​​​​​​​​​​​The Latest Legal News & Industry Information

Justice Dept. Considers Felony Charges
Against Former Trump Legal Advisor

     A recent District of Columbia Bar court filing shows the Justice Department is considering charges of false statements, conspiracy and obstruction of justice against former Trump administration attorney Jeffrey Clark.
     The D.C. Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility is pursuing disciplinary proceedings against Clark for assisting former President Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
     Clark asked the Board on Professional Responsibility for a deferral from the disciplinary proceedings, which the Board denied in its written response this month.
      The Board on Professional Responsibility gathered some of its evidence against Clark from the FBI and Justice Department’s investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and Trump’s discredited allegations of election fraud.
     Clark said his participation in the investigation means the disciplinary proceedings against him should be put off until after the Justice Department completes its prosecutions. More than 840 people have been arrested for storming the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.
     Clark, 55, was assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division from 2018 to 2021.
     Trump considered appointing Clark as head of the Justice Department for his assistance in casting doubt on the validity of the election results but backed off when faced with threats of massive resignations in protest. Clark resigned from the Justice Department on January 14, 2021, amid controversy over his post-election actions.
     When confronted by D.C. Bar authorities about possible ethics violations, Clark revealed to them that on June 20 about a dozen Justice Department Office of Inspector General agents executed a search warrant at his northern Virginia home and seized his electronic devices, according to the Board of Professional Responsibility’s written decision.
     The warrant was "in connection with an investigation into violations" of federal statutes banning false statements, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, the Board’s decision said.
     Clark raised another argument in asking for the deferral by claiming exemption from local rules as a federal government attorney.
     “Mr. Clark argues that a federal statute prohibits the District of Columbia’s Rules of Professional Conduct from applying to Department of Justice attorneys,” the Board on Professional Responsibility’s decision says. “He argues that attorneys barred in the District of Columbia can gain a license to practice by swearing to abide by the Rules, but, if they work for the Department of Justice in the District of Columbia, they are not bound by the Rules.”
     The Board’s decision said, “This argument however does not appear convincing.”
     The case is In the Matter of Jeffrey B. Clark, Board Docket No. 22-BD-039, Disciplinary Docket No. 2021-D193, filed with D.C. Court of Appeals, Sept. 12, 2022.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Senate Bill Seeks to Protect Local Media
Whose Content is Posted on the Internet

      A bill pending in the Senate would give journalism outlets a bigger share of the profits reaped by Facebook and Google as they face antitrust concerns.
     The bill, called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, would allow small to mid-sized journalism companies to bargain collectively with the Big Tech platforms before the social media giants could republish their news stories and photos.
     The bill would have a broad impact on the kind of news organizations found commonly in the Washington, D.C., area. It also would put a stop to largely failed unfair competition lawsuits the news organizations filed against Facebook, Google and other platforms.
     The current news distribution arrangements require separate boilerplate contracts with each news outlet.
     The news organizations complain the result is they rarely get paid for their republished stories and photos. Instead, Facebook and Google keep the advertising revenue other publishers create.
     Debate over the bill underscores a desire by some members of Congress to rein in the power Big Tech companies wield over the Internet. The companies’ discretion includes choices on which news they put in front of Internet viewers.
     The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is supposed to give news outlets more input into the Internet platforms’ decisions. It also is supposed to shore up the finances of a news business whose paying subscribers are fleeing to the free content they can find with Internet searches.
     The bill, S. 673, creates an antitrust exemption for companies with fewer than 1,500 employees to allow them to bargain collectively. The largest media organizations, like The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, could not participate.
     “This bill is about protecting local journalism by leveling the playing field and allowing local news outlets to band together to negotiate for fair compensation from tech platforms,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a statement.
     Even within the field of journalism the bill is evoking mixed feelings.
     Its supporters include the powerful trade organizations News Media Alliance and the National Association of Broadcasters. 
     During a Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on the bill in February, all-news WTOP-FM Washington General Manager Joel Oxley said stations like his are trapped in a “Catch 22” by their redistribution contracts with Facebook and Google. 
     They need to be accessible through the Internet platforms to attract online traffic but they are not compensated for their content, he said.
     “The dominant online platforms have flourished, siphoning off huge amounts of advertising revenues that are the lifeblood of free, local journalism,” said Oxley.
     Some conservative public interest groups are skeptical of claims the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would protect local media.
     Public Knowledge, Common Cause and Consumer Reports joined in a letter to key senators saying the bill "favors big broadcasters such as News Corp, Sinclair, iHeart and Comcast/NBCU over any other form of journalism, and it undermines the stated goal of helping local news."
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Supreme Court Gives Religious University
Second Chance to Oppose Gay Group

