D.C. Courts Participate in 2017 Judicial and Bar Conference
More informationFriday, April 7th, marked the 2017 Judicial and Bar Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center where hundreds of D.C. judges, Bar leadership and active members of the legal community gathered to enlighten others and discuss topics pertaining to this year's theme, "Justice for All?: Bias and Discrimination in the 21st Century." The call to order and State of the Courts reports were given by D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby and DC Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin. D.C. Bar President Annamaria Steward then followed with remarks on the state of the DC Bar. Chief Judge Morin noted what a pleasure it has been to partner with Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby after knowing her for twenty years and his commitment to continue to work together for the continued advancement of the D.C. Courts.
The conference's signature event was a keynote address delivered by Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Ms.Ifill is nationally recognized as an advocate in the areas of civil rights, voting rights, judicial diversity, and judicial decision-making. During her remarks, Ms. Ifill highlighted the importance of understanding that racial injustices and prejudices remain a reality in our justice system, sharing that her dream that "...any judge, state or federal, will be taught how to manage their biases...I don't think it should be optional for judges, it should be required." She received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her remarks, and Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby, continued the praise, saying "That was a powerful message that challenged us not to just keep working but to work even harder as we try to ensure and maintain the rule of law."
The remainder of the conference included a series of seminars that related to the main focus of justice, with sessions devoted to topics such as religious profiling, gender bias, and LGBT equality.
Superior Court Welcomes Students for Youth Law Fair
More information The 2017 Youth Law Fair took place Saturday, March 18 at the Moultrie Courthouse. Nearly 200 students gathered to discuss and debate issues surrounding this year's theme is "OMG, I thought I deleted this!" where they focused on social media profiles, pictures, information permanence and the ever increasing digital footprint on social media.
Attorneys coached students through mock trial exercises as they played the roles of defense and prosecuting attorneys, jurors and witnesses. One student spoke of how excited she was to play the role of the prosecutor, stating 'it was really cool to feel like you were bringing justice to someone's life.'
Chief Judge Robert Morin gave opening remarks about importance of events like Youth Law fair because of the pertinent exposure they provide for young people. DC Bar president, Annamaria Steward greeted students with excitement, speaking on the importance of staying on top of social media knowledge given the many ways it's being used today.
Hope to see everyone next year!
Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby Sworn in as Chief Judge of the DC Court of Appeals
Superior Court Raises Limits for Small Claims Cases
Many more people can now file using the lower cost and more expeditious proccessMore information
Small Claims Branch to Hold a Public Forum on March 29
More information The Small Claims Branch is interested in hearing your suggestions, concerns, questions, thoughts and ideas. The Branch will be holding a forum on March 29 from 2-3:30pm in Court Building B. For more information, click here.
Registration for the 18th Annual Youth Law Fair is Now Open
More information The 2017 Youth Law Fair will take place this year on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at the Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Avenue from 9:30am-2:30pm. This year’s theme is “OMG, I thought I deleted this!” will focus on social media profiles, pictures, information permanence and the ever increasing digital footprint on social media.
Attorneys are also needed in courtrooms during mock trial exercises to assist students as they play the role of defense and prosecuting attorneys, jurors and witnesses. General volunteers are needed as well to help with other tasks such as crowd control, monitoring students and serving lunch. Attorneys and volunteers will be asked to attend a preparation meeting at the courthouse on Friday, March 17,2017 from 6:00pm-7:00pm.
The Youth Law Fair was established in 2000 to provide an opportunity for young people in D.C. to have positive and interactive experiences with the law as well as an expanded view of the judicial system, local community resources and the pursuit of higher education. More than 200 students have attended in previous years. Activities include; speak out sessions, courthouse tours, exhibits, catered lunch and even prizes!
2/15 on New Appellate Mediation Program for Those Interested in VolunteeringMore information Chief Judge Eric Washington will host a Brown Bag Lunch on February 15, 2017 for those interested in volunteering with the new appellate mediation program. The Court of Appeals is looking for attorneys to serve as mediators, as well as attorneys willing to represent pro se parties in appellate mediation.
The lunch will take place on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 in Room 009 of the Historic Courthouse. Clerk of Court Julio Castillo, Deputy Clerk Herb Rouson, Jr. and Scottie Reid, Coordinator of the Appellate Mediation Program will also be present. The Court will provide soft drinks, water and dessert. Please rsvp by calling Scottie Reid at 202-879-9936 so that we have enough seats and enough cookies!
Those who cannot attend but are interested should contact Ms. Reid at 202-879-9936 or email@example.com.
