D.C.-Based Lawyers Join Allegations
Of Discriminatory State Election Laws
Members of Washington, D.C.’s legal community are joining the calls to reform the nation’s election laws as outrage continues over Georgia’s new legislation that critics say suppresses the votes of low-income and minority residents.
Some of the attorneys testified before Congress recently as the House and Senate consider a proposal that would set national minimum standards for access to the vote.
“State legislatures across the country have introduced legislation to make it harder to vote, ranging from reverting to ‘no excuse’ absentee ballots, to unnecessary and arbitrary burdens on voting by mail,” said Marcia Johnson-Blanco, co-director of the Voting Rights Project of the Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
She testified before the House Administration subcommittee on elections.
The bill, the For the People Act, would extend voting by mail, eliminate requirements of photo identification by voters and allow same-day voter registration.
D.C. in Brief
We Could Use Your Help
Thousands of DC residents need a lawyer, but can’t afford one. They could be illegally evicted from their homes, lose custody of their children, experience domestic violence, and more, all because they lack legal representation.
You could make a difference. By making a donation to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, you will provide free, high-quality, zealous legal representation to low-income DC residents. Click the photo above to make a donation today.
Your support could prevent homelessness, domestic violence, hunger, or family separation. In fact, if just 10 people who see this ad give $28 to Legal Aid, it will be enough to staff an experienced attorney at the courthouse for a day.
That way, DC residents like Keith King (pictured above) can get the legal representation they need to win their cases. As Mr. King put it, if it wasn’t for his Legal Aid lawyer, “I would have been homeless again.”
Here is the link to the Legal Aid website for donations: https://www.legalaiddc.org/donate-to-legal-aid/
For more information, contact Rob Pergament at Legal Aid at firstname.lastname@example.org
Power the Civil Rights Work of Our Time
Each day members of our community are experiencing wage theft, the effects of gentrification, discriminatory policing, collateral consequences, marginalization in schools, and barriers to public accommodations.
We fight alongside people facing the effects of gentrification like Amira Moore. Our work empowers the people and communities who need it most, “We can do more than we think. There’s a path to equity, we just have to step to it.” –Ms. Moore
For more than 50 years, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights in our community. We deploy the best legal talent, we tackle the tough cases, we fight, and we win.
Our work is as important today as it has ever been. Through your support, you can play a role in creating justice for thousands of marginalized members of our community. Together, we will dismantle injustice and pursue lasting change.
Join us! Donate & subscribe: https://www.washlaw.org/support-us
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Arrests Continue of Jan. 6 Insurrectionists
But Face Roadblocks with Prosecutions
Arrests of Jan. 6 insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol are continuing this week even as the zeal to throw the defendants in prison with severe sentences begins to subside or run into stumbling blocks of criminal law.
In the few weeks after the violent takeover of the Capitol by Trump supporters, the new U.S. attorney general announced prosecuting them would be one of his top priorities.
In one typical case, Michigan resident Anthony Williams was scheduled for an appearance last week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after a recent arrest for his role in the Jan. 6 uprising.
Prosecutors are trying to get the case transferred to D.C. Superior Court, where sentiment in the local community is more intense against the rioters.
A tip led FBI agents to screenshots Williams posted on Facebook that show him inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
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Baltimore Ceases Prosecutions
For Low-Level Non-Violent Crimes
Baltimore’s State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is turning her COVID-19 policy of dismissing minor charges into a long-term strategy for addressing crime.
Under the new policy, drug possession, minor traffic offenses and non-violent crimes involving prostitution and trespass will not be prosecuted.
“Clearly, the data suggest there is no public safety value in prosecuting low-level offenses,” Mosby said at a press conference.
Mosby described the shift in plans as an effort to use crisis intervention techniques to moderate offenders’ behavior for minor offenses rather than criminal convictions.
She is partnering with the mental health organization Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. to help in the interventions, mediation and counseling, especially in cases of drug addiction or mental illness.
D.C. Superior Court
Resumes Jury Trials
D.C. Superior Court resumed jury trials this week after a more than year-long suspension of in-person court proceedings caused by the pandemic.
A slight uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Washington area in the past two weeks is part of the reason for additional safety measures in courtrooms.
They include six feet of separation between seats, temperature scans, health questionnaires, capacity limits, mask requirements and plexiglass shields at the judge’s bench and defendant and plaintiff’s tables.
Jurors can complete many of the required procedures online, including check-in. More details can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUR-mFZvuls
“We’ve put many procedures in place to ensure your health and safety as you perform your civic duty,” said Chief Judge of D.C. Superior Court Anita Josey-Herring in the video.
The D.C. Code requires that jail inmates can be held pre-trial no more than 100 days.
However, recent D.C. Department of Corrections data shows some men have spent nearly 11 months in the city’s jail while jury trials were suspended. Some women were in jail for nearly nine months.
More than 200 have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least two have died from it, according to Department of Corrections figures.
Exxon Mobil Forced to Continue Defense
Against Environmental Lawsuit in D.C.
Oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. is being sued in District of Columbia Superior Court over its environmental record despite its ongoing efforts to get the case removed to federal court.
The Washington-based environmental group Beyond Pesticides accuses Exxon Mobil of violating the District of Columbia’s consumer protection laws with its advertisements saying clean energy production is a high priority for the company.
The lawsuit calls the statements deceptive based on the fact Exxon Mobil invests hugely in fossil fuel production but a relatively tiny amount in renewable energy.
D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act forbids a wide variety of deceptive and unconscionable business practices.
Exxon Mobil argues that D.C. Superior Court is the wrong venue for the lawsuit.
The company is headquartered in Irving, Texas, and the environmental issues involved stretch far beyond the District of Columbia. As a result, diversity jurisdiction should put the lawsuit in federal court, Exxon Mobil argues.
In addition, the legal fees and other expenses involved put the lawsuit over the $75,000 threshold for claims in U.S. District Court, the company’s attorneys have said in their motions for removal.
Exxon Mobil is seeking a stay to prevent the lawsuit from continuing in local court while it appeals its efforts to get it switched to federal court.
So far, the company has lost. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly wrote an order that "the court perceives no public interest in granting" Exxon Mobil's motion for a stay.
He also disagreed with the company’s argument that it would suffer irreparable harm if the case is tried in D.C. Superior Court. He said Exxon Mobil failed to cite any case law that would prove its claims of irreparable harm.
The case is Beyond Pesticides v. Exxon Mobil Corp., case number 1:20-cv-01815, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.