Fall 2015 Clinic Highlights
Saturday, February 06, 2016
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
Read summaries and highlights of the work performed in Fall 2015 by the legal clinics at UDC David A. Clarke School of Law:
Immigration and Human Rights Clinic
The Immigration and Human Rights Clinic had a busy fall 2015 semester, with two victories under our belt in the month of October alone. Our first win came in Arlington Immigration Court, where the Clinic represented a longtime Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States in securing a waiver of his deportation. The client, a citizen of Panama who has been an LPR since he first arrived in the U.S. in 1986, was detained and placed in removal proceedings in 2011 for a minor drug conviction that occurred in 1987. The client, who suffers from serious health issues and is a low-income resident of the District of Columbia, had no additional criminal convictions since the aforementioned 1987 incident. The student attorneys who worked on this case, Matthew Kaplan, '16, and Ramsey Alnaif, '16, submitted extensive pre-trial documentation of the client’s genuine rehabilitation, extensive ties in the U.S., and good character. Because of this evidence, the government attorney agreed to stipulate to our client’s eligibility for the waiver of deportation, which the Immigration Judge granted after testimony by the client. Our client is very relieved to no longer face the threat of deportation to a country he has not returned to in almost 30 years, and is currently in the process of submitting his application to become a U.S. Citizen.
The second victory in the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic this semester came at the end of October in the Arlington Asylum Office. Representation of unaccompanied children is a new area of focus for the Clinic, due to the recent “surge” of children from Central America seeking asylum. Our client, a 15-year-old unaccompanied alien child (UAC), arrived in the U.S. approximately two years ago seeking refuge after she fled Honduras alone to escape a life of familial abuse and persecution by gangs. Our client had jurisdiction in her case changed from Arlington Immigration Court to the Arlington Asylum Office due to her status as a UAC, allowing her to present evidence of her claim in a non-adversarial situation. After submitting extensive documentation and being interviewed by an asylum officer, our client was granted asylum. She now attends high school and lives with her aunt in D.C. where she can continue her education and plans for the future without an underlying fear of being forced to return to Honduras. Credit is due to our hardworking student attorneys over the past two academic years: Kathy Blake and Rebecca Jones, '15, and Sharla Dixon, '16, Christen Capron, '16, Ashley Jones and Maria Zurmati, '16.
Two additional asylum cases are scheduled to be heard in Arlington Immigration Court. In the first case, we represent a Guatemalan woman fleeing severe domestic violence from her common law husband, who kidnapped her and held her captive in their home for nearly 20 years. Another client is a gay man fleeing persecution in Mexico due to his sexual orientation and HIV-positive status. We will provide updates for these cases in our next report.
Service-Learning Program: Arizona/Mexico and Texas
For the past three years, a group of third and fourth-year students at UDC-DCSL participated in an Alternative Spring Break immersion trip to study immigration law and policy on the United States-Mexico border. Originally conceived in 2006 by Professor Susan Waysdorf, Professor Laurie Morin, and the late Professor William McLain as a seminar and practicum to address legal and social issues in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the course has evolved over the years to include service trips to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta region, Nogales, AZ, as well as Sonora and Nogales, Mexico. In June 2015, the course was expanded even further when a group of students and professors traveled to Karnes City, TX, to provide pro bono legal services to some of the 400 asylum-seeking women and children from Central America currently detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while they are awaiting their hearings.
The six students who participated in the Service-Learning course in Karnes City, TX, last summer represented two detained women and their children in bond redetermination hearings in San Antonio’s Immigration Court. Because of their diligent work preparing and serving the bond applications prior to the hearings, the government agreed to reduce the clients’ bonds from $7,500 each to $3,000 and $3,500, respectively. The clients were able to secure the funds necessary and were released from ICE custody several days later to reside with their sponsors in the U.S. The UDC-DCSL faculty who participated in the service-learning trip to Karnes City were Immigration and Human Rights Clinic Director Professor Kristina Campbell, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Professor Laurie Morin, and Clinical Instructor/LL.M. Fellow in the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, Johan Fatemi, ’14.
