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The referral fees are offered to anyone in the District of Columbia but only real estate licensees in other states. However, non-real estate agents can receive credits equal to the referral fee toward the purchase or sale of property in Virginia and Maryland.
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D.C. Federal Appeals Court to Rule
On Subpoena Over Trump's Finances
The Trump administration is awaiting a D.C. federal appeals court ruling on whether U.S. House Democrats can seize the president’s personal financial records from his long-time accounting firm.
Maryland U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings issued a subpoena in April to accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of Trump’s financial records. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held a hearing on whether the subpoena should be enforced.
For the most part, the three-judge panel expressed doubt about whether Trump has authority to interfere with the investigation by the U.S. House Oversight Committee. Cummings is chairman of the committee.
House general counsel Douglas Letter told the court Trump retained control over his businesses and declined full disclosure about them, which was unusual for a president while still in office.
“He put himself in this position and we cannot forget that,” Letter said.
Trump sued to block the subpoena. His attorney said it was unconstitutional because the House committee was exceeding its legislative authority by stepping into law enforcement.
Judge Patricia Millett said Supreme Court precedent gave broad authority to the investigative powers of Congress. Accepting the argument from Trump’s attorneys that the president should not be bound by the subpoena could mean he is “absolutely immune from oversight,” Millett said.
The House committee said it needs records of Trump’s real estate holdings, foundation and other investments to investigate ethics and conflict of interest questions. Congress also is considering changes to political disclosure laws.
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D.C. in Brief
D.C. Attorney General Subpoenas
National Rifle Assn. Financial Records
The District of Columbia's attorney general is putting political pressure on a gun rights organization over its nonprofit status.
The attorney general’s office issued subpoenas late last week against the National Rifle Association and its charitable foundation. Both of them are registered in the District of Columbia.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement that his office issued the subpoenas “as part of an investigation into whether these entities violated the District's Nonprofit Act."
He is questioning the groups’ tax-exempt status following a Washington Post report last month that some members of the board of directors were compensated at levels not normally found among nonprofit organizations.
Racine’s investigation is only the latest legal trouble being confronted by the National Rifle Association and the NRA Foundation.
Book on Boston Marathon Bombs
Shows Lone Wolf Terrorism Rises
A new book that reports on the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and trial of the convicted killer shows the attack was only an early example of more coming soon.
Boston's Bloody Marathon uses the bombings by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother as an example of the lone wolf terrorism increasingly encouraged by Islamic extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Lone wolves refer to terrorists who plot their attacks alone, usually with no organization to support them and no official links to violent groups. There is almost no way to know their next target until they strike. U.S. intelligence agencies call them perhaps the biggest terrorist threat to the United States and its allies.
Boston's Bloody Marathon, by Tom Ramstack, is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Courts Could Seal Eviction Records
Under Pending D.C. Legislation
District of Columbia Superior Court would be empowered to seal or expunge records of residents evicted from their homes under pending local legislation.
D.C. Council member Mary Cheh reintroduced a bill recently that she says would provide “long-needed relief to tenants” who seek affordable housing.
The bill sets out circumstances that would authorize judges to seal or expunge eviction records. All eviction records would need to be sealed three years after an eviction proceeding is completed in court.
“An eviction is a permanent mark on a tenant’s record, harming one’s ability to find safe and secure housing,” Cheh said during a recent D.C. Council meeting. “Eviction records can have devastating consequences for tenants. Landlords may charge a higher rent based upon the presumed risk posed by the tenant, or they may refuse to consider the tenant’s application outright.”
Tenants who have faced homelessness suffer the worst when an eviction record haunts them for years, the Ward 3 Council member said.
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Washington Legal Advocates, Lawmakers
Want Immigration Procedures Changed
Some of Washington’s prominent legal organizations and lawmakers are scrambling to address the nation’s illegal immigration crisis while courts confront a hopeless backlog of cases.
They are proposing new procedures to manage the flood of illegal immigrants being held in detention centers while seeking to avoid human rights violations.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association and Federal Bar Association are urging Congress to separate immigration courts from the Justice Department.
They say the dysfunction between them is creating due process concerns for the immigrants and slowing the process for hearings and possible deportation.
They said in their letter to congressional leaders last week that the Justice Department has a conflict of interest because the U.S. attorney general serves “as both lead prosecutor and lead judge in immigration cases.”
D.C. Sues Marriott Hotels
For "Hiding" Room Prices
Hotel giant Marriott International Inc. is being sued by the District of Columbia for allegedly “hiding the true price of hotel rooms” through hidden fees.
The lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court says the company’s pricing policies violate Washington’s consumer protection laws. It seeks compensation for thousands of D.C. residents the lawsuit says were misled by Bethesda-based Marriott.
The lawsuit says Marriott and other hotel companies advertise one rate on travel websites like Expedia.com and Priceline.com but add more fees when customers begin booking rooms. The fees can range from $9 to $95 per room per day at some of 189 Marriott hotels worldwide, the lawsuit says.
None of Marriott’s 29 properties in the Washington area are accused of charging the hidden fees. Nevertheless, some D.C. residents have been forced to pay them elsewhere, according to the lawsuit from the D.C. attorney general’s office.
Sometimes the hidden fees are listed on bills under a generalized heading of “taxes and fees,” the lawsuit says. Other times they are called resort fees, amenity fees or destination fees.
“Marriott’s motive in continuing this deceptive practice is pure profit,” the lawsuit says. “It has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade from this deceptive ‘drip pricing.’ The District brings this action to force Marriott to advertise up-front to consumers the true prices of its hotel rooms.”
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement that the increasing tendency of consumers to use travel websites for price comparison increases the importance for Marriott and other hotels to advertise honest room rates.
He accuses Marriott of violating the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive trade practices. The lawsuit follows an investigation into the hotel industry’s pricing practices by the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“In some cases, Marriott even leads consumers to believe that resort fees are charges imposed by the government,” Racine said.