Court-appointed defense attorneys working in the D.C. Superior Court might need some legal aid of their own. The lawyers, who represent indigent clients, are now owed a total of $4.9 million, according to Colin Dunham, head of the court’s Trial Lawyers Association. They have not received a paycheck since July, when the court started diverting their funds to cover a budget shortfall. Never at a loss for words, though, the lawyers have been grousing about their situation on Capitol Hill and all over Judiciary Square. The dollar drought has even driven some to delusionwitness a creative rendition of a popular Christmas poem posted anonymously in the court’s lawyers lounge earlier this month: “‘Twas the night before Christmas in Superior Court/Judges were looking for lawyers to thwart./The criminals were shackled secure in their cells/Waiting for Marshals to sing ‘Jingle Bells.’/….A judicial Santa wearing a robe/Had gathered a crowd and was scratching his nose/….He picked up a pen and he looked at the crowd/….From the A’s through the Z’s he checked off his list/He paid all our vouchers with a flick of his wrist.”
Crony Cash As Democratic mayoral nominee Anthony Williams angles toward the Nov. 3 general election, he appears as wedded as ever to a central tactic of his summer primary fight: cozying up to cronies of Mayor Marion Barry. Next Tuesday, Williams will attend a fund-raising reception co-hosted by Michael Hodge, a local tycoon who in 1994 chaired the Washington Business Political Action Committee, which raised over $500,000 in support of Barry. After the group helped propel the mayor to his legendary comeback, it came under fire from the city’s Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) for having coordinated its political efforts with the Barry campaign, a definite no-no under the city’s campaign-finance laws. To settle OCF’s charges, Washington Business paid a small fine but admitted to no wrongdoing. The no-fault settlement, however, is apparently enough to keep Hodge out of Williams’ inner circle. “We welcome his involvement as a fund-raiser,” says Williams spokesperson Peggy Armstrong, “but he is not part of our finance committee.” Hodge says he’s already maxed out as a Williams contributor and wants to pull in others: “I’ll sponsor this, and that’s pretty much it.” Minimum contribution to attend the reception: $500.
Commissioner-for-Life In order to receive an appointment to one of D.C.’s numerous boards and commissions, many good-government types joke, you have to either be a friend to the mayor, a contributor to the mayor, or a friend-of-a-friend to the mayor. They forget the most important category: being the mayor yourself. Last week, at the behest of Hizzoner Marion Barry, the D.C. Council approved the re-appointment of Barry to the D.C. Sports Commission, which promotes sporting events in the District. Barry will serve on the commission for four more years.
Homeless Schoolers After seeing more than a few Maryland and Virginia license plates in parking lots for PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences in past years, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) officials have tightened the proof-of-residency requirement for enrollment. But the crackdown has had an undue impact on those who call the District, but not a particular residence in it, home. “It’s hard to prove that you live in D.C. [when] you don’t have documentation that you live anywhere,” says Leigh Goodmark, staff attorney for Bread for the City, which provides legal services to the District’s homeless. Goodmark has encountered a number of students from homeless families who have not had the required legal paperwork such as income tax forms or a lease to prove their residency in the District. If they cannot prove it by Sept. 28, the students will not be allowed to attend classes this school year. Advocates for the city’s immigrant community say they are experiencing similar problemsone says she spent all last week trying to enroll five students from Latin America. Beverly Wallace, director of DCPS’s transitory service branch, says that her staff has removed obstacles to the few families who have called with problems. “We have not gotten any calls relating to children not getting into school,” she reports.
Reporting by Paula Park, Amanda Ripley, Elissa Silverman, and Erik Wemple.
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