ACLU plans to amend lawsuit to challenge latest version of travel ban

Immigration Law

The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to amend an existing lawsuit to challenge President Donald Trump’s third version of his travel ban.

The ACLU and its partner organizations are also seeking a preliminary injunction to block the latest version of the ban, according to a letter to a Maryland federal judge overseeing the case. The ACLU announcement is here and its letter is here. Reuters and Bloomberg have stories.

The third version of the travel ban, announced Sept. 24, still restricts travel to the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries, according to the ACLU. One Muslim-majority country—Sudan—was dropped from the travel ban list, but another—Chad—was added. The third version also bans travel to the United States by people from North Korea, and by some government officials and their family members from Venezuela.

“President Trump’s newest travel ban is still a Muslim ban at its core, and it certainly engages in discrimination based on national origin, which is unlawful,” ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said in a statement. “Adding a few North Koreans and a tiny group of Venezuelan officials doesn’t paper over the original sin of the Muslim ban.”

The U.S. Supreme Court was set to consider whether the second travel ban violated the establishment clause. The court has canceled oral arguments and asked the parties to address whether the case is moot as a result of the Sept. 24 revisions.

The five holdover countries on the latest list are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. The travel restrictions vary based on the country. The ban for Iran, for example, does not apply to nationals under valid student and exchange visitor visas, although those visitors will have to undergo additional screening. The ban for Somalia applies to immigrants; nonimmigrants will have to undergo enhanced screening.

The second version of the travel ban had also imposed a 120-day ban on refugees. That is scheduled to expire on Oct. 24.


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Island lawyers start to pick up the pieces in the wake of hurricanes

Natural Disasters

Tom Bolt

Tom Bolt is a Section Member-at-Large on the ABA Board of Governors, and shareholder and managing attorney at BoltNagi in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. His firm’s office was heavily damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

As someone who had lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands since he graduated from law school in 1982, Tom Bolt has experienced hurricane damage firsthand.

“In 1989 we had Hurricane Hugo, which devastated St. Croix,” says Bolt, shareholder and managing attorney of BoltNagi P.C. and member of the ABA Board of Governors. “Then in 1995 we had Hurricane Marilyn, and it basically totaled my home. After that, we said ‘never again,’ and we built back stronger and better than before.”

But Hurricanes Irma and Maria were still strong enough to destroy the BoltNagi law office on St. Thomas, which he describes as totaled. “It was kind of a combination, one-two punch,” says Bolt. “Irma peeled off the roof, and then Maria saturated everything inside.”

In the wake of the historically catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, as well as Irma and Maria, the ABA has been working with federal, state and territorial groups to provide disaster assistance to those affected. For the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the need has been particularly great because power and telecommunications infrastructure will not be as easy to restore.

“If you have a natural disaster such as Florida with Hurricane Andrew (in 1992), you’ve got people who can immediately come in from Georgia, Alabama and surrounding states,” Bolt says. “Here, the only way you’re getting in here is by plane–and the airport was closed until today–or by boat. So, you’re isolated somewhat in these insular territories.”

One important project has been establishing legal assistance hotlines. In the case of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, these had to be hosted on the mainland because stable telecommunications and power are not yet available. The ABA announced the formation of a hotline for U.S. Virgin Islanders last week, hosted by the Louisiana Civil Justice Center.

The LCJC will also now be serving callers from Puerto Rico, the ABA announced in a press release Wednesday. Islanders can call 800-310-7029 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Simple questions about issues like how Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) claims are filed can be answered over the phone, and information will be collected so callers can be referred to attorneys who are barred in the appropriate jurisdictions. The addition of Puerto Rico to the hotline was made possible through a partnership with the ABA Young Lawyers Division’s Disaster Legal Service Program, FEMA, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, Puerto Rico Legal Services, Inc. and Community Law Office, Inc.

BoltNagi has been assisting in the efforts to meet the immediate legal needs of people in the U.S. Virgin Islands, having relocated to a temporary office on St. Thomas.

“You go immediately from being a functioning private law firm to doing things like providing disaster legal services, and we were used to that,” Bolt said. “I think our experience helped us there.”

But the staff is also having to deal with the same aftereffects of the disaster as the other islanders.

“Many of the lawyers in our firm have no power, no cell or telecommunication,” Bolt says. “So what we’re doing is that one person brings in bags of ice to make it a little bit easier, someone volunteers to wash clothes for people—I mean, it is almost like a communal coming together, and that has helped also.”