General Practice Clinic
Sébastien Monzón Rueda, ‘16
The General Practice Clinic is a semester-long clinic in which student attorneys represent low-income clients, including the elderly and those infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Clinic work spans areas like family law (child custody and kinship care, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, child support, divorce, and adoption), health, employment (wage-and-hour and unemployment Insurance), TANF, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), and estate planning. Students enrolled in the General Practice Clinic use a range of legal skills on behalf of clients in settings that include administrative tribunals and trial and appellate courts in the District of Columbia.
This semester, Sébastien Monzón Rueda, '16, and Ryan Blankenship, '16, represented a client who was seeking a waiver for an overpayment by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in its award of disability benefits to the client. In preparation for a conference set before a factfinder at SSA, the students conducted legal research on the standard for overpayment waivers and extensive factual investigation to gather evidence to support the client’s case. Sebastien and Ryan interviewed the client multiple times, collected evidence of his monthly expenses, and came up with creative ways to demonstrate the client’s need for a waiver. The students compiled a packet of all of the evidence, including a detailed legal memorandum outlining their arguments, which they presented to the factfinder at the conference. After the conference, the client contacted the students to express his gratitude and to thank them for their “beautiful and thoughtful” representation.
John Lui, '16, and Elizabeth Rekowski, '16, filed a petition for standby guardianship on behalf of their client, a single mother with stage 4 cancer. Prior to drafting and filing the petition, the students conducted research on various legal options available to the client, who wanted to ensure that her daughter would be cared for after her death. Anticipating that the father would not be located, the students reviewed court rules and case law providing a legal basis for requesting substitute service, and filed a motion for service. At a hearing, the judge granted the motion and signed the order granting joint standby guardianship to the client’s best friend and brother. The guardians’ legal authority will commence when the client is unable to provide care for her daughter due to incapacity or death.
Brandon Wallace, '16, and David Sweetland, '16, provided legal assistance to an elderly client who wants to ensure that her wishes regarding future healthcare and the distribution of her property are known and respected. The students drafted a will, a transfer on death deed, a living will, and a healthcare power of attorney. Before the end of the semester, the students worked with the client to execute the documents, file them with the appropriate entities and provide copies to the necessary individuals. Additionally, Brandon and David worked with the client to obtain a Medicaid waiver, which will allow her to access much-needed medical and transportation services. The students have researched the legal requirements and met with representatives from the Office on Aging and organizations that manage the Pooled Special Needs Trust.
Housing and Consumer Law Clinic
The Housing and Consumer Law Clinic represents low and moderate income tenants and works to preserve affordable and fair housing in the District of Columbia. Our students fight to address dangerous and unhealthy living conditions, illegal rent increases, efforts by landlords to displace low-income tenants illegally, and the denial of certain classes of people access to the homes they desire in order to facilitate gentrification. In addition, the Clinic takes some cases to assist consumers who are victimized by predatory practices or otherwise have disputes with businesses.
Clinic students Jamie Chakhtoura, '16, and Michael Thomas, '16, were able to negotiate a $50,000 settlement for one of our clients who was engaged in a contractual dispute with his daughter over his rights to purchase the building in which he lived. Under D.C. law, the father essentially had the right to first refusal when his landlord put her building up for sale. A developer who desired to purchase the building for $900,000 offered to pay the father $50,000 to not exercise his rights. Our client’s daughter, however, claimed that she and her father had previously entered into an oral contract whereby he assigned the rights to purchase the building to her for $30,000. The daughter claimed that the rights were not for sale because she intended to purchase the building for herself. This dispute held up the sales transaction for over a year. During the course of discovery, the plaintiff, our client’s daughter, repeatedly failed to respond fully to our request for information. As a result, the Clinic filed a motion to sanction the plaintiff. The court granted our motion for sanctions and ruled that the plaintiff was prohibited from entering any evidence in support of her case. This was a significant procedural win for our client; however, the plaintiff indicated that she intended to appeal the ruling. If the plaintiff appealed, more years could have passed without our client, an elderly man, seeing any of the money from the sale of his rights. The Clinic decided to use the court’s ruling on sanctions as leverage to bring all of the parties to the settlement table. After weeks of negotiations, including one day in a court ordered session, we were able to resolve this case on behalf of our client.
