By Kathryn Alfisi and Thai Phi Le
D.C. Bar Recognizes CLE Faculty Members
Most days each year, they march into the conference center at the D.C. Bar headquarters, equipped with course materials and prepped with presentations. The room fills with participants, from the new associate to the veteran attorney. The D.C. Bar Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program enriches the legal community, but behind that effort are more than 300 dedicated faculty members.
On September 19 those faculty members were honored for their hard work at the annual Faculty Appreciation Reception. Luke Reynolds, CLE Committee vice chair, noted that during the last fiscal year, the faculty logged $1.5 million worth of volunteer hours, teaching more than 150 courses to more than 11,000 students.
The numbers are impressive, said D.C. Bar President Tom Williamson as he discussed the growth and success of the CLE Program since it offered its first course in 1990. “But the CLE Program is much more than a story about numbers. It’s also a story about quality,” he said, noting that the program has been recognized for its exceptional service. “What’s the explanation for the stellar performance of the Bar’s CLE Program? The answer, of course, is no mystery. The answer is found in the people who make the CLE Program happen. The most obvious reason is that we have an amazing core of talented, dedicated faculty volunteers.”
Following Williamson was Chief Judge Eric T. Washington of the D.C. Court of Appeals, who praised CLE’s programs for honing the skills of Washington metropolitan area lawyers and keeping the flow of information moving and available.
Hoping to continually improve CLE offerings, CLE Program Director Lalla Shishkevich later asked guests to offer feedback and ideas on how best to provide online training, a new initiative the CLE Program is working to implement. “We’re going to take things to the next level,” she said.
The evening ended with awards and gifts presented to the faculty. As usual, instructors for the mandatory course also received a gag gift. This year, it was an eraser shaped as an iPhone—a witty poke at lawyers’ constant use of cell phones during classes.—T.L.
CLC Honors Arnold & Porter, GE for Pro Bono Partnership
The Children’s Law Center (CLC) focused on its education advocacy work at this year’s Helping Children Soar Benefit, held at the Kennedy Center Roof Terrace Restaurant on September 13. Through interactive and informational activities, attendees were able to learn about dyslexia, education in the District of Columbia, and the stages of childhood development. The benefit helped CLC raise more than $750,000.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Children’s Pro Bono Champion award to Arnold & Porter LLP and General Electric Company for providing joint representation in special education pro bono cases.
Arnold & Porter has been one of CLC’s champions for years, but about three years ago the firm brought on board longtime client GE to work on special education cases.
“What’s unique is that it’s a company and a law firm working together,” said CLC Executive Director Judith Sandalow. “I think that often corporations, especially their counsel, don’t have a way to give back to the community, and I think [GE] is excited about this opportunity.”
“GE has a track record of good corporate citizenship,” said Philip Horton, a partner at Arnold & Porter and chair of the firm’s pro bono committee. Horton said GE had been looking to do more pro bono work at its various offices, including its small Washington, D.C., office located just across the street from the law firm. Similarly, Arnold & Porter was interested in partnering with its clients on pro bono matters. GE senior counsel Aimee Imundo also happens to be a former Arnold & Porter attorney who is now in charge of the pro bono partnership between GE and the law firm.
Most special education cases are referred to CLC by pediatricians who participate in the organization’s Health Access Project. CLC attorneys work collaboratively with pediatricians at the Children’s National Medical Center and at the hospital’s health centers in Northwest and Southeast D.C.
Special education cases can range from one similar to the case of Sky Stringer, who has ADHD and mild dyslexia and has to be taught in a slightly different way at a regular school, to that of a severely autistic child who cannot be in a regular classroom. (Stringer, a middle school student, emceed the CLC benefit.) What remains a constant, according to Sandalow, is the school system’s inability to diagnose children with learning disabilities and to provide them with the right learning environment.
“At a systemic level, both D.C. public schools and D.C. charter schools do not have enough programs to meet the needs of children with disabilities,” she said. “It’s our view that a child shouldn’t be left behind just because they’re poor, and the best way out of poverty is a good education, and children with disabilities can flourish and succeed academically.”
