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D.C. Mayor Defies Trump Administration

In Threat to Deport Salvadoran Immigrants

     Washington’s mayor is voicing opposition to a Trump administration plan to deport as many as 200,000 Salvadorans in the United States who lack visas or residency permits.
     Salvadorans make up the District of Columbia’s largest immigrant community.
     Unless they get residency permits, they would have to leave the United States by next year under a Trump administration plan announced this month.
     Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement that she would support the immigrants with any legal defenses available.
     Bowser made the statement about the same time the Justice Department sent letters to 23 city and county officials accused of withholding information on illegal immigrants.
     The Justice Department says they appears to have restricted information about illegal immigrants who immigration officials want to identify and deport.
     Cities and states -- like Washington -- whose police restrict the information about illegal immigrants they offer to federal agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are sometimes called “sanctuary” cities. More than 300 local governments nationwide restrict some immigration status information.
     Washington was not one of the 23 jurisdictions sent demand letters by the Justice Department but it is considered a sanctuary city.  
     The Justice Department demand letters say the sanctuary cities and states might be violating Section 1373 of a federal law that requires them to share information on illegal immigrants with the federal government.
     The memo adds that they will be subject to a subpoena if they fail to provide the requested information.
     A Justice Department memo said cities and states that refuse to cooperate with the investigation could lose federal grants commonly used to fund law enforcement programs.
     U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement, “Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law. We have seen too many examples of the threat to public safety represented by jurisdictions that actively thwart the federal government’s immigration enforcement — enough is enough.”
     Immigration policy was a major issue that led to the three-day shutdown of the federal government beginning last week after Congress was unable to agree on a new budget.
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Fairfax County Proposes
Huge Redevelopment Project

By Tom Ramstack, The Legal Forum
     Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors plans a public hearing next month on a massive redevelopment plan that could add as many as 13,000 homes to the county’s eastern edge.
     The plan also calls for office buildings, new street grids and retail in the neighborhood near George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
     In recent years, the stretch of Richmond Highway has been known for its run-down motels, traffic congestion, fast-food restaurants and low-rent apartments.
     Fairfax County officials hope the revitalization will generate more tax revenue to fund schools and other services.
     In addition to the real estate, county officials want to complete a $40 million levee near Cameron Run and organize service for a $500 million county bus rapid transit route.
     The buses would run through new mixed-use developments, hotels and parks between Metrorail’s Huntington Station and Fort Belvoir. The plan also calls for a 3.1-mile Metro Yellow Line extension intended to create a pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhood.
     County officials say the plan would nearly quadruple the neighborhood’s population to about 40,000 residents.
     They hope one of the attractions would be the area’s American history, which includes Mount Vernon, the Pope-Leighey House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the National Museum of the U.S. Army.
     The advocacy group Coalition for Smarter Growth is pushing for the revitalization to include moderate and low-priced housing.
     The idea of affordable housing is being received favorably by Fairfax County officials, who say it could help them qualify for federal funding on the bus transit route. The Board of Supervisors plans to vote on the proposal next spring.
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D.C. and Maryland Attorney Argue
Trump Violated Constitutional Duties

By Tom Ramstack, The Legal Forum
     Attorneys for the District of Columbia and Maryland began arguments last week in federal court in Greenbelt that accuse President Donald Trump of violating his Constitutional duties through his private business with foreign countries.
     His business dealings create a conflict of interest, the attorneys said.
     Private gain, money or gifts for a president are called emoluments under Article 1 of the Constitution. The relevant clause says, "no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
     Steven Sullivan, an attorney representing the Maryland Attorney General's Office, referred to Trump's hotels and other businesses when he said, "By accepting emoluments, the president creates a constitutionally prohibited market for presidential influence." The business dealings put "the state and the District in an intolerable dilemma, which is either pay to play" or risk that others might be paying to gain the president's favor.
     During the hearing before U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, the Justice Department argued for dismissal. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate said the District of Columbia and Maryland lacked standing to sue because they could not prove they suffered any harm.
     "What we have here is an abstract political disagreement with the president's conduct, without any concrete impact on the state," Shumate said. He argued that a hidden motive behind the lawsuit was to give the attorneys general access to Trump organization internal documents during the discovery phase.
     "They don't get to do a fishing expedition, with discovery, of the president's businesses," Shumate said.
     Attorneys for the District and Maryland responded that Trump's D.C. hotel appeared to be taking money from other local businesses, thereby harming the economy.
     An attorney for Washington, D.C. said the District would use discovery to find out the kind of payments Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington had received from states and foreign governments.
     Messite has not yet ruled on the Justice Department's motion to dismiss but he seemed skeptical of their arguments.
     "What's the political angle, for suing the president for taking money from a private business?" the judge asked the Justice Department attorney.
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D.C. Council Bill Would Exempt Drivers
From Losing Licenses for Unpaid Fines

