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Law Requiring Nonprofit Disclosures
Meets Skepticism in Supreme Court

     The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in a First Amendment case with far-reaching implications for the Washington region’s nonprofit community and election campaigns.
     The case involves a California law that requires nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors to the state attorney general. 
     Similar laws, which can be found in Hawaii, New Jersey and New York, have been considered by state and local lawmakers in the Washington area.
    The law is opposed by coalitions of nonprofit organizations that say the disclosures could dry up their contributions and trample the privacy of donors. The Arlington-based Americans for Prosperity Foundation is a lead appellant.
     The law’s supporters say it is a hedge against “dark money” that can sway elections and allow corporations to evade responsibility for influence-peddling.
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D.C. in Brief

​​D.C. Government to Pay $1.6 Million
To Protesters at 2017 Inauguration

     The D.C. government last week agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle two lawsuits by protesters during the January 2017 presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.
     In one of the lawsuits, six demonstrators represented by the ACLU of the District of Columbia will split $605,000 after D.C. police rounded them up during a sweep to stop vandals near the site of the inauguration ceremony.
     Their lawsuit alleged violations of the First Amendment rights of journalists, legal observers and protesters by the indiscriminate way they were selected for arrest.
    The D.C. government will pay nearly $1 million in a second lawsuit to about 200 others who say they were falsely arrested. Police held them for as much as 16 hours without food, water or restrooms, according to their class action lawsuit.
     Police arrested 234 people during the Inauguration Day protests near Franklin Square at 12th and L streets NW. In addition to breaking windows, the protesters set fires and tried to interrupt Trump’s oath.
     The only convictions were 21 defendants who pleaded guilty before trial. Charges against all the others were dropped after prosecutors were unable to definitively link most defendants to specific acts of vandalism.
     As part of the settlements, police agreed to modify their mass arrest policies. The new policies require police to assign identification numbers on wristbands for each detainee, put their personal possessions in bags and take photos of each defendant along with the arresting officers.

Prince George’s County Charges
Five Firefighters with Arson

     Prince George’s County prosecutors are pursuing charges against five firefighters accused of setting fires in vacant houses to create an opportunity for more work for themselves.
     Preliminary evidence indicates they were trying to create an opportunity for a friend to get hired by the West Lanham Hills Volunteer Fire Department.
    The charges are based on an investigation that started in January 20, after investigators found evidence of arson at a house fire. Further investigation revealed that three previous abandoned house fires also had been set.
     Tips from neighbors and a pattern of evidence led police and prosecutors to execute more than 60 warrants at the fire station and against individual firefighters. Much of the evidence seized in the searches consisted of emails and text messages that led to the five accused firefighters.
     Most county employees are loyal to their oaths to serve the public good, said State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy. 
     “When they violate that oath, we have to take action,” she said at a press conference last Friday.
     The indictments list arson and misconduct in office as the most common charges against the five firefighters, who are named in court filings as:
-- 26-year-old Jeremy Hawkins of North Potomac, Maryland. 
-- 19-year-old Nicholas Holzberger of Riverdale, Maryland.
-- 24-year-old George Smith of Purcellville, Virginia.
-- 24-year-old Jay St. John of Centreville, Virginia.
-- 21-year-old Cole Vazquez of Bowie, Maryland.
     “It is unacceptable and it’s disheartening and it makes us angry,” Braveboy said.



Legal Briefs

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The Legal Forum is a news service for the Washington area's legal community that also offers job listings and grant writing for eligible nonprofits organizations. If you have questions, or you would like to place an ad, please Contact Us

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 rpergament@legalaiddc.org

Women and Minorities Targeted
For Access to More Patents

     A Howard University law professor is urging the U.S. Senate to make access to patents more accessible to women and minorities.
     When they profit from their inventions, the whole nation could reap the economic rewards, said Lateef Mtima of Howard University School of Law.
     “Systemic inequities relating to race, gender, socio-economic class and even geographic situs  … have at times stunted the social efficacy of our [intellectual property] system,” Mtima said in his testimony.
     He testified recently to a Senate subcommittee looking at why women and minorities are left behind in the search for new technologies.
    The ultimate goal of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on intellectual property is to create incentives for more women and minorities to participate in developing inventions.

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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

Latest News

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Judge Orders Prince George’s Police
To Revise Their Promotion Procedure

     Promotions for Prince George’s County police are on hold as they await revisions by an independent consultant on the exams officers must take to advance their careers.
     A lawsuit by Black and Hispanic officers led a federal judge to rule the exams had a disparate impact on minority candidates for promotion, particularly at the level of police officer first class and corporal.
     Disparate impact normally refers to practices in employment, housing, and education that adversely affect one group of people of a protected class more than another. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other laws extend the protections based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex and disability.
     In this case, the plaintiffs pursued their claims as a 14th Amendment equal protection issue. As a result, they had to prove discriminatory intent and disparate impact to prevail.
    U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang wrote in his ruling there are “notable disparities” in test passage rates on the exam between White officers and Black or Hispanic officers.
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