In another case, clinic students Johana Vargas, '16, and Michael Bailey, '16, were faced with the task of arguing a motion for sanctions and a motion for reconsideration of a protective order in Landlord-Tenant Court. Here, our client paid the same amount of rent to his landlord for over ten years. When the building was sold, however, the new landlord sought to increase the amount of rent due beyond what many tenants in the building believed their apartments were worth. Lengthy proceedings ensued and the landlord sought a “protective order” from the Landlord-Tenant Court to collect a higher rent until the final decisions on the rent increase were made by the appropriate administrative body. The court indeed entered a protective order in favor of the landlord, and against the tenant who was not yet our client. The tenant was unable to pay the higher amount ordered by the court and the landlord tried to have him and his family of seven evicted. This is when the client came to the Clinic for assistance. At the hearings, the Clinic students worked to stop the eviction and convince the court to lower the “protective order” rent cost to an affordable amount for the client, to ensure that he and his family had a home while they awaited a final decision. During the first hearing, the Clinic students successfully stopped the client from getting evicted. There will be a second hearing on whether the rent should be lowered again.
Clinic students Jasmine Hope, '16, and Michael Bailey, '16, litigated a bench trial in Landlord-Tenant Court to prevent our client, a senior citizen immigrant, from being evicted for non-payment of rent. The client alleged that he had paid his rent in small amounts of cash over the course of a year when he was not steadily employed and that his landlord – knowing he had made cash payments for that time and did not have money order receipts – was trying to pressure him into paying a higher rent by bringing eviction action. The students argued two procedural motions, conducted direct and cross-examination of three witnesses, entered documents into evidence and gained experience using translation services. This case has not yet been ruled on, but the Clinic gave our client the best defense that we could and the learning experience was invaluable for our students.
Clinic students Jordan McIntyre, '16, George McBride, '16, and Michael Bailey, '16, represented an elderly, disabled client whose landlord allowed a leak to persist in her apartment unabated for so long that mold began to grow in the walls. The District of Columbia had just enacted a new “mold law” when the Clinic first took this case on. The client has been displaced from her home for approximately 18 months waiting for the repairs to be completed. In the time since the new law’s passage, however, courts, advocates, and tenants have struggled to determine what remediation is required. The Clinic students appeared three times on the housing conditions calendar seeking to have the landlord remediate the mold. Finally, the student clinicians received the report confirming that the apartment is now mold free and that the client is able to move back into her home.
On the consumer rights front, Johana Vargas and Jasmine Hope were able to procure a default judgment on behalf of our client, an elderly homeowner, who worked with an unlicensed contractor she met at Home Depot and hired for the repair of her driveway and the construction of a carport. The contractor failed to substantially start the work even though he received two installment payments. In the District of Columbia, it is an unlawful trade practice to operate without a home improvement license and to require advance payment. The court granted the students’ Motion for a Default Judgment and awarded our client treble damages in the amount of $8,700 plus reasonable attorneys’ fees for the Clinic.
Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic
Students enrolled in the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic during the fall 2015 semester had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of federal and D.C. tax cases, from matters in preliminary IRS examinations to negotiating tax court settlements with IRS counsel. Students provided the following insights into their work:
Manuel Machin, '16: “The Low-Income Tax Payer Clinic (LITC) provides an exceptional opportunity for students to grow legal skills with real-life practice. The cases are real and the outcomes can truly affect a client’s life dramatically. I had the privilege of working on a case in the final phases of settling millions of dollars in tax debt incurred by a former political consultant who required our help because of serious health concerns. The LITC’s work is challenging, unique, and rewarding for students of all skill sets.”
