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Trump Nominates New Candidate
For Washington’s U.S. Attorney
President Trump’s nomination this week of Justin Herdman to become the new U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia appears to be timed to put an end to political controversies swirling around the office.
Herdman, 44, who is currently the U.S. attorney in Cleveland, would be taking over from interim U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea.
Like his predecessor, Shea is enduring allegations of political patronage for going too easy on Trump’s political associates who have faced criminal prosecution.
Within weeks of taking office in February, Shea sided with Justice Department administrators who sought to reduce the sentence of former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone.
Stone was convicted last year on seven counts, including witness tampering and lying to investigators who were checking into possible Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. He was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison.
D.C. Area Courts Slowly Reopen
While Restrictions Continue
Washington area courts are gradually reopening but with many restrictions as the coronavirus epidemic continues.
In D.C. Superior Court, the number of courtrooms operating remotely is increasing from from eight to 19. They are handling civil, criminal, domestic violence, family court and probate cases to varying degrees, but not with juries.
Criminal cases, for example, consist mostly of adult arraignments and detained status hearings.
Jailed defendants participate in preliminary hearings from a secure room at the D.C. jail. Lawyers and judges communicate through their computers.
Civil cases are being used primarily for temporary restraining orders as well as pretrial, motion and status hearings.
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
Volunteer with us: https://www.washlaw.org/get-involved/
For more information, contact Gregg Kelley at Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org
Letters to the Editor
D.C. in Brief
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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
Attorneys General Threaten EPA
Over Chesapeake Bay Cleanup
All three attorneys general in the Washington area are threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce water quality standards to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
They accuse the EPA of ignoring its court-ordered duty to prevent polluters in New York and Pennsylvania from dumping sewage and agricultural runoff into waterways that makes its way south into the Chesapeake.
The result has been algal blooms that block sunlight, reduce oxygen in the water and threaten marine life, according to statements from the attorneys general of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
“This is a fight we cannot win without our neighbors and the commitment of the EPA. The EPA has flat out walked away from its responsibility," Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) said.
Maryland has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent wastewater runoff only to have its efforts undermined by upstream states unwilling to make the same commitment, he said.
Virginia Voters Sue to Block
Widespread Absentee Voting
A group of Northern Virginia voters is suing their state over a plan for wider use of absentee ballots during the primary election next month as coronavirus restrictions continue.
The Virginia lawsuit argues that absentee ballots create a disincentive to vote, effectively blocking many residents from the election process.
Widespread use of absentee ballots “would be a logistical nightmare and increases the risk of disenfranchisement,” says the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Virginia.
The lawsuit by six suburban Washington residents was a response to an executive order from Governor Ralph Northam. It allows anyone to obtain an absentee ballot by claiming “illness or disability” on the application.
Normally state law requires a doctor’s excuse or a qualified witness to verify the illness or disability. Northam’s executive order waives the requirement.
Northam also postponed the primary election by two weeks to June 23 as state health officials try to manage the pandemic that has killed about 1,200 Virginians.
“Due to the sudden surge in absentee ballots that will result from the Plan, many voters will be disenfranchised because requested ballots never arrive or arrive too late and filled-out ballots get lost or are delayed in the return process,” says the lawsuit.
Northam’s executive order throws Virginia into a dispute over voting by mail that has entangled a growing number of states.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring argued in a brief filed in the lawsuit that coronavirus has elevated the absentee ballot issue beyond a voting rights case.
Former D.C. Council Member
Fined For Conflicts of Interest
Washington’s ethics board last week fined former D.C. council member Jack Evans $35,000 for conflicts of interest that benefited his personal finances.
The fine was part of a settlement agreement following FBI and police investigations of possible criminal conduct.
No charges were filed but the investigations turned up ethics violations that showed Evans used the influence of his office while being employed as a lawyer and consultant by local businesses.
Evans arranged meetings between a client and government officials. He also advocated against increasing commercial parking lot taxes while he was being paid by a parking garage operator.
He said he was helping clients in the same way he represented the interests of other businesses and residents who sought to deal with the D.C. government.
The $35,000 fine was the largest ever imposed by the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. Last year, the agency fined Evans an additional $20,000 for using government resources to seek employment by local law firms.
“Respondent failed to seek specific ethics advice as guided, failed to maintain a high level of integrity in connection with the performance of his official duties, and adversely affected the confidence of the public in the integrity of the District government,” the settlement agreement says.
Evans apparently does not perceive the ethics citations as a barrier to his political career. He is running again in the Democratic primary election to reclaim his seat on the D.C. Council.