While the partnership between Arnold & Porter and GE may not be able to solve the overarching problem, attorneys involved have successfully handled almost every case they’ve taken on, according to Horton. Usually the cases are resolved at the administrative level so that they never reach litigation, he added.
“In most of these situations, there’s a parent who’s gotten the runaround, a principal who would really rather think about something else, or a recalcitrant teacher who [isn’t] willing to do what [he or she has] to do, and when they have to face lawyers from a big law firm and GE, they usually become cooperative,” Horton said.—K.A.
Superior Court Implements E–Filing in Three Court Branches
The Superior Court of the District of Columbia has issued an order for the Domestic Relations, Juvenile, and Neglect and Abuse branches of the family court to implement an electronic filing system, effective December 10.
The eFiling system has become a useful tool for courts across the country to efficiently and accurately receive filings, documents, and data. Attorneys practicing in the three previously mentioned branches must register with CaseFileXpress during the transition period, from September 24 to December 10, to receive their service copies of orders issued by judges and any eFiled documents from other lawyers.
Attorneys are not required to begin eFiling during the transition period, but they may do so if desired. By December 10, however, all parties are required to eFile and eServe unless they are representing themselves or are represented by an attorney from a designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Also exempt from the order are adoption cases that go through the child abuse and neglect branch.
To view the full administrative order, visit bit.ly/Uo1WCl.
Bats and Balls With Benefits
This fall the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless held its 13th annual Lawyers Pitch In softball tournament in Laurel, Maryland, which raised $35,000 for the organization. Among the participants were attorneys from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; BWW Law Group, LLC; Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Goodwin Procter LLP; Hogan Lovells; Jones Day; Stein Sperling Bennett De Jong Driscoll PC; and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. The team from Arnold & Porter LLP (pictured) rallied to defeat the Steptoe & Johnson LLP team and capture the title.—K.A.
D.C. Practice Manual, 2012 Edition, Is 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.
A must–have resource and the starting point for every D.C. practitioner, the new manual has an introductory chapter on Finding the Law in the District of Columbia, followed by specific chapters covering Administrative Procedure, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Antitrust, Appellate Practice in the D.C. Court of Appeals, Art Law, Child Abuse and Neglect, Commercial Law, Consumer Protection, Corporate Practice, Criminal Law and Practice, Criminal Traffic Offenses, Domestic Relations, Employment Law, Environmental Law, Government Contracts, Health Maintenance Organization Act, Human Rights, Intervention Proceedings, Juvenile Law and Practice, Landlord and Tenant Practice, Legal Ethics and Lawyer Discipline, Mental Health Proceedings, Partnerships, Personal Injury, Real Property, Small Claims, Superior Court Civil Practice, Taxation, U.S. District Court Civil Practice, Wills and Estates, Workers’ Compensation, and Zoning and Historic Preservation.
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.
Drug Court Graduates Celebrate Sober Living
The bass of the dance music could be heard blocks away from Fort Lincoln Park in Northeast Washington, D.C. The cheering and the clapping were even louder. For more than 20 individuals, September 20 was a day to celebrate: their graduation from the D.C. Superior Court’s drug intervention program New Directions.
For the graduates, the day represented their hard work over the last six months (on average) that included intensive treatment and regular meetings with case managers and judges to review their progress. It represented at least 90 days of clean living and a strong bond formed with other participants in their struggle to overcome drug and alcohol addiction. As the title of the program reflects, the day represented a new direction in their lives.
“Congratulations to those who are graduating,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said. “And to those who are early in the journey, I hope you look to those graduates as an inspiration.”
Individuals who participate in the New Directions program go through four phases of recovery. In each of the phases, participants must attend group sessions for a certain number of hours each week and must not incur any drug infractions. As they progress through each phase, the number of hours decreases. In phase four, participants must attend one outside self–help group. If they meet all the conditions, each phase should last six weeks, for a total of 24 weeks in the program before they graduate. Those who moved from one phase to next were also recognized at the graduation ceremony.