Christen M. Capron, '16: “Representing low-income tax payers as a student attorney provided further opportunity to apply the legal skills and training I learned during law school. I truly enjoyed the substantive casework, and collaborating as a team to resolve tax controversies for low-income individuals. I particularly enjoyed working for such wonderful clients, who were very grateful and appreciative of the legal services that the UDC-LITC provided. Our legal services afforded clients far more than the resolution of tax controversies - they provided them with great relief.”
Katy Byers, '16: “Dealing with the IRS is a frustrating and confusing experience for taxpayers. Generally, the taxpayers who come to the Clinic for assistance are looking for someone to listen to their concerns and provide them with information. As a student attorney you receive hands-on experience working with both the taxpayer and IRS agents to resolve tax controversies. It is a truly gratifying experience to assist a taxpayer in need of a fresh start to reach a favorable resolution in which they are relieved of an exorbitant debt they would never be able to repay.”
Ji Young Yoon (Ellie), '15: “After conducting an extensive consultation with a taxpayer who ultimately did not meet our income guidelines, he expressed his gratitude for the information we provided. He said he now has sufficient information to guide him in gathering additional data to help resolve his tax issues -- information no one else he contacted for assistance offered to provide before.”
Rada Machin, '16: “The Tax Clinic is one of the most intensive, holistic, and exciting clinics at UDC Law, in my opinion. From day one, the clinic demands full attention to the nuances and procedure of tax practice. Most interesting is the fact that the Tax Clinic prepares students for not only tax practice and procedure, but also for general practice and lawyering as a whole. I had such a remarkable experience working with low-income taxpayers and learning substantive rules in the tax code. If I could work in the Clinic again, I would do so in a heartbeat.”
Juvenile and Special Education Clinic
Clinic students Karrie Bowman, '16, and Richard Aviles, '16, working with clinic supervising attorneys Stacey Eunnae and Joe Tulman, successfully urged the District of Columbia to place and pay for their 19-year-old client with multiple disabilities to attend the private full-time special education program of her choice this semester. This student had just entered her seventh year of high school after being retained four times as a result of the school system’s consistent failure to provide her with appropriate supports and services. The school system ignored educational evaluations that recommended a more specialized program with more intensive support. Richard Aviles sent letters and emails to school officials requesting relief prior to filing, and then helped draft the due process complaint against the public school system when we were not able to informally resolve the client's concerns. Karrie Bowman helped orchestrate the student's acceptance into the private school that she most wanted and, after attending a meeting to discuss potential settlement, helped successfully negotiate for the student to begin attending her school of choice. This team is still currently engaged in negotiations with the school system to see if we can reach an agreement about how much compensatory education the school system will provide. If not, this case will proceed to a hearing.
Law students Albert Amissah, '16, and Matthew Williams, '16, prepared to represent a parent of a 17-year-old student in an administrative due process hearing against D.C. Public Schools and a charter school that the student had previously attended. The student was not enrolled and had stopped attending school entirely because his past schools had failed to accommodate his disabilities and medical needs. The law student advocates contacted and prepared expert and lay witnesses for the hearing, conducted research on relevant legal issues, and prepared opening and closing arguments. On the day of the hearing, the parties negotiated a resolution. Mr. Amissah and Mr. Williams counseled the client at each stage regarding settlement terms and reviewed and revised settlement language. The student is now attending a private school that is able to provide appropriate support and individualized instruction. As part of the resolution, the law students also secured compensatory education for the client, which is being used towards tutoring, additional counseling, and independent living skills training.
Students Keren Dongo, '16, Armen Kharazian, '16, and extended-clinic student Nermin AbdelWahab, '16, prepared to represent a parent of an eighth-grade student in an administrative due process hearing. The law student advocates obtained a favorable result for the client at mediation prior to the hearing. Ms. AbdelWahab drafted and filed a due process complaint alleging that the student had been denied a free and appropriate public education. The student had been suspended repeatedly for behaviors related to his disability, and Ms. AbdelWahab represented him in suspension hearings, successfully reducing the time he was out of school. Prior to the mediation, the law students successfully advocated for a number of educational evaluations that demonstrated the student’s educational and behavioral needs. They used these evaluations to develop strong legal and factual arguments supporting our client’s position. As a result, we resolved the due process complaint at mediation, agreeing that the student requires a private placement that can provide individualized emotional and behavioral support.
