A perennial favorite summertime program, Supreme Court Term in Review: View from the Press Gallery took place on Friday, June 29. An outstanding panel of Supreme Court journalists gave the inside scoop on the most important developments of the just-concluded term and speculated about what lies ahead for the Court in light of Justice Kennedy's retirement. If you were not able to attend the program, check out the photos below, follow the conversation on Twitter @washlawyers #SCOTUSpress, or watch the video of the program on C-SPAN, here.
By Faith Walker Our 2018 Summer Forum was held on Wednesday, June 13 at Georgetown University Law Center. The event featured a keynote conversation between David Cole, National Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union, and Nicole Austin-Hillery, Executive Director for US Programs at Human Rights Watch and Washington Council of Lawyers board member. Nearly 300 law students and lawyers had the opportunity to learn about pro bono and public-interest career opportunities in DC and reflect on the impact public-interest lawyers have in society. During the keynote conversation, David discussed his own journey from aspiring jazz critic to his current position at the ACLU, the increasing importance of public-interest law under the current administration, and the necessity of building a movement. His anecdote on five-year-old dreams of jazz fame was relatable and engaging, while his comments on the Trump administration and movement building were poignant and eye-opening. David accepted his position as National Legal Director several months before the 2016 election, fully expecting a Clinton victory, a friendly civil rights landscape, and the opportunity to advance initiatives far beyond what a single two-term presidency would provide. Instead, President Trump landed a surprise victory and began what would become a modern civil rights crisis. In a single night, David's job had shifted from the expectation of progress to an outright battle to preserve existing precedents and combat new threats. Discussing several of the administration's more controversial policies, David stressed the growing importance of public-interest law. The ACLU and other committed legal organizations strive to protect immigration rights, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and more so that everyone, including the poor and marginalized, are afforded equal treatment under our laws. He built on this sentiment with his discussions of movement building and the necessary part that public opinion has in legal precedent. His prime example was the NRA. Twenty-five years ago, Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger described the idea that the second amendment guarantees a right to a gun as "a fraud on the American people." He was conservative. Popular opinion at that time, in both the public and in legal communities, fully agreed with him. David stressed the fact that no one would have even considered that the Constitution afforded gun rights to individuals. However, a personal right to bear arms has become a recognized Constitutional right today. But, by introducing policy in friendly states, building popular support nationwide, and introducing specific appeals cases, the NRA successfully rewrote public perception and used it to influence lawmakers. Other movements—those protecting human rights and liberty—can do the same. Some, like Black Lives Matter, begin in the social sphere and move into the courtroom. Some, like marriage equality, begin in the courts and grow beyond. Here, he says, is where public-interest lawyers can make their difference. By lending their voices to a movement or using their skills to build one from the ground up, public-interest lawyers can make the changes that we need in America today. David's call to action was reflected in the six panel discussions that followed. Focusing on the public-interest issue areas of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Criminal Law and the Death Penalty, Immigration and Human Rights, Poverty Law, Suing the Federal Government, and Transactional and Non-litigation law, the panels offered insights into the current court system as well as tips for young lawyers and law students to get involved. We offer a sincere thank you to David Cole and Nicole Austin-Hillery for their conversation and to all of our panelists for their willingness to share their insights. Thanks also to Georgetown University Law Center for hosting, and to the American Constitution Society for co-sponsoring the Summer Forum. Faith Walker is an intern with Washington Council of Lawyers.
By Christina Jackson In today's political climate, it is vital for individuals to have access to legal advice in order to protect their basic civil rights and civil liberties. This year at the Summer Pro Bono & Public Interest Forum, we'll discuss how to think creatively and devise alternative ways to achieve the goals of a civil rights lawyer and protect those rights. Our esteemed panel includes: Brandy Wagstaff (U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division) (moderator) Brandy Wagstaff is currently serving as Legal Counsel for Litigation in the Criminal Section's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU) at the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. In this capacity, she provides legal and strategic analysis in support of HTPU-led enforcement activities and initiatives. Prior to joining the HTPU, Brandy served as an Attorney with the Civil Rights Division's Disability Rights Section, where she engaged in litigation and developed regulations to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act. Brandy is also an adjunct professor who teaches courses in legal writing, appellate advocacy, and disability law at George Mason University School of Law (GMU). She previously served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Alan Kay on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Sasha Buchert (Lambda Legal) Sasha is a Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal working in their new Washington D.C. office. Before joining Lambda Legal, Sasha served as Staff Attorney and Policy Counsel at Transgender Law Center where she engaged in litigation and policy advocacy that was focused on helping transgender and gender-nonconforming people find meaningful employment, obtain competent health care coverage and secure accurate identity documents. Before joining Transgender Law Center, Sasha worked for Basic Rights Oregon, the largest LGBT rights advocacy organization in the state. Sasha was the first openly transgender person to be appointed to an Oregon state board, and from 2012-13, she served as the chair of the Oregon State Hospital Advisory Board. Kelly Dunbar (Wilmer Hale) Kelly is a leader of Wilmer Hale's Administrative Law Group and focuses his practice on government and regulatory litigation, administrative rulemakings, and appellate matters. Kelly also has a robust pro bono practice. He successfully represented Norman Brown, a prisoner sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for drug crimes in his early 20s, in his clemency efforts. President Obama commuted Mr. Brown's sentence after more than 20 years in prison. He currently represents an inmate serving a more than 40-year sentence in seeking sentence modification; seven public health organization and individual pediatricians in suing the FDA under the Administrative Procedure Act; and the D.C. public charter schools in litigation relating to equal funding requirements under the School Reform Act. Jonathan Smith (Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs) Jonathan became Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on July 1, 2016. Immediately prior to joining the Committee, Jonathan was the Associate Dean of Experiential and Clinical Programs at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. Previously, Jonathan served as the Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. Jonathan has an extensive career in civil legal services prior to his government services. He was Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and the D.C. Prisoners' Legal Services Project. Hassan Zavareei (Tycko & Zavareei LLP) In April of 2002, Hassan founded Tycko & Zavareei LLP with his partner, Jonathan Tycko. Prior to joining the firm, Hassan was in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Although he is a general litigator, Hassan devotes most of his practice to class action litigation. While at Gibson Dunn, Hassan managed the defense of a nationwide class action brought against a major insurance carrier. In recent years, Hassan's class action practice has focused on the representation of plaintiffs in consumer fraud cases, primarily relating to the financial services industry. In his civil rights practice, Hassan has represented individuals, groups of employees, and tenant associations in employment and fair housing litigation. Hear these panelists, along with keynote remarks by ACLU Legal Director David Cole, at the Summer Forum on Wednesday, June 13, from noon to 2:30 at Georgetown Law. Christina Jackson is the Deputy Director of Washington Council of Lawyers.