In addition to Mayor Gray, Imani Walker, cofounder and executive director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, and Judges Frederick H. Weisberg and Ann O. Keary of the D.C. Superior Court were on hand for the graduation ceremony, praising the strength of the participants and offering words of encouragement.
“Courage is not about the absence of fear. It’s acting responsibly in the face of that fear,” said Walker, who was once an addict until she turned her life around and founded the Rebecca Project. The group connects women in poverty, who are often single mothers in recovery and/or in prison, to community–based resources.
“You’re reclaiming your lives,” Judge Keary told the participants. A loud “YES!” from one of the graduates rang through the air.
According to the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, 88 percent of New Directions participants experience a reduction in substance abuse, and only 6 percent are rearrested while in the program.
New Directions is run through the D.C. Superior Court’s Drug Court, a special court calendar that aims to reduce recidivism among nonviolent substance–abusing defendants by offering resources to help them tackle their addictions.—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 2012 dates are October 16, November 17, and December 11. Dates for 2013 include January 12, February 5, 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.
Skadden Launches Collaborative Pro Bono Impact Project
The Washington, D.C., office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP officially launched in September its pro bono Impact Project, a collaboration with both corporate firms and leading legal aid providers in the area to provide pro bono assistance to low-income D.C. residents.
“The Impact Project reflects the firm’s long–standing public service commitment and upholds the late Joe Flom’s belief that pro bono work is part of the basic role of lawyers,” said Eric Friedman, executive partner at the firm. Flom, the last living name partner at Skadden, died in 2011.
In Impact Project, Skadden will collaborate with in-house lawyers at Cisco Systems, Inc., LivingSocial, and Northrop Grumman, as well as with the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, the Children’s Law Center (CLC), and Bread for the City. The project will provide pro bono legal service in three areas of need: domestic violence, guardians ad litem for children, and housing. Participating lawyers will be organized according to these areas.
Skadden and its corporate partners will work with Legal Aid to represent domestic violence survivors seeking protection orders, with CLC to serve as guardians ad litem for children in contested custody cases, and with Bread for the City to assist indigent families facing eviction or living in substandard rental housing, as well as with tenant organizations seeking to preserve affordable housing.
“Skadden approached us about wanting to do something that really focused on making a big difference and with a particular emphasis on family and children, and we were fortunate enough to be expanding our domestic violence project right at the same time they reached out to us,” said Legal Aid Executive Director Eric Angel.
Prior to this new partnership, Legal Aid already had a good relationship with Skadden—the firm is one of Legal Aid’s biggest benefactors.
In Impact Project, Legal Aid attorneys will initially teach Skadden attorneys about the law and dynamics of domestic violence, and provide mentorship and guidance until they develop in–house expertise.
“They have been willing to put in substantial energy, resources, and personnel in gaining expertise in this area,” Angel said. “People like Michele Roberts and Saul Pilchen are leading the effort at Skadden … What we bring to the table is the expertise with domestic violence and … with the client community, and they bring the enthusiasm and litigation expertise and the resources of Skadden.”
For CLC Executive Director Judith Sandalow, the best part of Impact Project is that it’s a partnership between a law firm and local corporations.
“I think it is terrific that our local law firms are bringing their clients to the table to focus on the District—we are the nation’s capital and our poverty rate is something to be ashamed of, so for law firms to be helping bring corporations to help the city’s kids is wonderful,” Sandalow said.—K.A.
McDermott’s Capitol Gain
On October 1 McDermott Will & Emery LLP held a ribbon–cutting ceremony to officially open its new Washington, D.C., office at 500 North Capitol Street NW. Pictured from left are Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and Bobby Burchfield and Paul Thompson, partners in charge of the firm’s D.C. office, who gave remarks before cutting the ribbon.—K.A.
Lawyers, Law Students Bring Constitution to D.C. Classrooms
“We the People. . . .” So many Americans can recite those first three words of the U.S. Constitution, but what about the rest of the text? Ask a typical student, and you’ll likely get a shrug.