Students Shanita Matta, '16, Margie Robertson, '16, and Sarah Turley, '16, successfully represented a 21-year-old student in a hearing obtaining an order that the student be found eligible for special education, an appropriate Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) be developed, evaluations, and other relief. The student now regularly attends a private school with a low student-to-teacher ratio that is able to implement his IEP.
Armen Kharazian has assisted an adult client’s transition back to school after release from prison. The student continues to face many obstacles as he re-enters the school and community. Mr. Kharazian has assisted the client in obtaining necessary official documentation, demonstrating residency for school purposes, identifying stable housing options, reinstating his benefits, and planning future goals. Mr. Kharazian’s continuing support has been a crucial factor in making the education award meaningful and in making education accessible for this client.
Government Accountability Project:
Whistleblower Protection Law Clinic
This semester, Government Accountability Project (GAP) Clinic students have each done initial case assessments for one or more client representation requests, and conducted legal research on topics ranging from the scale of compensatory damage awards in other statutes as a guide for advocacy under whistleblower laws, to secret law changes affecting abused foster children’s rights, to liability for disclosures of unmarked information that is not designated as classified until after a whistleblower reveals it.
Examples of casework have included:
1) Preparing a fact sheet for congressional advocacy on whistleblowing disclosures that challenge disproportionate incarceration of minority youths;
2) Drafting analysis and rebuttal of public comments opposing controls on the deadly dispersant used to make it appear that oil disappeared after the Deepwater Horizon spill, when in reality the dispersant created a new substance 51 times more toxic than the oil which spilled, and that sank it to kill nearly all ocean floor life rather than dispersing the release; and
3) Preparing a legal whistleblowing disclosure to challenge the Interior Department’s cover up of Gulf of Mexico oil platforms’ failure to meet minimum structural requirements against hurricanes, as well as the cover up of findings that the BP oil platform which failed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster did not meet minimum structural requirements.
Community Development Law Clinic
The guiding goal of the Community Development Law Clinic (CDLC) is to teach students transactional law and lawyering skills, while at the same time exploring and implementing models of legal practice that assist clients in developing control and ownership of economic and social assets in their communities. For the fall 2015 semester, CDLC students applied transactional and administrative law and research, writing, counseling and policy advocacy skills to assist housing organizations, advocacy groups, small businesses and cooperatives which are seeking to better their lives and the lives of those in their D.C. communities.
Student advocates have counseled several D.C. affordable housing cooperatives on a number of finance and governance issues. Students Lana Shuler, '16, and Alex Hillmann, '16, helped to negotiate the terms of a loan agreement that will provide long term, sustainable financing on favorable terms to one cooperative. They also drafted important changes to the cooperative’s bylaws. Margie Robertson, '16, and Maureen Murat, '16, helped to restructure another affordable housing cooperative’s loan to enable long term affordability and prevent the displacement of longstanding low-income immigrant residents.
Jennifer Durden, '16, and Rachel Jorgensen, '16, assisted in the representation of an affordable housing cooperative in its quest to oppose a future zoning map amendment that would allow for the development of a luxury condominium complex on its neighboring property. The zoning change, if approved, would harmfully affect the quality of life for the residents, particularly with regard to privacy and light. As a result of the Clinic’s advocacy, the cooperative successfully urged the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission to deny support for the proposed change. Student advocates also prepared the client residents’ testimony, supported negotiations with the developer and engaged in substantial research for the Findings of Facts and Conclusions arguments that will be submitted to the Zoning Commission, the body that will ultimately determine the outcome of the proposal.
Ayan Islam, '16, and Juan El Amin, '16, provided assistance to a research and educational institution that operates a number of urban farms in the District. Student advocates have researched local and federal regulations and law to determine the circumstances under which the institution may sell its surplus produce. The clinic will soon draft a policy that will likely enable the client to reach its goals.