     A bill pending before the D.C. Council would prevent courts from suspending low-income residents’ driver’s licenses because they have unpaid parking fines and traffic tickets.
     Supporters of the bill say it unfairly punishes low-income persons.
     A recent study of five states reported that more than four million people nationwide have lost their licenses for failure to pay court debts. They are heavily concentrated among the poor.
     The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t track the number of licenses lost for failure to pay fines. Nevertheless, the bill introduced this week calls the license suspensions “punishment for low-income District residents.”
     The bill would exempt D.C. residents earning less than $39,000 per year from losing their licenses suspended for not paying court debts. Persons receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits also would be exempt from the suspensions.
     The bill would halt license suspensions for failure to pay debts in civil actions, such as unpaid debt to a car-insurance company. Some D.C. residents convicted of driving with a suspended license could get their licenses returned.
     The bill would not exempt persons with criminal convictions or who were cited for traffic violations, such as dangerous driving.
     The bill authored by Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) says, “In no instance will an operator’s permit or driving privileges be revoked or suspended for failure to pay a debt without a finding that the person is able to pay.”

Lawsuit Seeks to Block Pipeline
Through Southwestern Virginia

     Southwestern Virginia residents and environmentalists filed a lawsuit this week to block the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline they say would uproot homes and create safety hazards.
     The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond by the environmental group Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
     Environmentalists and residents say the pipeline would trample the property rights of landowners along the route and damage fragile ecosystems.
     Supporters, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, say the pipeline would create jobs and increase capacity for utilities that are struggling to serve all their residential and business customers.
     The lawsuit seeks a review of the permits issued by the State Water Control Board.
     The pipeline would run for 300 miles from West Virginia through the southwest corner of Virginia. It’s being built by a group of companies led by EQT Midstream Partners of Pittsburgh.
     Other plaintiffs who joined the lawsuit include the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Wild Virginia.
     The lawsuit says the Water Control Board and the Department of Environmental Quality overlooked some hazards as they hurried to complete the review process.
     State officials deny the allegation.

Big Referral Fees for Little Work

   Do you know someone who wants to sell a home, office or other real estate?
   If you do, you could earn thousands of dollars with a quick phone call or e-mail. The Legal Forum pays a base fee of $1,500 for referrals to sellers’ property that sells for at least $200,000. Each $100,000 of value to the property over $200,000 gives the person making the referral an extra $100. A $700,000 dollar property value, for example, would earn a referral fee of $2,000.
   Your only obligation is to phone or e-mail Tom Ramstack with the name, address, phone number or e-mail address of the seller. In most cases, it should take no more than 10 minutes of your time.
   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.
   For more information, contact Tom Ramstack of The Legal Forum,, at phone: 202-479-7240 or e-mail:
   The brokerage for the Legal Forum is Fairfax Realty at 3091 Fairview Park Drive, Unit 100, Falls Church, VA 22042, phone: (703) 533-8660. 

Legal Advice

   The Legal Forum offers representation by Washington, D.C., attorney Tom Ramstack for real estate agents cited by the Real Estate Commission or who are being sued by clients. Unlike most lawyers and law firms, The Legal Forum requires payment only if the agents or brokers win at least part of the case against them.
   The Legal Forum's attorney also is a licensed real estate agent in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, who knows the legal risks of the real estate business.
   Agents or brokers who hire The Legal Forum to represent them usually are charged a fee only if they avoid a fine, suspension or license revocation. Other arrangements can be worked out if the attorney and client cannot agree on a contingency fee.
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