To counter the glaring gap of knowledge among students across the country about fundamental civic principles, legal and educational leaders have developed programs emphasizing American history, government, and politics. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, for instance, founded in 2009 the education project iCivics, which engages students with interactive tools and games at the place where most kids can be found: online.
In 2006 the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy (ACS) created Constitution in the Classroom, a program where local volunteer attorneys and law students go into classrooms on or around Law Day in the spring or Constitution Day in the fall to teach a one–hour class about the Constitution. This year, in the District of Columbia, the program took place the week of September 17 in participating schools throughout the city. (The program is available in various locations nationwide, including the New York metropolitan area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Maryland.)
With D.C. having one of the highest lawyer–to–population ratios in the country, ACS had little trouble finding attorneys to volunteer for the program. Seventy attorneys and law students were paired off into teams of two to serve as teachers for a day, and were given the option of teaching in an elementary school, in middle school, or high school. (In areas in the nation with limited participation, ACS fields one volunteer per classroom.)
Prepped by a two–hour orientation and targeted materials and curriculum, the volunteers trooped to crowded classrooms in the District’s Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in northwest, the Incarcerated Youth Program at the D.C. Jail in Southeast, the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in Northeast, and the Patterson Elementary School in Southwest, among many others. Over 45 schools in all four quadrants of the city were covered by the program.
At the heart of the class each year is the goal to demonstrate that the Constitution is not just a historical document. The rights enshrined in the Constitution are not theoretical ideas—they apply to all individuals, whether the person is a fifth–grade student in Bend, Oregon, is in 11th grade at a Grand Rapids, Michigan, high school, or an eighth grader in Southeast D.C.
“For some of [the students], it might be the first time they realize that even as a kid they have certain rights,” said Palak Sheth, associate director of network advancement at ACS and volunteer eighth grade class teacher at Winston Education Campus in Southeast. On the flip side, they learn there are certain things they cannot do. They have the right to bear arms, but not the right to bring a gun to school. They have freedom of speech, but there’s a fine line with bullying.
“The objective of this program is to really translate constitutional values into relevant and engaging lessons that we can teach to students,” Sheth said. “Giving kids a real–world application for what they’re learning in class gets them excited.”
A Constitution for All Ages
Depending on the grade level, amendments are tackled differently. For the younger crowd, the focus is on explaining the larger concepts and providing concrete examples of how the amendment can apply to them, even at their age. The older kids often reenact landmark cases and are split into groups to conduct case studies to determine how they might rule if they were a judge. All students receive a pocket Constitution by the end of class.
“It’s such a rewarding experience. We deal with lawyers. We deal with adults. We deal with such dense policy issues and how [they affect] people,” Sheth said. “Then you go and meet the people it actually affects. These are whose rights you are working on behalf of.”
To help volunteer teachers create their lesson plans, ACS posts online various curricula, categorized according to subject and school level, which were developed with the help of the Marshall–Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project at American University Washington College of Law. Aside from a general overview of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the curricula typically focus on issues most interesting to students, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, search and seizure, due process, and the right to bear arms.
Constitution in the Classroom draws law students from all levels and attorneys at various stages of their career. Notable volunteers in previous years include former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and free speech pioneer Mary Beth Tinker, who actually taught kids about her own landmark case, Tinker v. Des Moines.
This year, Peter Edelman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, was one of the 70 volunteers who brought constitutional lessons into the District’s classrooms. Edelman ventured to Capital City Public Charter School in Northwest to teach 11th grade U.S. history, usually led by teacher Julian Hipkins III.
In the fall, Constitution in the Classroom reached nearly 10,000 students, with more than 800 of them located in Washington, D.C. For Sheth, one of the best parts of the program is the question–and–answer session at the end of class. The students often want to hear more about what it’s like to be a lawyer and how to become one.
“We think it’s part of our obligation as lawyers and law students who know, learn, and appreciate the Constitution to do a good job of getting the next generation of folks interested in the subject—not just interested, but excited,” Sheth said.—T.L.