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Lapsing Eviction Moratoriums Make
Homelessness and Litigation Likely


     The District of Columbia’s eviction moratorium that is set to expire in less than three weeks is compelling landlords, tenants and their attorneys to prepare for an onslaught of litigation.
     The D.C. Council’s emergency legislation was intended to protect renters as the coronavirus pandemic forced the nation’s unemployment rate to 13 percent, hitting blue collar workers most likely to rent their homes the hardest.
     Since then, the $600 weekly unemployment benefit has ended and landlords say they cannot wait longer to pay their own bills. The D.C. moratorium expires Oct. 8.
     Attorneys advising their rental clients can look to at least three options for temporary assistance.
1. The District of Columbia’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) helps low-income residents facing eviction with funding for overdue rent, security deposits and the first month’s rent for residents moving to new apartments.

2. The U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development runs the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) to help with the rent of tenants earning no more than 80 percent of the Median Family Income. They could qualify for as much as six months of their rent payments.

3. A similar Department of Housing and Community Development program offers rent assistance to D.C. residents in buildings of 50 units or less. The COVID-19 Tenant Based Rental Assistance fund is expected to assist 400 households for at least six months.
     Even if renters do not get the assistance, new eviction filings could only begin in December under the schedule set by the D.C. Council. Eviction cases that started before the moratorium can resume in October unless the Council extends it.
     Some of the political support for extending eviction moratoriums in the District, Maryland and Virginia is coming from the American Bar Association. This month the ABA asked Congress to extend the moratorium adopted under the CARES Act in late March.
     The time limit on the federal eviction moratorium expired two months ago. The Centers for Disease Control tried to extend it through December with its own edict but it is being interpreted differently in various courts.
     An ABA letter sent to congressional leaders said the lack of an effective moratorium “will lead to a sharp spike in unemployment and homelessness, as well as extreme demands on community health and housing services during a time of year when such resources are in highest demand.”
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

D.C. Police and Asian Americans Disagree
Over Harassment Due to Coronavirus


     Metropolitan Washington police and Asian American groups disagree on whether coronavirus has led to a spike in racist harassment as the issue gains prominence among local and national lawmakers.
     “There has not been an increase of hate crimes concerning Asian community members in the District during the pandemic,” a D.C. police spokeswoman told Legal Forum News this week.
     The virus has been traced to bats in the area of Wuhan, China.
     She credited a proactive campaign by the police with preventing hate crimes against Asians.
     “MPD’s Special Liaison Branch/Asian Liaison Unit and the mayor’s Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs conducted heavy outreach out of caution and awareness due to trends in other parts of the nation,” she said in a statement.
     Some Asian American advocates disagree.
     Last May, they circulated a petition that called on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower to denounce harassment of Asian Americans. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum reported a sharp increase in harassment in Washington since the pandemic started.
     “Asian American women in D.C. are increasingly alarmed that we’ll be targeted with harassment and violence because of our race, ethnicity or national origin if we step outside to get groceries or go to work,” Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of NAPAWF, said in a statement.
     A congressional panel took up the issue during a hearing this week.
     The House Rules Committee is considering a resolution that would require law enforcement personnel to document hate crimes against persons of Asian ancestry in the United States and to more vigorously prosecute them.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Interstate Lawsuit Against EPA
Seeks Chesapeake Bay Cleanup


     The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s alleged failure to fulfill its promise to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
     The dispute centers on the 2014 Chesapeake Watershed Agreement, in which the EPA pledged to intervene if six states adjoining the Bay failed to meet goals to reduce pollution runoff.
     The lawsuit says the EPA took “no further action” after recognizing in August 2019 that New York and Pennsylvania are falling short of their targeted reductions in pollution. The Chesapeake Watershed Agreement calls for them to reduce their runoff levels by 25 percent by 2025.
     “We filed this lawsuit to force the EPA to do its job, protect decades of environmental work and billions of dollars invested, and ensure all the watershed states work together meet pollution reduction goals,” D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a statement.
     No one disputes whether the interstate agreement is helping to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Improving water quality is credited with helping to restore natural reproduction of oysters.
     However, the lawsuit -- which was joined by Delaware -- says New York and Pennsylvania are lagging too far behind their agreement by underfunding the cleanup effort.
     At the current rate, Pennsylvania will reach only 64 percent of its nitrogen reduction target while New York will achieve no more than 61 percent of its goal, according to the lawsuit.
     The federal Clean Water Act authorizes the EPA to seek court orders to force polluters to live up to their regulatory or contractual obligations to protect the environment. The plaintiffs in the multi-state lawsuit say the EPA has not performed its duty.
     “Pennsylvania and New York will continue to discharge excessive pollution into the Bay and its tributaries,” the lawsuit says. “This excess pollution will lead to exceedances of federal and state water quality standards beyond 2025, harm fish and other aquatic resources, and eliminate or curtail recreational opportunities for the millions who visit the Bay each year. Plaintiffs and their residents will not fully realize the economic benefit of a restored Bay, estimated to be approximately $22.5 billion.”
     The harm from New York and Pennsylvania’s pollution will include “excessive nutrient pollution” in the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, the lawsuit says. It seeks a court order against the EPA to force it to take regulatory action.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Prince George’s County Police Officers
Face Grand Jury’s Criminal Indictment
 

     The State’s Attorney in Prince George’s County joined a nationwide trend of holding police accountable through criminal prosecution by getting two officers indicted last week.
     The most infamous case came from the October 2019 arrest of Demonte Ward-Blake.
     He was paralyzed from the waist down during a police takedown that slammed his head and neck into the ground.
     After police pulled him over for expired tags, the officers said he became disruptive. They said he kept reaching toward the center console of his car and “elbowed” an officer while he was handcuffed.
     He was taken to a hospital, where he was found to be paralyzed and to be suffering from a broken nose.
     A grand jury indicted Officer Bryant Strong on charges of second degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office because of the October 2019 arrest.  
     “We intend to seek justice on behalf of Mr. Ward-Blake and the community,” said State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.
     The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 issued a statement of support for Strong that said, “We are confident that the evidence will show that his actions were fully justified and within policy.”
     The second officer indicted was accused of identifying himself as a police officer for his second job at Prince George’s County Hospital while his police authority was suspended by his department.
     Corporal Luis Aponte faces charges of theft and misconduct.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

WeWork Sues its D.C. Landlord
In Dispute Over Renovations


     Coworking space provider WeWork is suing its landlord at 700 K St. NW in Washington, D.C. on a $6.8 million claim of breaching a contract for property improvements.
     The lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court says WeWork made improvements to the property owned by TMG 800 K Street LLC but the landlord has not provided the reimbursement required by their agreement.
     WeWork filed a similar lawsuit in Boston recently seeking $11.9 million in unreimbursed renovation costs.
     "In this unfortunate instance, we have initiated litigation to enforce our right to be paid money that is unambiguously owed to us," WeWork said in a statement. "In each case, WeWork has spent significant sums to improve the buildings, but the landlords have refused to pay the allowance sums they owe us.”
     WeWork, which was founded in 2010, has grown into a powerhouse company for coworking with shared offices in about 100 cities. It often rents large office spaces then gives its member clients access to portions of it, along with other office amenities.
     Its members include several small to mid-sized law firms in the Washington area.
     TMG 800 K is an affiliate of Bethesda-based The Meridian Group, which is one of the Washington area’s largest landlords.
     The 16.4-year lease gives WeWork more than 65,500 square feet of space. Meridian also agreed to give WeWork a $9 million allowance and forgive four months of its base rent to help with renovations, according to the lawsuit.
     WeWork is represented by attorneys for Perkins Coie LLP.

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