     A Washington, D.C.-based public interest firm says the legal fight isn’t over after the U.S. Supreme Court this month declined to overturn a state court order requiring Yeshiva University to give official recognition to a student gay rights group.
     The university said the court order trampled its First Amendment freedom of religion rights in a dispute with potentially far-reaching consequences for religious institutions.
     The group YU Pride Alliance sued to gain the same access to school accommodations as other student organizations by invoking New York City’s Human Rights Law. The law bans discrimination in public accommodations, including on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
     The university’s attorneys argued they should be granted a religious exemption to the law. 
     Similar human rights laws are found in the District of Columbia as well as cities and states nationwide but never have been challenged before the Supreme Court on religious grounds.
     The Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a stay of the court order won approval by a 5-to-4 majority. The four most conservative justices dissented.
     Instead of ruling on the merits of the case, the Supreme Court said the university should pursue more of its legal options in the state court. 
     The majority opinion said the university could ask the court in Manhattan for expedited consideration of its appeal or it could file a corrected motion to challenge the injunction granted to YU Pride Alliance.
     "Without an immediate stay of the permanent injunction issued below, the nation's leading Jewish university will be forced to give official recognition to a student organization in violation of its sincere religious beliefs and Torah values," the school wrote in its application for Supreme Court review.
     The university is represented by attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest advocacy group based in Washington.
     YU Pride Alliance argues the university has sent "a stark and painful message of rejection and non-belonging to its LGBTQ students and their allies."
     "By its acts of intentional discrimination, YU has inflicted and is continuing to inflict grave dignitary, emotional, and psychological harms on these college students, and indeed on all its students, who need belonging, safety, community, and support," says their legal complaint against the university.
     The students also say Yeshiva University is subject to New York City’s Human Rights Law because it is registered as a nonsectarian corporation that is eligible to receive government funding. Since registering a half-century ago, the university has received hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds and benefits, the students’ complaint says.
     The case is Yeshiva University et al. v. YU Pride Alliance et al., case number 22A184, in the U.S. Supreme Court.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Synagogue School Says Parents Waived
Right to Sue for Sexual Abuse of Children

     A Washington, D.C., synagogue that operates a school for toddlers is arguing in recent court filings that parents gave up their right to sue for sexual abuse of their children when they signed waivers that were a condition of enrollment.
     The parents’ lawsuit says Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center ignored indications a child care worker was sexually abusing the toddlers, sometimes even leaving him alone with the children.
      D.C. law requires that at least two adults be present with toddlers in child development centers.
     D.C. police investigated the sexual abuse allegations but concluded there was “insufficient probable cause” for an arrest. The parents say the male employee abused 14 children.
     The Childhood Center, operated by Washington Hebrew Congregation, argued that parents relinquished their right to sue in its motion for summary judgment. 
     The waiver signed by the parents says “neither parents nor their children will bring claims against WHC or any of its employees for personal injuries sustained ‘as a result of’ a child’s ‘participation in these activities [of the Washington Hebrew Congregation’s Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center].’”
     The parents argue in court filings that they thought the waiver referred to “typical preschool activities.”
     “Not a single plaintiff parent who signed the release contemplated that it would cover injuries sustained as a result of their children being sexually abused by a trusted WHC employee,” the court filings say.
     Their attorneys argued against a summary judgment by saying, “Among other absurdities, WHC’s reading of the release’s text would require the court to find that damage caused by sexual abuse was damage caused by participation in a school activity.”
     Washington Hebrew Congregation says there is no proof the children were abused on school property, which would be a prerequisite of its liability.
     The D.C. attorney general has joined in a separate lawsuit against Washington Hebrew Congregation filed in D.C. Superior Court. It alleges violations of the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act and the District’s Nonprofit Corporation Act.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

House Panel Hears that Water Resources
Are Endangered by Underinvestment

     The security of water treatment facilities in Washington, D.C., and nationwide turned into an issue of law and politics last week during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing.
     Water resource experts told a congressional panel that aging infrastructure and climate change are joining to ensure more crises with the nation’s water systems are just a matter of time.
     In recent years, the crises have been caused by flooding in Jackson, Miss.; lead and bacteria seeping into Flint, Mich., pipes and a hacker who changed the chemical mix for the water treatment system in Oldsmar, Fla.
     David L. Gadis, general manager of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, said the switch to automated treatment and pumping systems means cyber-defense is as important as protecting water pipes.
     In the 2021 Oldsmar case, a computer hacker increased sodium hydroxide levels in the municipal water system to extremely dangerous levels by tapping into software used throughout the water treatment industry called TeamViewer.
     The sabotage was stopped early when a water department employee noticed the cursor on his computer moving out of his control. The hacker changed the purification chemical sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, a level that would be harmful to human tissue.
     The employee changed the chemical mix to its original level and notified the police.
     Gadis oversees one of the world’s largest water and sewer systems with a roughly $1 billion annual budget and more than 1,200 employees. Located in the nation’s capital, it also is at heightened risk of sabotage.
     He repeated warnings about overlooking the importance of water systems, saying, “I know today’s underinvestment is tomorrow’s crisis.”
     Abre Conner, director of the NAACP’s Center for Environmental and Climate Justice, said water system failures – like the one this summer in Jackson – often fall hardest on minority and low-income communities.
     “Communities that are years or decades behind on infrastructure maintenance and repairs are ill prepared for disasters to come,” Conner said in her testimony. “Failure to invest in Black communities and the ramifications that follow are rooted in a history of environmental racism that continues to this day.”
     The Biden Administration has set a goal of eliminating environmental injustices through its Justice40 Initiative, which would allocate 40 percent of some federal infrastructure investments to help disadvantaged communities burdened by pollution.
     In addition, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, that President Joe Biden signed into law last November is supposed to address concerns about water systems.
     It includes $11.7 billion over five years for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. The Environmental Protection Agency would get another $55 million to enforce water quality standards.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

800 4th Street SW, No. N517   Washington, DC 20024
Phone: 240-421-6395   E-mail: tramstack@gmail.com