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Senate Plans to Clamp Down 
On Conservative Judge Shopping

     The U.S. Senate is considering legislation to stop judge shopping after a Texas federal judge rejected pleas to revise his jurisdiction’s method for assigning cases.
     The threat to use legislation to force federal judges to follow a case assignment procedure recommended by the Judicial Conference of the United States came from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
     He wrote a letter last month to U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey, chief judge in the Northern District of Texas, encouraging him to implement the new procedure.
     The Northern District of Texas is preferred by conservative political advocates to challenge government policies because of some of the one or two-judge courts' tendency to side with them. Examples include conservative rulings on illegal immigration, gay rights, abortion and climate change.
     As a response to complaints about judge-shopping, the U.S. Judicial Conference announced a policy that requires lawsuits seeking injunctions against enforcement of state or federal laws to be assigned randomly to judges throughout a federal district.
     The policy bans the lawsuits from being filed in specific courthouses, divisions or in the larger district. The Judicial Conference sets policy for the judiciary.
     Godbey responded to Schumer with a letter last week saying the Northern District would not change its case assignment procedure.
     He appeared to invoke the Constitutional separation of powers when he wrote that federal law gives courts "wide latitude to establish case assignment systems" most appropriate for each district.

Legal Briefs

Lawmakers Plan Data Privacy Law
Giving Consumers Lawsuit Rights

     The heads of the House and Senate commerce committees reached an agreement on a data privacy bill this week that would override state laws limiting what information corporations can gather on private individuals.
     It also would give consumers a right to delete their private information from corporate databases and to sue when their privacy is invaded.
     The American Privacy Rights Act would set a single national standard that replaces 15 state laws, including one in Virginia.
     The bill results from an agreement between Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who chairs the Commerce Committee, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
     The planned bill  “gives Americans the right to control where their information goes and who can sell it,” McMorris Rodgers said. “It reins in Big Tech by prohibiting them from tracking, predicting and manipulating people’s behaviors for profit without their knowledge and consent.”
     Other provisions give consumers the ability to opt out of targeted advertising and require disclosure if their data is transferred to foreign adversaries.
     Corporations would be allowed under the draft bill to gather only the data on businesses and individuals they "actually need to provide them products and services."
     Previous attempts in Congress to approve a data privacy law failed to win approval, largely because they would not have preempted state laws and lacked effective enforcement mechanisms.
     Enforcement under the American Privacy Rights Act would be overseen by state attorneys general and a new bureau within the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC could issue fines for privacy violations.
     Rodgers and Cantwell’s draft data privacy bill won an endorsement from J. Trevor Hughes, president of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.
     “The U.S. is an outlier in the global economy" without a comprehensive privacy law, Hughes said. "That might change this year."

​Virginia Company Must Pay $811 Million
After Allegedly Exploiting Immigrants

     A federal court ordered a Virginia company last week to pay $811 million in a lawsuit that accused them of making inflated promises to help detained illegal immigrants win release on bond while their claims were processed.
     The company, Nexus Services and its subsidiary Libre by Nexus, allegedly misrepresented the services they provided to immigrants, according to the judgment in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
     The company is based in Verona, Va., but has offices in Arlington. The consumer protection lawsuit was filed by Falls Church-based Legal Aid Justice Center and joined by the attorneys general of Virginia, Massachusetts and New York.
     It said the company sought to evade regulations that would prevent bail companies from engaging in similar business practices. 
     “Libre attempts to camouflage its practices by casting itself as a champion of immigrants and a re-uniter of families, when in reality its scheme traps desperate immigrants into paying thousands of dollars,” the lawsuit said.
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Letters to the Editor

D.C. in Brief

Attorney Eastman Faces D.C. Disbarment
In Setback for Trump’s Criminal Defense

     Former Trump administration lawyer John Eastman appears to be headed toward disbarment in the District of Columbia in a potential blow to the former president’s criminal defense.
     Eastman lost his California license to practice law late last month.
     Eastman has been criminally indicted in Georgia and on March 30 was listed as “involuntary inactive” by the California State Bar for his effort to keep former President Donald Trump in office after his 2020 election defeat.
     Eastman also is licensed as an attorney in the District of Columbia, which normally reciprocates on disciplinary action in other jurisdictions.
     Although Eastman plans to appeal, his disbarment creates a legal dilemma for Trump as he faces prosecution in federal court in Washington, D.C., on election interference charges.​
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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. 
      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​

Latest News

    The Legal Forum welcomes letters to the editor at tramstack@gmail.com, which will be published here.

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​

Senate Investigates Equity Firms’
Control Over Healthcare Facilities

     A Senate committee sent letters to three private equity firms last week demanding information about how they staff emergency departments of hospitals they own.
     The firms have become frequent targets of lawsuits in recent years for allegedly skimping on health care to maximize profits while sharply increasing litigation against medical insurers.
     “While [private equity]-backed health care entities have already been aggressively pursuing plaintiff-side litigation—especially against health insurers—the volume of PE-related involvement in commercial and other types of health care litigation is very much on the rise,” said Rochelle-Leigh Rosenberg, a partner in Crowell & Moring’s Washington office.
     The Senate investigation was prompted by reports from doctors about anti-competitive business practices and retaliation against staff members who complained.
     The letters from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee gave the investment firms until April 17 to respond.

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