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 firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Attorney Report Says Bad Forensics
Endangers D.C. Criminal Prosecutions
A new U.S. attorney’s report accuses the Washington, D.C. crime lab of sloppy work that imperils criminal prosecutions.
Much of the criticism from former U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu focuses on the firearms division of the crime lab. Liu resigned from her job Jan. 31.
Liu raised questions about whether prosecutors were compelled to rely on evidence from potentially flawed forensic examinations of guns and bullet fragments while prosecuting dangerous felons.
Forensic examiners might have glossed over any mistakes to hide their misdeeds, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said after a three-month investigation.
Findings from the investigation were turned over to the D.C. inspector general, according to a Washington Post story. Liu asked him in a letter to check into “mismanagement, poor judgment and failures of communication” within the crime lab.
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D.C. in Brief
Virginia Lt. Governor’s Libel Suit
Dismissed for Lack of Actual Malice
A federal judge in Alexandria dismissed a libel lawsuit last week filed by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax against television network CBS over its story on sexual assault allegations against him.
CBS broadcast interviews with two women who accused the lieutenant governor of sexually assaulting them more than 15 years ago. Fairfax says they were consensual relationships.
Fairfax sought $400 million in his lawsuit but U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga said he failed to prove CBS acted with “actual malice” to prove libel. Instead, the network followed standard journalistic practices.
Actual malice is the standard required before public figures can recover for libel, slander or defamation. It requires them to prove a defendant published or communicated a false statement with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard of the truth.
Fairfax argued that comments by CBS News journalists after Gayle King interviewed the women showed the network was trying to prove his guilt, rather than acting objectively.
Law Firms Lose Unfinished Business
When Clients Move to Other Firms
Law firms lose all their rights to client billings when the clients move to other firms, even if their cases are not finished, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled last week.
The ruling was based on a lawsuit that the failed Washington, D.C.-based law firm Howrey filed against other firms.
When Howrey went out of business in 2011, its top partners moved to competing law firms, often taking Howrey’s clients with them.
Attorneys trying to wrap up Howrey’s unfinished business said their exiting partners unjustifiably took their clients’ business. Money from the unfinished business should remain property of Howrey’s estate, the firm’s lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court said.
After an appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals, the judges disagreed with Howrey.
“We hold that hourly-billed client matters are not ‘property’ of the law firm,” the appellate ruling said.
Any property right in a client’s business belongs exclusively to the client, including the right to change attorneys and firms.
“A client has an almost ‘unfettered right’ to choose or to discharge counsel,” the ruling said. “Therefore, a law firm has no more than a ‘unilateral expectation,’ rather than a ‘legitimate claim of entitlement,’ to future fees earned from continued work on hourly-billed client matters.”
The Howrey trustee’s lawsuit was targeted primarily at Jones Day, which hired 22 former Howrey partners. Hogan Lovells; Perkins Coie; Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and other firms joined in arguments against Howrey.
The case is Allan B. Diamond, Chapter 7 Trustee of Howrey LLP v. Hogan Lovells US LLP, et al., D.C. Ct. App. No. 18-SP-218, Feb. 13, 2020.
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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
D.C. Advocacy Group Requests
Investigation of U.S. Attorney General
Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison this week in federal court in Washington but not before creating a controversy that threatens to drag down the U.S. attorney general.
A Washington-based advocacy group for government ethics is asking the Justice Department to investigate the U.S. attorney general for his statements about the criminal conviction of Stone.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says Attorney General William Barr violated Justice Department rules intended to prevent bias. In addition, about 2,000 former Justice Department officials signed a petition asking him to resign.
Barr oversaw a Justice Department recommendation for a reduced sentence of Stone, the former Trump campaign political consultant who was convicted in November on seven counts, including witness tampering and lying to investigators.
The charges resulted from the Mueller Report and Special Counsel investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Protesters Warn Against Court Decision
For Dispute Within Unification Church
Religious liberty advocates are urging D.C. Superior Court judges to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks a judgment on which faction of the Unification Church should prevail in a battle for control.
They warn that a court judgment would place the government in a position of deciding whose religious principles are most important.
The First Amendment is supposed to keep the government out of religious doctrine decisions.
When the Reverend Sun Myung Moon died in 2012, he left behind a church that operated in several countries with a billion dollar-plus business enterprise. In the United States, it includes real estate and media holdings.
Moon’s widow and son Sean have reorganized the church’s orientation in a way that appears to be a new denomination. Other family members want to cling to Moon’s original plan of keeping the church inclusive of all denominations, which is why it is called the “Unification Church.”
Their dispute led to the lawsuit, The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International vs. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, awaiting a final judgment in D.C. Superior Court.
Protesters rallied outside the court last week with words of caution for judges presiding over the case.
"The central factors of this case are clearly internal religious issues,” said Bishop Dr. Paul Murray, public policy director for Religious Liberties with One Way Churches International. “The courts have no authority to interpret such matters of religious structure, purpose or meaning.”
Implications of the court’s decision could reach far beyond Washington, D.C., according to the protesters.
“Any decision other than a dismissal violates the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and sets a dangerous precedent for religious liberty going forward," Murray said.