Another client is attempting to develop a community that provides affordable housing and food to its members in exchange for labor. Benjamin Voight, '16, and Tynisa Taylor, '16, advised the client on a number of entity options and federal tax elections for the parent organization and subsidiary businesses.
A nonprofit organizational client is seeking reinstatement as a tax-exempt organization with the Internal Revenue Service. Raina Brown, '16, and Kenrick Roberts, '16, researched whether the organization is still eligible for tax exemption, drafted the extensive document necessary for reinstatement and advised the client on the actions necessary to regain exemption.
Criminal Law Clinic
D.C. Law Students in Court (LSIC) provides UDC law students with the unique opportunity to be a part of the District’s oldest law school clinical program while working with students from other law schools in the area. Although the students represent clients charged with misdemeanors in D.C. Superior Court under the supervision of attorneys, the students are responsible for every aspect of their cases. Students in the Clinic conduct extensive fact investigation, including finding and interviewing defense and government witnesses; engage in pretrial discovery; prepare and file pleadings; engage in plea negotiations; argue motions; and represent their clients at trial and other proceedings such as probation or parole revocation hearings. In the courtroom and the classroom, clinic students learn effective lawyering skills and receive trial advocacy training. The program provides supervision and instruction that emphasizes zealous advocacy and reflection.
This semester, UDC law students Qualana Alli, '16, Gregory Davis, '16, Troy Knight, '16, Anthony Marsh, '16, Shanita Matta,'16, and Alexa Watford, '16, litigated a variety of cases. These student attorneys handled cases in which their clients were charged with misdemeanors such as simple assault, unlawful entry and theft. Students were able to conduct initial client interviews in the Superior Court cellblock and then craft persuasive arguments for their clients’ pretrial release. Every student was successful in gaining his or her client’s release before trial. The students thoroughly investigated their cases with their fellow students, going to the scenes of the alleged offenses, taking photographs, and speaking to various witnesses and police officers in order to gather facts and develop case theories. The students also filed a variety of motions and diligently prepared for trial throughout the semester. All of the students had multiple opportunities to appear in D.C. Superior court on behalf of their clients.
Mr. Davis’s client’s case was dismissed by the government on the day of trial for want of prosecution because of his diligence in investigation. Ms. Watford argued preliminary discovery matters for nearly three hours before the judge acquitted her client. Similarly, Mr. Marsh argued discovery issues before the start of his client’s trial resulting in a dismissal of the case. For other clients, students negotiated favorable diversion agreements providing clients with the opportunity to ultimately have their cases dismissed. Every student learned to navigate the criminal justice system in a manner that provided their clients with unmatched advocacy.
This past fall semester students worked under the supervision of Professor Charlotte Brookins-Hudson at the District of Columbia Council, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, and for the United States Congress on projects to improve the quality of life for the elderly, veterans, low wage earners, public school students, the homeless, and to benefit the public interest in other ways. A small sampling is listed below:
Simi Abrol, '16, interned at the Council of the District of Columbia in the Committee on Education and the Office of Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large). She researched and wrote memoranda on a variety of issues including national paid-leave policies, record-sealing for decriminalized and legalized offenses, implicit-bias training for police officers, gun control, and school attendance laws focused on exploring alternatives to court intervention in order to improve school attendance. Her research on gun control resulted in the December 15th introduction of the Sense of the Council Urging Congress to Adopt Comprehensive Gun Control Resolution of 2015 calling on Congress to act swiftly and decisively to adopt legislation to protect all Americans from further gun-related crime and violence. She also attended legislative hearings and meetings on economic development along the Anacostia River, and on the Truancy Task Force. Because of her enthusiasm and interest in the work, Simi was offered the opportunity to return to work for the Committee on Education and in the Office of Councilmember Grosso next semester.
