The National Black Lawyers Top 100 Names New Executive Director

Annamaria Steward, Executive Director of The National Black Lawyers Top 100

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Black Lawyers Top 100 is pleased to announce that Annamaria Steward of Washington, D.C. has been named as its first Executive Director. She joins the organization with nearly 20 years of experience and a reputation for providing exceptional leadership.

Before joining The National Black Lawyers, Steward served as Director of Leadership and Strategic Development for the D.C. Bar and Associate Dean of Students at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. She is also a former president of the D.C. Bar, the largest unified bar in the country, and was the first African-American woman elected president of the voluntary Bar Association of the District of Columbia, a 148-year-old institution.

In her new role, Steward will be responsible for fostering organizational development which will include expanding the membership base, improving the breadth of membership benefits, and ultimately re-energizing the organization.

“It is important to me to recognize and celebrate African-American legal excellence,” Steward said. “I hope to harness the knowledge of these stalwarts of our profession to create a legal brain trust for our membership.”

As an attorney highly skilled in program design and implementation, strategic planning, and leadership development, Steward’s appointment will enable the organization to fulfill its mission for top tier African-American attorneys.

The National Black Lawyers is an honorary membership organization dedicated to promoting legal excellence. The organization’s membership is comprised of the nation’s most successful  African-American attorneys including legal giants like Willie Gary, Karen Evans, Ben Crump, and James Montgomery.

For more information about The National Black Lawyers, visit NBLtop100.org or follow The National Black Lawyers on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Florida deputies to be tried for shooting disabled man

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that two Brevard County Deputy Sheriffs must stand trial for their shooting of an unarmed man inside his home, when family members asked law enforcement officers to Baker Act the disabled man. The appellate panel, consisting of Circuit Judges Adalberto Jordan, Britt Grant, and Frank Hull, reversed an order granting summary judgment in favor of the officers, finding that significant factual issues must be decided by the jury. The deputies fired thirteen bullets at the victim, eleven of which went through a closed door with the victim standing inside his home where he lived alone snice his elderly parents died two months earlier. Eight bullets struck Christopher Greer through the closed door, resulting in his fatal injuries at the scene. The case will now return to the District Court for the Middle District of Florida for a jury trial on the Civil Rights and excessive force counts.

The Eleventh Circuit held that “the task of weighing the credibility of police testimony against other evidence is the stuff of which jury trials are made.”

Plaintiff’s counsel and National Trial Lawyers members Douglas R. Beam and Riley H. Beam of Douglas R. Beam, P.A.  Benedict P. Kuehne and Michael T. Davis, of Kuehne Davis Law, P.A., and Marjorie Gadarian Graham issued a statement that “police shootings of innocent citizens are on the rise, and we applaud the Eleventh Circuit’s directive that juries are well-suited to the task of deciding whether the police are in fact responsible when using excessive force.” As the Eleventh Circuit explained, the “clearly established law” is that shooting a person through a closed door who has done nothing threatening and never posed an immediate danger violates the Fourth Amendment to be free from the use of excessive force.”

Plaintiff’s counsel are anxious to “bring this outrageous police shooting to a jury to hold the Brevard Sheriff’s Office responsible for this senseless disregard of a decent man’s life.”

Immigration judge talks about how to fix courts

Dana Leigh Marks has been an immigration judge in San Francisco since 1987, and is president emerita of the National Association of Immigration Judges. In the Washington Post, Judge Marks writes about what it’s going to take to fix the overwhelmed immigration legal system:

The volume of work can be overwhelming. Some of our judges carry caseloads of 5,000 cases or more, usually with limited support staff. Because we work for the Justice Department, we are directed how to arrange our dockets and micromanaged about how much time we spend on cases. Beginning in October of last year, judges were ordered to complete 700 cases each year or risk a less-than-satisfactory performance evaluation, which can cost a judge his or her job. This is not how a court should be run. Attorney General William P. Barr told Congress this week that he is hoping to boost the number of judges in our courtrooms from around 425 to 535 over the next few years and for a commensurate boost in lawyers and clerks. We desperately need the help.

Find out more about what it’s going to take to reform the immigration legal process at the Washington Post. 