Disaster-preparedness steps the firm had previously taken have paid off, and Bolt credits lessons he learned as the former chair of the ABA Law Practice Division. “We had significant backups, not only on site but in the cloud,” he says. Having photos of the interior of the law firm office before the hurricanes hit, along with a detailed inventory of what was in the building, has also been helpful.

One piece of advice Bolt has for all firms is to develop detailed disaster policies. “What happens? What relief do you give employees, what is the routine once a hurricane watch is announced, what do you do, step one, two, three, four, five,” he says

The road to recovery will be a long one, but Bolt says that the experience has made him value his ABA membership more than ever.

“I’ve had more outreach from members of the American Bar Association than any one group,” Bolt says. “It’s been a tremendous outpouring. Because of my affiliation with the ABA’s Law Practice Division, so many people reached out to ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ And they have. Recommending various things and various products that might be of help. It has been tremendous, it really has.”

Resources for lawyers looking for ways to assist those affected by the hurricanes are available at ambar.org/DisasterRelief, hosted by the ABA’s Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness. The committee also tweets at @ABAResilience. If you are a U.S. Virgin Islands lawyer and wish to volunteer, please contact attorneys Casey Payton or Alex Golubitsky at caseypayton@gmail.com or agolubitsky@gsblaw.com.


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Former convict and Yale Law grad gets approval to practice in Connecticut

Careers

A Yale Law grad who spent eight years in prison for armed robbery and carjacking as a teenager has won approval to practice law in Connecticut.

Reginald Dwayne Betts won approval on Friday after persuading an examining committee that he had good moral character and fitness to practice law, report the Hartford Courant and the Associated Press.

When he was 16, Betts was involved in an armed robbery and carjacking at a northern Virginia shopping mall. He was convicted of three felonies.

Now 37, Betts graduated from law school last summer and passed the Connecticut bar exam in February. He has also written two books of poetry and a memoir. For the past year he has worked at the New Haven Public Defender’s office, and has a clerkship offer with a federal judge for next year, according to a Connecticut Law Tribune article (sub. req.) published earlier this month.

Related article:

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-con and Yale Law grad must prove ‘good moral character’ before being able to practice”


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Murder defendant who punched out his lawyer sues responding officers for alleged excessive force

Trials & Litigation

Shutterstock

A New Jersey murder defendant says in a lawsuit that courtroom sheriff’s officers responded with excessive force after he hit his lawyer in the face.

Randy Washington, 36, filed the suit against the Mercer County Sheriff’s office this month, NJ.com reports in a story noted by the Associated Press.

Jurors were outside the courtroom at the time of the June incident. Washington says he hit his lawyer and then waited for officers to handcuff him. But officers tackled him nonetheless, slamming him to the ground and breaking his wrist, the suit says.

Washington also claims his jailers didn’t send him to the hospital until a week after the injury, and then delayed treatment after an X-ray revealed the injury.

The lawyer who was hit in the face, Jessica Lyons, was Washington’s second attorney, according to a prior story by NJ.com. She replaced Tom Belsky after Washington allegedly threatened his first lawyer.

Washington was on trial for the October 2014 murder of Silas Johnson. After being convicted, he was sentenced to 70 years in prison on Sept. 22, and faces charges in the killing of a second man in July 2014.


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Injured police officer can’t sue Black Lives Matter or its hashtag, judge rules

Civil Rights

A federal judge in Louisiana has ruled that Black Lives Matter is a social movement, rather than an entity, and it cannot be sued.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson tossed a lawsuit by an injured police officer against the movement and activist DeRay Mckesson, report the Washington Post, USA Today and the Associated Press.

Jackson also said it would be fruitless to amend the suit to include a claim against the movement’s hashtag, which is also incapable of being sued. The “attempt to bring suit against a social movement and a hashtag evinces either a gross lack of understanding of the concept of capacity or bad faith,” Jackson wrote.

The suit was filed on behalf of an anonymous officer with the Baton Rouge Police Department who was injured in July 2016 during a protest against police brutality. His suit argued that Black Lives Matter could be sued because it was a “national unincorporated association” and Mckesson was responsible for the demonstrator who threw a rock and hurt the officer.

Jackson said Mckesson was exercising his constitutional rights of association and speech during the demonstration, and there was no evidence he had “exceeded the bounds of protected speech.”


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