Courts, Lawyers and the Administration of Justice

Courts, Lawyers and the Administration of Justice Section Annual Report - November 19, 2015

The section has the broadest mandate and smallest membership. We concentrate on ways the courts and the Bar can improve access to justice in the District. Issues of particular concern include access to counsel and pro bono work; administration of the court system; court rules and procedure;and the relationship between the bench and the Bar. The section also focuses on all aspects of the lawyer's relationship to the profession, including ethics and the disciplinary system. The steering committee has led the section in the following activities during the year from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015.


During 2014-15
July 2, 2014 -- "The Supreme Court: The View from the Press Gallery." Moderated by Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director, ACLU of the Nation's Capital (and former section steering committee member).

Panelists were Kimberly Atkins, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and Dolan Publications; Robert Barnes, The Washington Post;Joan Biskupic, Reuters News Service; Adam Liptak, The New York Times; Tony Mauro, National Law Journal and American Lawyer Media; and David Savage, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune.

This was the 26th anniversary of the "Press Gallery" program offered every year immediately following the end of the Court's term. The first was in 1988 under the leadership of then steering committee member Cornish Hitchcock, then at Public Citizen Litigation Group and now in private practice. Held again at Arnold & Porter, the program included behind-the-scenes observations of the Justices and comments on cases decided.

The program was recorded and broadcast by C-SPAN and is available here.

October 30, 2014 – "Looking Into Low Bono: How to Provide Legal Services to Persons of Modest Means."

After a welcome from the Honorable Eric Washington, Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, speakers included Jack Keeney, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia; Luz Herrera, UCLA School of Law; Jan May, Legal Counsel for the Elderly; and Fred Rooney, Touro Law School.

Held at the Bar and including the "Be The Change" video from the ABA, this program kicked off a year of activity led by the Washington Council of Lawyers comprising five programs, three sponsored in major part by the section, to follow up the 2013-14 Low Bono Initiative led by Andrea Ferster during her term that year as D.C. Bar President. The series, designed by a committee that included several members of the section steering committee, offered participants closer examination of specific programs and initiatives addressing different facets of the challenge of serving those who can't afford market rate attorneys but are ineligible for means-tested legal services.

February 19, 2015 – "Looking Into Low Bono: Reduced-Fee Lawyer Referral Services." Moderated by Jenny Lyman, Consultant and D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

This session, held at Arnold & Porter, examined a number of models for referral. Speakers included Catherine Brown, Gonzaga University School of Law; Steven Krieger, Steven Krieger Law; Julie Peterson, Bar Association of Montgomery County, MD.; and Ivy Smithers, Legal Counsel for the Elderly.

March 16, 2015 – "CyberSecurity In a Dangerous World: Key Issues and Strategies for Attorneys." Moderated by Fritz Mulhauser, steering committee vice chair.

Panelists were Ronald Lee, Arnold & Porter; Adam Firestone, Kaspersky Lab Government Security Group; Geoffrey Goodale, Trade Law Advisors, LLC.

A program on how attorneys and firms could protect themselves was stimulated by James Risen's 2014 account in the New York Times (based on materials leaked by Edward Snowden) of interception by Australia with help from NSA of Mayer Brown attorneys' conversations with a client, the Government of Indonesia, about sensitive trade matters in negotiation with WTO and the United States. Passed by Australia to NSA, the firm's privileged communications likely reached the U.S. Government. The program aimed to educate attorneys about such threats and suggest countermeasures, and also ranged more broadly on the subject of 21st Century interception threats of all kinds.

April 14, 2015 –"Looking Into Low Bono: Focus on Incubators." Moderated by Katie Dilks, Georgetown University Law Center. 

Held at George Washington University Law School, the program included speakers Pater Edelman, Georgetown University Law Center; Mark Fleischaker, Arent Fox; Kelly Flood, Arizona State University Alumni Law Group; and Taylor Hammond, Chicago Bar Foundation.

Upcoming Programs for the 2015-16 Year
The section plans has already this year completed the "Press Gallery" program for 2015 with 160 attendees and C-SPAN coverage, co-sponsored the initial Sections reception, and worked with others, for example, to sponsor a review of the new Supreme Court term (with Howard Law School), and a kickoff program for the new year continuing the Low Bono series (with Washington Council of Lawyers).
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Community Outreach
Contributions: The section contributed funds to the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center and the Youth Law Fair.

Legal services attorney training: After a review of the section funds and unmet needs in the community, the steering committee voted early in 2014 to support expanded high-quality trial training for new attorneys in legal services providers in the District. The co-chairs in April began a six-month planning process that led to a donation of funds to, and programmatic collaboration with, the D.C. Bar Foundation to offer a state-of-the-art four-day session October 22-25, 2014. Featuring special case materials written at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) for this audience, a team of five experienced D.C. trial attorneys worked with two dozen staff from D.C. legal services providers to hone trial skills based on guided practice and video feedback. The Bar Foundation also welcomed a contribution of space and support by the firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and a financial contribution by the D.C. Bar Litigation Section. That section earlier sponsored a shorter NITA training and the favorable response was an inspiration as we planned our own effort. In response to the feedback, our session enrolled more students and expanded the training schedule. The Steering Committee Co-Chair, the Honorable Sharon Goodie, served as course director. Evaluations were very positive. The section has begun planning for another similar session in early 2015.
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Membership and Financial
Membership is steady at around 250. We began the year with $25,000 and ended with $32,000.
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Practice Manual
The section again updated its two chapters in the D.C. Practice Manual. These provide guidance on appellate practice in the D.C. Court of Appeals and civil practice in the U.S. District Court.

Main reviewers and revision authors were Jack Keeney, former director of the Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia (and former section Steering Committee BOG liaison), for the Court of Appeals chapter review, and Nichole Wilkens, staff attorney at the U.S. District Court here, for the federal court chapter revision.The section gratefully acknowledged the assistance of both with complimentary copies of the Manual, sent after publication in fall 2015.
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Public Statement
On its first day in office, July 1, 2015, the Section's 2015-16 Steering Committee voted to approve a public statement to the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary. (The statement had been developed, voted on, and submitted for D.C. Bar review by the prior year's committee during the 2014-15 year reported on here.)

The statement expressed support of Bill B 21-0066, "The Language Access Education Amendments Act of 2015," to enhance rights of language minorities under the existing Language Access Act enacted in 2004.One in twenty residents of the District over the age of five has limited or no English proficiency and the Act counters the barriers to the receipt of governmental services that are critical to relieving the marginalization of these members of our community.

The section's statement focuses on §4 of the bill that provides persons aggrieved by a violation of the Act with a private right of action in court to seek injunctive relief, compensatory damages (plus court costs and fees). The statement cited published reports concluding existing enforcement (by D.C. Office of Human Rights adjudication of complaints and monitoring agencies) had proved a weak spur to improved services. The section endorsed the addition of a private right of action as consistent with the section's mission to promote full access to justice through the courts and through administrative tribunals.
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CLE Co-Sponsored Programs – too numerous to report.

Respectfully submitted,
Fritz Mulhauser