Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 28

FEATURE
Petitions for civil protection orders in domestic violence cases were
going forward and arraignments were being held, albeit at about
half the normal rate. Emergency hearings and motions in child abuse
and neglect cases were also proceeding, but often only in extreme
circumstances, legal services providers say.

stress and time and cost of having to come to court, and it eases the
burden on litigants if they have care responsibilities at home or work
responsibilities." In some areas, Drane says, the court has seen an actual
increase in litigant participation than before when hearings were conducted in person.

"The pandemic caught us all unaware," says Karen Newton Cole,
executive director of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, one
of a number of nonprofit groups providing free civil legal help to lowincome D.C. residents. "Everybody is sort of grappling with the issues
around how you continue operations in an atmosphere where
access is difficult and at the same time justice still has to move."

Drane recognizes that the benefits and prospective improvements of
shifting court processes online must be balanced against the challenges,
which are serious and real. "We know that for low-income litigants, and
particularly those who are unrepresented, there is this digital divide
that often leads to lack of access to internet technology, even to smartphones," Drane says. "We are trying to think creatively about how we
foster the type of access to make remote participation possible for those
types of litigants."

Technology, notifications, remote filing, and access to legal assistance
had to be re-envisioned, and quickly. The D.C. Court of Appeals established working groups for its functional divisions, setting up an information-sharing process between practitioners and administrators and
judges that yielded a robust dialogue about problems and solutions.
"When the public health crisis hit, there were just countless moving parts
to account for. We were triaging all of these needs," says Nancy Drane,
executive director of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, which
convened its own task force to bring court officials and practitioners
together to respond to the crisis.
Drane says there is opportunity for courts to look at some of these
transformative changes that could continue to enhance access to justice
after the crisis has passed. "As we move further into the crisis and think
about what lies ahead for our community, in many ways it presents
a moment of opportunity to really re-envision how our courts operate
and how to best serve litigants' needs, not only within the courts but
also from the perspective of legal services provision," Drane says.
While attorneys say remote hearings pose new challenges for judges
and lawyers, they may well become a permanent feature of future court
work. And for litigants, the benefits are huge.

Courtesy of Neighborhood Legal Services Program

"Everybody now recognizes that for many litigants, being able to participate in a hearing remotely is a great benefit," Drane says. "It reduces the

"

The pandemic caught us all
unaware. Everybody is sort
of grappling with the issues
around how you continue
operations in an atmosphere
where access is difficult and
at the same time justice still has to move.
KAREN NEWTON COLE
Neighborhood Legal Services Program

28 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

As of the beginning of July, the Superior Court had opened 37 virtual
courtrooms and the Court of Appeals was conducting oral arguments
via videoconference in each of its two courtrooms. "That was an innovation, or a challenge, that I'm so proud of," says Blackburne-Rigsby.
"They're all operating remotely. The courtroom clerk is remote, the
judges are remote, and the parties are remote. But in order to preserve
the record and be able to provide some public access, the proceedings
are run remotely through the courtroom recording system so that there's
a record for appeal."

MOVING LEGAL SERVICES ONLINE
Recognizing the increased need for legal services during the pandemic,
the D.C. Bar and other legal aid groups banded together to quickly create
unified hotlines for family law and landlord and tenant court matters,
giving people dedicated numbers to call instead of having to reach out
to separate organizations. In March, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, the
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and the DC Affordable Law
Firm came together to form the Family Law Assistance Network, which
provides free legal advice or limited-scope representation in custody,
child support, parentage, and divorce cases heard in the Domestic
Relations Branch of D.C. Superior Court.
"We set up a system where the family law court could refer cases to
a dedicated phone line that's answered by a legal assistant," says Pro
Bono Center Executive Director Rebecca K. Troth. "And then the cases
are assigned to one of the lawyers at one of the three organizations."
"We've been doing remote emergency hearings - sometimes with
10 minutes' notice - and have appeared on behalf of these litigants in
a limited-scope representation capacity," Troth adds.
The Pro Bono Center also joined hands with five other legal assistance
providers to launch the Landlord Tenant Legal Assistance Network
hotline as a single point of entry for unrepresented tenants and small
landlords seeking help with housing disputes.
In June, the Superior Court established an online electronic payment
system for certain court fees, fines, and costs. This has had special impact
in landlord and tenant court where tenants contesting bad housing conditions needed a method of paying remotely.
In the early days of the shutdown, and before the online payment
portal was available, "the court had issued an order instructing tenants
to make protective order payments directly to their landlords rather than



Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
ABA Delegates Corner
Calendar of Events
Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
The New Normal in Legal Education feature
On Shaky Ground feature
How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Speaking of Ethics
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 9
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The New Normal in Legal Education feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Shaky Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover4
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/septemberoctober2020
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2020
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/june2020
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2020
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2020
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2020
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/october2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/julyaugust2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/june2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2019
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/June/July2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/March2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/February2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2018
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/december2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/November2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september 2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september 2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/august2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/july2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/June2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/may2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/april2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/march2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/february2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2017
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/december2016
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/november2016/
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/october2016
http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/september2016
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com