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Letters to the Editor
D.C. in Brief
Justice Dept. Warns of Prosecution
For Making Coronavirus Threats
The Justice Department is advocating terrorism charges against anyone who intentionally infects or threatens other persons with coronavirus.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen circulated a memo to federal prosecutors last week that warned against “the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19.”
The memo cited laws that ban biological agents as weapons or sources of threats.
“Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent,’ such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes,” Rosen wrote.
So far, there is no evidence of anyone intentionally infecting someone else.
However, there have been threats reported.
In Freehold, N.J., state prosecutors charged a 50-year-old man with making terroristic threats after he coughed on a grocery store worker and told her he had coronavirus.
In Warren County, Mo., a 26-year-old man is being prosecuted after he posted an online video of himself licking items on Walmart store shelves and saying, “Who’s scared of coronavirus?”
In Hanover Township, Pa., a woman was arrested after playing a "twisted prank" at a grocery store by purposefully coughing on about $35,000 worth of food that had to be thrown out. She led supermarket workers to believe she might have coronavirus as she coughed on meat, produce and bakery products.
Court Considers Option for Removing
Reporters’ White House Credentials
The White House press corps is awaiting word from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether they could lose their media credentials for unprofessional conduct.
The court is weighing evidence in the case of a Playboy magazine correspondent who argued loudly with a former aide to President Trump during a press event in the Rose Garden last July.
A Trump press secretary took away the credentials of reporter Brian Karem for 30 days after the argument.
He filed a lawsuit in which he called the removal of his credentials a violation of freedom of the press under the First Amendment. The lawsuit names Trump and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham as defendants.
During the altercation, Karem insulted guests during the summit for social media influencers. He also challenged former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka to a fight.
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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.
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D.C. Bar Cautions Lawyers
On Diligence During Pandemic
The District of Columbia Bar’s ethics committee is warning lawyers that their duties to their clients continue despite the coronavirus pandemic that is shutting down many law firm operations.
An advisory issued by senior legal ethics counsel Saul Jay Singer lists four ongoing responsibilities.
Lawyer Becomes Ill:
Lawyers who might get sick should have succession plans ready that allow other lawyers to take over their legal representation. It should include plans for promptly communicating with clients and taking action to protect their rights and cases. Even large firms that have other lawyers available to take over a representation on short notice should develop a contingency plan for handling cases if there is a mass lawyer incapacity or unavailability.
Client Becomes Ill:
Not only is coronavirus reducing personal contact between lawyers and clients, it might also make lawyers less aware of their clients’ health status. Attorneys might want to ask clients to disclose developing health issues to them to prepare for possible continuations, waivers of appearances or requests for remote attendance.
Working Remotely, a Confidentiality Issue:
Lawyers’ duties under D.C. Rule 1.6 to maintain a client’s confidences and secrets could become more difficult while working remotely or at nontraditional sites. As a result, they must carefully consider the confidentiality of their policies. Some obvious basics include protecting computer systems and physical files and ensuring that telephone and other conversations and communications remain privileged.
Diligence in a Constantly Changing Situation:
Lawyers must be diligent in monitoring how coronavirus is affecting court closings and orders on filings, appearances and statute of limitations tolling. The altered procedures still are evolving, possibly creating delays, increased costs in international transactions, client solvency issues and financial risks for entire industries.
For ethics inquiries, contact the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Helpline at 202-737-4700 ext. 1010, or email@example.com.
Price-Gougers Face a Crackdown
For Profiting on Coronavirus
All three attorneys general in the Washington area are joining in urging companies that sell online to stop price-gougers trying to take advantage of consumers during the coronavirus pandemic.
They are selling hand sanitizers, aerosol spray disinfectants, surgical masks and other devices designed to prevent the spread of germs at sometimes wildly inflated prices.
One ad on eBay this week advertised a four-pack of 19-ounce Lysol spray for $175.99.
Letters sent last week by 33 state attorneys general to the chief executives of Amazon, Craiglist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart said they have “an ethical obligation” to stop the price-gouging.
The Washington area attorneys general said they will not wait for the corporations. They are sending cease and desist letter to retailer and wholesalers they believe are trying to take advantage of consumers during the pandemic.
EPA Eases Pollution Enforcement
While Corporations Deal With Virus
Law firms that represent corporations accused of pollution can expect the Environmental Protection Agency to ease up on enforcing its regulations during the coronavirus outbreak.
An EPA memo last week said the agency would relax its enforcement of “routine monitoring and reporting obligations.”
However, the corporations still must document their reasons for failing to fulfill pollution control requirements, minimize the effects and try to resolve the problems.
The EPA said the policy shift responds to worker shortages and travel restrictions during the pandemic.
Some of the complaints came from oil companies, chemical manufacturers and refiners who said they are struggling to get contractors and suppliers to job sites in areas under stay-at-home orders. The number of coronavirus hotspots is expanding this week, particularly in the New Orleans and Chicago areas.