Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Legal Aid Sponsors Panel on Appellate Poverty Law at the D.C. Judicial and Bar Conference

Jack Keeney, Director, Barbara McDowell Appellate Project

Jack Keeney, Director, Barbara McDowell Appellate Project

On April 19, 2013, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia will sponsor a panel on “Poverty Law in the Court of Appeals” at the 2013 District of Columbia Judicial and Bar Conference.  The program will feature a number of prominent poverty law advocates discussing ten of the most significant decisions from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 2012 and 2013 and significant cases currently awaiting decision.  The discussion will focus on new developments in family, landlord-tenant, and unemployment compensation law in the context of impact on those in poverty and strategies for effective appellate advocacy.

Jo-Ann Wallace, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, will moderate what will be a lively discussion on this important topic.  The panelists are Jaclyn S. Frankfurt, the Deputy Chief of the Appeal Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; Jack Keeney, Jr., Director of the Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Program at Legal Aid; Joan Meier, Professor of Clinical Law at the George Washington University Law School; David Reiser, Counsel at Zuckerman Spaeder LLP; and Vytas Vergeer, Legal Clinic Director of Bread for the City.

Jack Keeney will discuss Legal Aid’s informal “Top Ten List” of poverty law appeals, on which In re Jackson is number one.  Ms. Frankfurt and Ms. Meier argued and submitted amicus briefs in Jackson, in which the Court of Appeals set procedures to prosecute violations of civil protection orders as criminal contempt violations.  Ms. Frankfurt and Ms. Meier will likely present differing viewpoints, as did their briefs and arguments, on the Jackson decision and its impact.

The panel will also mention three other family law cases:  In re D.S., In re N.R., and In re T.L.  Mr. Reiser will discuss a systemic issue highlighted in but not unique to T.L., which was recently argued on April 9 and has yet to be decided.  He was principal drafter of a Legal Aid amicus brief that addressed the court’s delayed review of decisions regarding family reunification and argued that a change in permanency goal should be reviewable immediately in appropriate circumstances as either a final order or an injunction.

The panel will also note three landlord-tenant cases: Bridges v. Clark, Pajic v. Foote Properties, LLC, and 718 Associates v. Banks.  Mr. Vergeer—who participated in the amicus brief in 718 Associates—will discuss the broader impact of that en banc appeal, currently awaiting decision.  The case arose in the context of an elderly landlord contemporaneously determined to be incompetent and whether her tenant’s lease was void ab initio (thereby cutting off all tenant rights) or voidable.  Resolution of that common law issue requires reconsideration of the court’s 1892 ab initio holding in Sullivan v. Flynn.

Three unemployment compensation appeals, briefed by Legal Aid, will be mentioned.  Ms. Meier, who submitted an amicus brief on behalf of DV LEAP, will discuss E.C.  v. RCM of Washington, Inc.  The case raises an issue of first impression construing the domestic violence safe harbor for entitlement to District unemployment benefits when the victim is stalked to her workplace and fired at the complaint of her harasser to her employer.  Briefing is complete and the appeal is awaiting decision.

The panel will take place from 4:00 to 5:45 pm on Friday, April 19 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

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