Natasha Bennett, '16, interned at the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Housing and Community Development, chaired by Councilmember Anita Bonds (At-Large). She researched a variety of legal issues, wrote legislation, provided assistance at Committee hearings, worked on Committee reports, and attended other hearings. Some of her work included: 1) drafting legislation to amend Title 47 to use the tax sale process to make a program that would permit residents, developers, nonprofits, and for-profit corporations to create affordable housing out of prior vacant or blighted properties with high tax assessments (this would keep the property affordable by limiting rent or mortgage payments to no more than 30% of a person’s annual income); 2) drafting legislation to amend the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act to ensure that the results align with the purpose of the Act and clarify terms that have been the subject of much litigation; 3) drafting legislation that would promote accessibility in apartment buildings by requiring them to comply with Universal Design Requirements; 4) writing memoranda on the Interagency Council on Homelessness 2015 Winter Plan and its Strategic Plan; 5) assisting in drafting the committee reports for the Rent Control Hardship Petition Limitation Amendment Act of 2015; and 6) writing a memorandum detailing the need for the Safe At Home Amendment Act of 2015. Because of her strong work ethic, the Committee extended an offer for Natasha to join their permanent staff.
Tamara Brown, '16, provided support to the Office of Congressman Elijah Cummings by responding to constituent calls and letters; supported counsel and policy advisors by attending multiple hearings on immigration and sentencing reform; and reviewed proposed bills and provided recommendations for co-sponsorship. In addition, she conducted extensive legal research on the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015; provided casework support by investigating potential disparate treatment in the sentencing of an African-American National Guard service member convicted of first degree murder for a war crime in Afghanistan; and participated in meetings with lobbyists on unregulated online Fantasy Sports Gambling.
ReShawn Johnson, '16, interned at the D.C. Council Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and in the Office of Councilmember Vincent Orange, Sr. (At-Large). She worked on a variety of projects including comparative analysis research regarding short term rental laws and regulations, offering additional ways to regulate Airbnb’s operations in the District; the Nightlife Regulation Amendment Act of 2015, which will regulate the noise level of music played in liquor licensed establishments; and District Statehood issues. She attended legislative hearings; drafted Committee reports, talking points and newsletters on legislation; and reviewed the Pension or Other Retirement Income Exclusion from Income Tax Amendment Act of 2015 and the Public School Teacher Income Exclusion Act of 2015.
Kasturi Puntambekar, '16, interned at the D.C. Council Committee of the Whole, chaired by the Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. During her time with the Council, Kasturi worked with various pieces of legislation referred to the Committee. Her primary project was the drafting of new legislation that would create more transparency for economic development incentive funds within the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. She performed legal research on the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, which would require all District residents to receive up to 16 weeks of paid family and medical leave for qualifying events. She edited the Active Duty Pay Differential Amendment Act of 2015, which would enable District government employees called into active duty to receive a pay differential for any contingency operation. She also researched relevant federal provisions for government employee members of reserve components in the military who are called into active duty.
Solomon E. Waller, '16, interned in the Office of Councilmember Brandon Todd (Ward 4). He wrote a white paper on the District’s gun laws, drafted a bill and wrote talking points for the councilmember on the Subsidized Taxi Transportation for Seniors Act of 2015, wrote ceremonial resolutions honoring people and events in the District, attended legislative hearings, and researched and offered recommendations on legislative changes that would improve life for senior citizens in the District.
Rachel Weiss, '16, interned at the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education. During her internship Rachel had the opportunity to work on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, education policy analysis, policy briefs, legislation research, and observing D.C. Council meetings. While working on FOIA requests, Rachel made a Vaughn Index explaining the legal reasoning for each piece of information that was redacted. She did in-depth research and analysis on The Healthy Schools Act and Immunization policy. As part of her research on immunization policy, she conducted interviews with the Coordinator of Health Services for Baltimore County Public Schools, the Director of the Department of Student Services for Montgomery County Public Schools, and the Executive Director of Student Services for Prince Georges County. The multijurisdictional information will help shape the District’s immunization policy. Her legal research on the effects on children of imprisoned parents was used as a large portion of the Deputy Mayor for Education’s endorsement speech at the D.C. Council hearing for the Children with Incarcerated Parents Act of 2015. Rachel’s work has had an enormous impact on matters moving through the District’s legislative process.