Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 29

FEATURE

Courtesy of D.C. Court of Appeals/YouTube

"Our resolve was clear that the courts cannot close . . . stopping justice and access to justice was not an option," says D.C. Court of Appeals
Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the D.C. Courts' decision to shift operations online during the pandemic. Above, Blackburne-Rigsby presides
over remote oral arguments livestreamed on YouTube.
to the court since the clerk's office was operating remotely and unable to
accept payments. And there was some level of discomfort around that,
obviously, especially in most cases where poor housing conditions
existed," Troth says.
For practitioners, who reported a litany of problems that emerged in
the shutdown as the court worked to move its operations online, one
of their biggest challenges was learning how to handle a virtual courtroom setting. Online proceedings require more coaching of clients and
advance preparation.
"It is a challenge as an attorney to figure out how to advocate in
a context that is way more controlled," says Tracy Davis, managing
attorney at Bread for the City. "Obviously, you need to have everyone
really take their turn speaking. You can't have everyone talking over
each other. But as an attorney, part of my job is figuring out when to
jump in and push an issue or repeat or advocate more strongly for
a position, and that is really hard in a video context."

FACING THE COMING SURGE
What has legal services providers more concerned is what happens
when the courts reopen and a backlog of unresolved conflicts floods
the system. And it's not just about litigation. The coronavirus pandemic
has caused enormous economic damage in the District that will inevitably show up in court.
More than 133,000 people had filed for unemployment as of July, four
times the annual job loss District residents normally see in a full year. And
those statistics don't include the tens of thousands of gig workers who
are out of work. Many of these individuals have faced delays or denials
of unemployment and food benefits, says Drake Hagner, senior staff
attorney at the Legal Aid Society. The cascading effects will show up
in nonpayment of rent, child support, cell phone bills, and alimony. That
means the court will face a wave of evictions and civil enforcement
actions.

Meanwhile, "there is still a long way to go in terms of getting the
technology up and running and up to capacity," says Jamie Sparano,
senior staff attorney in the Domestic Violence/Family Law Unit of the
Legal Aid Society.

"The bigger question is, what's going to happen now?" asks Peter
Edelman, chair of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission. "Because there
are so many things out there that are just kind of holding. Evictions,
that's going to come back in a big way. So many people lost jobs. Health
problems. Domestic violence issues. All of this is going to jump up."

As of mid-June, the Superior Court's Domestic Relations Branch was
running one remote courtroom for a rotation of six judges. Available
metrics show a reduction in decisions. In May, there were 306 new filings
of civil protection orders compared with 544 in May 2019. In June, there
were 327 new filings versus 455 in June 2019.

Troth foresees a huge wave of eviction actions. "One of the things the
[commission's] task force is trying to do is mobilize volunteer pro bono
attorneys to take training online so that they're ready to help litigants
when the courts are more open," Troth says.

"One judge a day has hearings whereas what we are used to is all six
judges operating simultaneously," Sparano says. "So, the court still
has some work to do in terms of getting more judges access to the technology so they are all working at the same time. But we are seeing
progress, and we know they are working on it."

Edelman also anticipates a post-pandemic legal needs crisis ahead.
"When the courts get going, we are definitely going to need as many
lawyers as we can put together for that," he says.
The outlook was still somewhat murky in mid-June in terms of where
things are headed and how the coronavirus crisis resolves. Indeed, it

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

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WASHINGTON LAWYER 29



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
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