Video: Former ICE head criticizes Trump’s plan to eliminate immigration judges

courthouseA former acting head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says President Trump’s call to eliminate immigration judges is the “single dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Former ICE director John Sandweg tells CNN it would be wrong to get rid of immigration judges because the Constitution guarantees due process. The president wants to take immigration judges away in an effort to speed up the immigration process. 

 

Federal Court Orders Timely Bond Hearings and Legal Protections for Asylum Seekers

On Friday, in a groundbreaking decision, a federal judge in Seattle dealt a blow to the government’s campaign to deter and obstruct asylum seekers applying for protection in the United States.  Judge Marsha Pechman ordered the government to provide certain individuals with bona fide asylum claims either a bond hearing before an immigration judge within seven days of their request or to release them from detention.

Ruling on a nationwide class action lawsuit, Pechman further ordered that, at those bond hearings, the government must justify continued detention, record the hearing, produce the recording or transcript on appeal, and produce a written decision with individualized findings at the conclusion of the hearing. The government has 30 days to implement these measures, which will impact thousands of asylum seekers currently detained across the United States. 

In shifting the burden of justifying continued detention from the noncitizen to the government, the court noted that “[i]n every other context (both civil and criminal detention), the Government bears the burden of proof regarding suitability for release.” The court’s order is the first nationwide ruling placing this burden on the government at an initial bond hearing. The case is Padilla v. Sessions and the plaintiffs and nationwide classes of asylum seekers are represented by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and the American Immigration Council.

“This is a tremendous first step toward more equitable bond hearings for asylum seekers,” said Matt Adams, legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “These protections are essential in order to ensure that detention is not used as punishment or a mechanism to block asylum applicants from asserting their rights to seek protection.”

“The court’s decision recognizes the physical and psychological suffering that asylum seekers have been forced to endure for weeks and months as they await bond hearings,” said Trina Realmuto, directing attorney at the American Immigration Council. “We are thrilled that under the court’s order, our class members will receive prompt bond hearings with basic due process protections.”

The court’s decision can be read here, as well as the amended complaint, the court’s order granting nationwide class certification, and the court’s orders denying the government’s motion to dismiss.

Will Trump close the Mexico border?

Mexico mapRepublicans from border states and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are criticizing President Trump’s threat to close the border with Mexico over his belief that Mexico isn’t doing enough to stem the tide of migrants from Central America. USA Today reports that the administration could start shutting down ports of entry this week. Critics point out that Mexico was America’s third-largest trading partner last year and they’re concerned about the effect closing the border would have on the economy. The Philadelphia Inquirer says House Democrats are talking about holding a vote on the border closing later this month to force border state Republicans to take a stand on the administration’s controversial proposal. Politico says Trump plans to visit the border on Friday while GOP members try to guess which move the president will make. 

Florida bankruptcy judge criticized for ordering jail time

A U.S. bankruptcy judge in Fort Lauderdale is causing controversy after sending at least ten people to jail, including two lawyers, reports the ABA Journal. While Judge John Olson is described as “brilliant,” his actions, including sanctioning several lawyers, are drawing scrutiny. Judge Olson has ordered several attorneys to pay fees or risk being banned from bankruptcy court. One lawyer jailed by the judge, Lawrence Wrenn, says while Olson might be brilliant, Wrenn believes he’s “power mad.” Another attorney ordered detained by Olson, Tina Talarchik, filed a court motion saying Olson’s actions “give rise to an appearance of partiality, antagonism, vengeance and other judicially inappropriate conduct.” Some people are questioning whether Olson actually has the authority to send people to jail. 

The National Advocates Announces David Kim as Vice-President for 2019 and President-Elect for 2020

David KimThe National Advocates is pleased to announce that David Kim, a Top 10 Wills, Trusts, Estates and Probate lawyer of Wright Kim Douglas, ALC in Glendale, California has been selected as the association’s vice president for 2019 and president-elect for 2020. Kim, the managing partner of Wright Kim Douglas, is an experienced litigator with an extensive business and real estate background, and handles exclusively probate and trust matters, both litigated and non-litigated. Kim has successfully conducted several notable trials involving probate and trust disputes on behalf of private professional fiduciaries and individuals.  He also counsels clients in all phases of trust administration, conservatorships and probate matters.

