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Ward 8 Votes Tomorrow to Fill Council Seat

Tomorrow, April 28, is the special election to fill the Ward 8 Council seat vacated by the death of Marion Barry.  WUSA has a handy guide to polling hours (7am to 6pm), locations, and candidates. Meanwhile, the Post's early coverage focuses on the possibility that Barry's legacy will be carried on by his son, Marion Christopher Barry, who is one of the 13 candidates standing for election.

Graphic: Racial Justice Series

The 2015 Racial Justice Series

From the beginning of the civil rights movement to recent events in Ferguson and elsewhere, advocates have fought discrimination, social exclusion, and violence affecting people of color. In our three-part Racial Justice Series, we’ll explore these problems and ways to solve them. Each part of the series featured both a presentation and an active discussion. Part 1 – Looking at Ferguson and Beyond: Race, Racism and Justice Wednesday, February 11 6:30 – 8:30 pm Hogan Lovells (555 13th Street NW) This discussion of racism and the legal system featured panelists with significant experience and expertise in the areas of civil rights, racial justice, and structural inequality. The Honorable Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, D.C. Court of Appeals Professor Anthony Cook, Georgetown Law Nicole Austin-Hillery, Brennan Center for Justice The event was moderated by Camille D. Holmes, Director of Leadership and Racial Equity at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. If you missed the event, check out this Storify, featuring tweets, photos, and links from the event. We've also collected links to articles about the DOJ Ferguson report, which came out shortly after this event. Part 2 – Below the Surface: Exploring Implicit Bias in Ourselves and The Legal System Thursday, March 12 6:30 – 8:30 pm Hogan Lovells (555 13th Street NW) In this workshop we discussed implicit bias – how it impacts our practice and the administration of justice – and what we can do to correct them. The event was facilitated by Camille D. Holmes, Director of Leadership and Racial Equity at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and Sara Jackson, Pro Bono Coordinator at Georgetown Law. If you missed the event, check out this Storify, featuring tweets, photos, and links from the event. We've also collected a variety of additional resources on implicit bias. Part 3 – Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity (Film & Discussion) Tuesday, April 21 6:30 – 8:30 pm Hogan Lovells (555 13th Street NW) This event began with a screening of Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity, a film directed by Shakti Butler. We then used parts of the movie to facilitate discussions about racism, identity, and inequity. The discussion was facilitated by Camille Holmes, Director of Leadership and Racial Equity at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

Economic Inequality Concentrated East of the River

A new report from the Urban Institute shows an increasing concentration of "economically challenged" communities East of the Anacostia River. Washington City Paper notes that while many areas in Northwest have grown more affluent in the past twenty years, "the challenged areas became increasingly consolidated east of the river, with new patches in Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, and along Pennsylvania Avenue SE and Southern Avenue SE in Ward 7." The Urban Institute proposes a variety of steps the city and the new Mayor can take to ease economic inequality, focusing on "inclusive housing, DC schools, open data, economic development, social and economic mobility, and public safety." Providing pro bono legal services to East of the River residents is another important element in ensuring that all DC citizens have equal access to justice, regardless of income.

Candidates for Upcoming Ward 8 Council Election

The Washington Post has a handy round-up of the eleven candidates standing for the Special Election for the Ward 8 City Council seat vacated by Marion Barry upon his death. The election is coming up April 28; the Post article has information about each candidate's positions concerning issues important to East of the River residents.

Photo: Andrew Doyle

A Government Lawyer Keeps Up the Volunteer Habit

By Peter Nye Longtime volunteer Andrew Doyle finds the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program Advice & Referral Clinic to be a rewarding way to serve people who lack other access to legal services, as well as a great way to learn about different areas of law. The Clinic brings dozens of attorney volunteers East of the River to the offices of Bread for the City on Good Hope Road SE, where they provide brief legal advice and referrals one Saturday morning each month. Andrew, an attorney at DOJ, first decided to participate in the Advice & Referral Clinic when the pro bono coordinator of DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division sought volunteers on a certain Saturday in 2010. Because he had recently heard a Washington Council of Lawyers presentation about the clinic, he volunteered that very Saturday. He was hooked, and ever since, he has volunteered almost every month the Clinic has had an open spot. Andrew finds Clinic work rewarding because—unlike his day job—volunteering allows him to provide prompt service to clients who are individuals. For one client with an insurance problem, Andrew immediately called the insurance company and resolved the dispute on the spot. For clients with custody issues, he has drafted letters to opposing lawyers about compliance with judges’ decrees. Most clients are immensely grateful for his help solving their problems. Of course, some clients cannot achieve the goals they most want to reach. For example, one client wanted to expunge his criminal record and then apply for a job. Andrew could not help him with that particular request, because the Clinic is limited to assisting with civil legal matters. Undeterred, Andrew helped the client develop a strategy for persuading employers that he was worth hiring despite his criminal record. Andrew says that most of his Clinic clients—including this one—who cannot achieve their initial goals are nonetheless thankful to have a lawyer research and analyze their problems.  The clients can move forward, even if not in the direction they had initially hoped. Andrew encourages all DC-area lawyers to volunteer at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program Advice & Referral Clinic. He acknowledges that the work can be intimidating at first, but reassures volunteers that they will quickly adjust. He also points out that in addition to the satisfaction of helping his clients, he always learns about new areas of law by volunteering at the Clinic, especially because most of the legal issues that arise during Clinic hours are ones that he does not handle at the DOJ. Learning about new areas of law and helping people at the same time make the Clinic an ideal pro bono experience. To learn more about volunteering with Washington Council of Lawyers at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program Advice & Referral Clinic, please contact Renee Kostick Reynolds.

Photo: Youth Law Fair 2015

Lawyers for a Day at the Youth Law Fair

Last month, we organized a volunteer group to help out with the Youth Law Fair—a free, full-day, event that brings hundreds of high school students, lawyers, judges, and educators together to explore issues facing students in the DC area. Organized by D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Bar, it offers students the opportunity to participate in mock trials playing the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, witnesses, judges, and  jurors. The Youth Law Fair also offers speak-out sessions on racial profiling and building positive relationships with law enforcement, courthouse and holding cell tours led by judges and attorneys, and the chance to learn more about law-related careers. This year's Youth Law Fair was titled Profiling: That's Not Me! What's The problem? and tackled the issues of racial profiling and police brutality. Our volunteers worked with a group of students assigned to the courtroom of Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo. We were joined by Officer Leo, a teacher turned policeman; Officer Leo played role of a police officer in the mock trial and afterwards spoke to the students about police work and the relationship between police and the public. For those scoring at home, the jurors rendered a split verdict.

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