Lawsuit Seeks to Block Pot Smoking
In D.C.’s Multi-Unit Residences


     A homeowner’s lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court pits new rights to possess marijuana against the risk smoking the weed might intrude upon neighbors.
     A Cleveland Park resident says her neighbor’s marijuana smoke is creeping into her home from a downstairs apartment, creating a public nuisance that prompted her to sue.
     The outcome in its first-of-its-kind lawsuit in Washington is likely to determine the limits on use of marijuana in multi-unit dwellings.
     Josefa Ippolito-Shepherd tried asking the neighbor to stop smoking marijuana but she refused. 
     She then appealed to the D.C. Council for help but was told the only way the city could intervene would be by repealing its 2014 law that decriminalized possession of as much as two ounces of marijuana. A repeal based on her request was highly unlikely, she was told.

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

Legal Briefs

Justice Dept. Creates Incentives
For Corporate Self-Disclosure

     A Justice Department official announced a new policy last week during a Georgetown University speech intended to encourage corporations to self-report misconduct.
     The companies could receive sharp discounts on fines and avoid prosecution if they disclose internal wrongdoing and agree to remedy the problems.
     "This revised policy is sending an undeniable message to the public. Come forward, cooperate, remediate," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. "We are going to be closely examining how companies discipline bad actors and reward the good ones."
     To qualify for the incentives, the firms must prove they have regulatory compliance and accounting programs that can identify illegal activity. They also must report any allegations as soon as they learn of them.
     Afterward, the Justice Department requires the companies to participate in "extraordinary" cooperation and remediation.

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Latest News

D.C. Council Overrides Veto
Of Revised Criminal Code


     The District of Columbia Council last week overrode a veto by the city’s mayor of a bill to overhaul the local criminal code.
     Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said when she vetoed the bill that its reduction in penalties for gun crimes might lead to more homicides and that its jury trial requirements for misdemeanors would overwhelm the courts.
     “This bill does not make us safer,” Bowser wrote in a letter to the D.C. Council to explain her reasons for vetoing it.
     Other members of the D.C. Council disagreed when they voted 12-to-1 to override the veto. Only Trayon White Sr., D-Ward 8, voted against the majority.
     Council members who voted to keep the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 said it reflected a lengthy review to update more than century-old laws.​
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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 rpergament@legalaiddc.org




Environmentalists Fire Back Against Oil Industry Over Greenhouse Gas Regulation

     Environmentalists tried last week to strike down efforts by oil-industry supporters who are challenging U.S. government warnings about greenhouse gasses.
     They filed a brief that urged a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to dismiss a lawsuit by the pro-fossil fuel groups against the Environmental Protection Agency.
     The EPA issued the warnings about health and welfare consequences in 2009 as a pretext to a regulatory crackdown on greenhouse gas emissions.
     The lawsuit by Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council and others says the EPA is unrealistic in its fossil fuel restrictions while endangering the economy. They also say the EPA warnings are not well-established by science.
     The environmentalists’ brief filed last week says the plaintiffs have no legal basis for a right to sue the EPA.
     They failed to explain how the EPA warnings hurt them or anyone else, which is a prerequisite to any right to sue, the brief says.
     The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled in previous cases that the EPA findings of danger from greenhouse gasses are well-supported. Other evidence comes from the United Nations and scientific groups.
     "The Clean Air Act and this court's precedents do not lightly allow for relitigation of agency determinations that have been subject to a comprehensive public rulemaking process and judicial review," the environmentalists’ brief says. "Petitioners' briefs fail to grapple with the robust body of law and the great weight of evidence supporting EPA's 2009 finding and its subsequent reaffirmations.




Government Audits Nursing Home Use of Antipsychotic Drugs for Schizophrenia

     The federal government is likely to have created a new opportunity for law firms that handle elder care cases with an announcement last week of a planned review of whether nursing homes are overusing antipsychotic drugs on their residents.
     The drugs are supposed to be used for schizophrenia but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has received recent reports that some nursing homes also try to sedate patients unnecessarily, often after incorrect diagnoses.
     The drugs are potentially life-threatening if overused.
     “No nursing home resident should be improperly diagnosed with schizophrenia or given an inappropriate antipsychotic,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “The steps we are taking today will help prevent these errors and give families peace of mind.”
     The audits that begin this month follow a Department of Health and Human Services report last year finding some nursing home residents were coded as having schizophrenia even when they did not show symptoms of the disorder. The symptoms include delusions, hallucinations and confusion.
     The number of nursing homes reporting patients with schizophrenia rose steadily between 2015 and 2019, according to the Health and Human Services inspector general’s report. There were 99 nursing homes that reported 20 percent or more of their residents were schizophrenic.
     The disorder, which normally starts in late adolescence or early adulthood, is found in less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. 
     “The number of unsupported schizophrenia diagnoses increased and in 2019 was concentrated in relatively few nursing homes,” the inspector general’s report concluded.
     The government audits are expected to have a broad impact on the nursing home industry because of the likelihood they will influence each facility’s Medicare quality rating.
     The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is assigned to monitor whether the facilities take corrective action that might be recommended.








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