Estate planning for people in dangerous jobs

Several Pennsylvania law firms are teaming up for a fifth year to offer free estate planning for first responders as a way of saying “thank you,” according to Legal Scoops. It’s a reminder that people who work in dangerous jobs need to take steps to protect their families by having an estate plan. The nonprofit Wills for Heroes foundation was created after 9/11 and is part of a national effort to protect the estates of first responders and military personnel or veterans. You can learn more about the organization and how you can help at its website. 

Hundreds of agents will be pulled from ports of entry to help El Paso Border Patrol process undocumented immigrants

ICE agents immigrationBy Julián Aguilar, The Texas Tribune

Hundreds of agents will be pulled from ports of entry to help El Paso Border Patrol process undocumented immigrants” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

*correction appended

EL PASO — Saying that his agency has reached a “breaking point” in the face of a surge of undocumented immigrants, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan called on Congress for help and said he’s reassigning 750 federal agents stationed at some of the country’s busiest international bridges and trade zones to help overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol agents.

During a news conference near the Rio Grande, McAleenan said the Border Patrol is on pace to apprehend about 100,000 migrants this month alone along the southwest border — most of them families and unaccompanied children from Central America. The El Paso sector has seen a particularly large surge in undocumented immigrants, he said, and across the southwest border the agency now has more than 13,400 migrants in custody, including nearly 3,500 in El Paso.

“A crisis level is 6,000; 13,000 is unprecedented,” he said.

McAleenan told Congress in testimony earlier this month that the border was reaching a breaking point, and on Wednesday he said, “That breaking point has arrived this week at our border. And nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso.”

He said CBP agents who are normally tasked with processing legitimate trade and travel while detecting contraband will be reassigned from ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego. Laredo and El Paso have ranked as the country’s top two inland ports for years; about $229 billion and $77.4 billion in two-way trade passed through those respective customs districts in 2018.

“There will be impacts to traffic at the border, there will be a slowdown in the processing of trade, there will be wait times in our pedestrian and passenger vehicle lanes” at ports of entry, he said. “But this is required to help us manage this operational crisis.”

McAleenan also said the vast majority of the apprehended migrants will be released instead of being transferred to and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That agency’s holding facilities are at capacity, and McAleenan said he is left with no choice but to let the migrants go with orders to appear before an immigration judge. Border Patrol agents will now be tasked with deciding whether a person should be released, he said.

“That is not something we want to do; it’s something we have to do given the overcrowding in our facilities,” he said, calling it “an unfortunate step” that hurts morale in the agency.

Shortly after McAleenan’s press conference, the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector announced that it has begun releasing migrants on their own recognizance because it “has experienced a significant rise in the number of family units arrested throughout the sector.”

As many as 40 percent of the El Paso sector’s agents have been asked to help with transportation, processing or providing medical care to the migrants, which McAleenan said makes the border more vulnerable because those agents aren’t patrolling.

McAleenan said the crisis is a result of increasing migration from Central America — he said poverty is driving most of the migrants north — and U.S. laws that prevent families and unaccompanied minors from being detained for prolonged periods of time after turning themselves in to Border Patrol. He called on Congress to change the laws in order to help end the crisis and give asylum seekers with legitimate claims their day in court.

He said the agency needs the ability to detain families together for four to eight weeks, enough time for a judge to evaluate their asylum claims and decide whether to deport them or let them stay in the U.S. “They live with uncertainty for years at a time because the system is broken and overwhelmed,” he said.

“Our courts tell us that 10-15 percent of Central American migrants have a legitimate asylum claim at the end of the process,” he said. “Those people won’t even see a judge now for two to five years or more to have that asylum claim adjudicated.”

The reassignment of CBP agents marks the second shift in personnel away from their primary duties in less than a week. Over the weekend, the Border Patrol shut down its roadside checkpoints within the El Paso sector so that agents assigned to those posts could instead help process migrants. It’s unclear how long either reassignment will last.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of undocumented immigrants held in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector. The correct number is about 3,500.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2019/03/27/border-patrol-shift-agents-bridges-help-migrant-surge/.

 

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