowledge of hundreds of experienced practitioners in 33 chapters.
The title is available for $300 and may be ordered from the D.C. Bar Member Services Center, 1101 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005–4210. Credit card orders may be placed by secure fax to 202-942-9752. Individuals purchasing the new edition automatically qualify for subscription pricing discounts on subsequent editions.
For more information about the title, contact the D.C. Bar Communications Office at email@example.com.
CCE’s Jury Project Teaches Students About Key Civic Duty
Serving on a jury is one of our most important civic duties, and yet many Americans react to a jury summons with dread or, at times, indifference.
According to the D.C. Court of Appeals, the juror yield (the number of people in the District who are eligible and available for jury service) for 2012 was 22 percent of the total number of prospective jurors summoned. That percentage is broken down as follows: 39,748 individuals who report for jury duty, 26,268 who go through the voire dire process, and 6,102 who end up serving on a jury. One problem is that there are a number of people living in the District who are ineligible to serve on a jury, but there are also those who are eligible to serve but don’t answer their jury summons.
The court brings in some of these people for a show-cause hearing so they can explain to a judge why they did not appear for jury duty and to reschedule a time to do so. A bench warrant is issued to those who fail to appear at a show–cause hearing. According to the court, on average two people are arrested each week for failure to appear at a show–cause hearing related to jury duty.
In an ongoing effort to teach young people in the District about the importance of jury service, the Council for Court Excellence (CCE), as it has done for 20 years, brings its School Jury Education Project into the city’s public and charter high schools. CCE made 15 school visits in 2012 (sometimes a school is visited more than once). The project allows students to play the role of jury members and to deliberate on a mock trial video produced by CCE.
“The purpose is to teach kids what the jury system is all about and why it’s important,” said Priscilla Skillman, who recently stepped down as CCE’s assistant director but serves as consultant for the organization. “We think it’s important to go through jury deliberations so they know what it’s like and won’t be intimidated.”
Washington Lawyer joined CCE on a recent visit to a social studies class at the School Without Walls to teach students about the jury system.
Mock Jury Deliberations
Several of the students in Kerry Sylvia’s class raised their hands when Skillman asked who among them will be turning 18 years old soon. More hands appeared in the air as students started asking questions.
“What happens if you just don’t show up?” asked one student, who, along with several others, was shocked to find out that one could ultimately face jail time for the offense. There were also inquiries about what happens if a person fails to perform jury duty, if he or she is away when the summons is issued, and how the court decides if a person is unfit to serve on a particular jury.
After the initial question–and–answer session, CCE policy analyst Hillary Evans gave a brief introduction about the School Jury Education Project, which she now leads following Skillman’s departure. Next, the class prepared to watch a 20-minute mock trial video based on an actual criminal case in the District. Sylvia asked her students to pay close attention and to take notes as they’ll need the information later on in making their determination of guilt or innocence in the case.
After the video presentation, the class was divided into two groups, with desks arranged in circles so that the newly created “juries” can deliberate on what they’ve just seen. Soon the classroom noise began to rise as students started discussing the case. One “jury” was enthusiastic to the point of almost drowning out the other jury’s discussions.
Such eager participation is not uncommon, Skillman said, and oftentimes teachers will find their normally quiet students talking during the jury exercise.
Making a Judgment
The presence of Judge Karen Howze of the D.C. Superior Court made the process more authentic. Howze is one of several judges from the D.C. Courts who participate in the project.
On this particular classroom visit, Howze helped guide the students with their jury deliberations and talked about the jury system. “It’s the burden of the government to prove a crime and to produce evidence,” she told the class. “When you’re on a jury, and this is probably one of the hardest things, you may have a judge on your panel and you may have an 18–year–old who just graduated.”
“All this extraneous outside information cannot be the basis of the determination,” Howze added, referring to information about a case that jurors may gain outside the trial, such as media coverage.
Finally both “juries” reached a verdict: not guilty.
Howze said the high level of participation seen in this particular classroom was indicative of other classes she has worked in in the three years she has been involved in the project. “The best part is that it introduces kids, who are about to become adults, to the jury process and their obligation,” she said.
Sylvia, the social studies teacher, said the project’s greatest benefit was getting the students to really think about why it’s important that they participate in the jury process. She was already familiar with the project through her time teaching Street Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School.
“What often gets left out of D.C. government classes is government and civic responsibilities. [This program] gets kids thinking about what their responsibilities are, and it gets them thinking about why it’s important that they participate” in the jury process, Sylvia said.
Before leaving the classroom, Judge Howze posed for pictures with the students, and Skillman and Evans distributed copies of CCE’s publication Community Guide to the Courts as well as feedback forms.
“The juror experience was fun and informational. Thank you for coming and teaching us so much about law, judges, and juries,” one feedback form read. Another student wrote: “Before, I was unaware of the importance of jury duty, but now I understand its importance and how it works.”
Currently 13 schools are participating in the project, which is presented in partnership with Georgetown University Law Center’s D.C. Street Law Program and American University Washington College of Law’s Marshall–Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project.To learn more about the School Jury Education Project, contact Hillary Evans at 202-785-5917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.—K.A.