First Drug Court Graduation of 2017
More information Wednesday, January 18, 2017, marked the very first Drug Court Graduation of the year, complete with motivation and a great deal of applause. Courtroom C-10 was filled with guests and supporters of the program including Chief Judge Robert Morin and former Drug Court Judge Gregory Jackson. As participants in the program received their certificates for transitioning into a new phase, the graduates were greeted by an alumnus of the program who felt after completing Drug Court that he must do his part to give back. He spoke about his drug use that began in 8th grade with marijuana which escalated to PCP, citing the death of his parents as an event that was difficult for him to cope with. Though he went on to encourage the participants in their post-graduate walk stating, "Don’t use adversity as an excuse, life will always bring you adversity."
The Honorable Judge Wendell Gardner, now presiding over Drug Court, said a few words to the graduates but not before former Drug Court Judge Gregory Jackson made his appearance as previously promised. Upon Judge Jackson’s arrival, an excited buzz erupted in the room from attendees. Many of them having had Judge Jackson preside over their own Drug Court cases in the past. Greeting the crowd with a smile, he said “I miss you all, what I miss most is being able to talk to you. I will continue to come back for as many graduations as I can.” Judge Gardner closed out the ceremony, introducing himself to the attendees and sharing how excited he was to be back on the Drug Court calendar. He also expressed how impressed he was with the positive changes to Drug Court as well as his excitement to continue on the journey with new program participants.
DC Courts Win Court Statistics Reporting Excellence Award
The DC Courts are proud to have received the award from the Conference of State Court Administrators, one of just six courts nationwide to receive the award.More information The DC Courts is one of just six court systems to win a Court Statistics Project 2016 Reporting Excellence Award. Collaborative efforts by members of the Strategic Management Division, IT Division, and operating divisions of DC Superior Court resulted in the reporting of statistics for 67% publishable case types. This placed DC Courts fourteenth in the nation for providing caseload statistics to this national database, compared to thirty-sixth in 2014.
The work to separate the trial court’s 2015 caseload data to match the national standards set by the State Court Guide to Statistical Reporting allowed for more detailed reporting of Family Court and Civil Division case types. Continued efforts this year are aimed at providing similar expansion to the specificity of Criminal Division case types for the 2016 report.
The DC Courts participate in the Court Statistics Project to further our goal of expanding access to court information, promote transparency, and foster greater public trust and confidence as we utilize the results of such projects to make data-informed decisions.
D.C.'s 30th Adoption Day Took Place November 19, 2016
More information DC Superior Court and the DC Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) co-hosted the 30th Annual DC Adoption Day ceremony on Saturday, November 19, 2016 from 10am to noon. Kym Whitley -- comedian, star of Young & Hungry, and adoptive mom was the special guest speaker.
The ceremony is designed to celebrate the joys of adoption and encourage area residents to consider adopting or fostering children in the District’s child welfare system. Twenty-nine children, ranging in age from one to nineteen years old, were adopted at the ceremony. Several of the children were able to be adopted along with their biological siblings. Each child and his or her family was introduced to the audience by NBC 4’s Barbara Harrison and came forward to have their judge sign the final adoption decree.
The 3rd floor atrium, decorated with colorful balloons for the celebration, was overflowing with members of past adoptive families, Court employees and many other Adoption Day supporters. Social workers were present and available to both celebrate and inform those who were curious about, fostering or adopting a child. Those who were unable to attend but are interested or have questions should call the CFSA Adoption Hotline 202/671-LOVE.
The Investiture of DC Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin Took Place October 7
More information Outgoing Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield gave the oath of office to Robert Morin, who becomes the seventh chief judge of the DC Superior Court. Among those paying tribute to the outgoing chief were DC Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric T. Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember and Judiciary Committee Chair Kenyan McDuffie, DC Bar President Annamarie Steward, and former Washington Bar Association President Ron Jessamy. The judges were joined by their family members, for a celebration of past accomplishments and look toward the future.
Loving Marriage License
More information The DC Superior Court's Marriage Bureau has a display of seven historic marriage licenses, including President Grover Cleveland, two presidents’ daughters, two former mayors of DC, and Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter. The Lovings were married in DC because Virginia, their home state, would not allow people of two different races to marry. They were later convicted of violating that Virginia law, and ultimately appealed their case to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor, striking down such laws in a number of states. For more information about the case, click here; to read the Supreme Court’s opinion in the case, click here
To see the collection of historic marriage licenses, visit the Marriage Bureau in its new location, room JM-690 of the Moultrie Courthouse (500 Indiana Avenue, NW, Washington, DC).
Justice Index ranks DC courts #1 for access to justice.
More information The D.C. Courts are #1 according to The Justice Index, a project of the National Center for Access to Justice at the Cardozo Law School. The Justice Index recently released the results of its survey of state-level courts. This survey focused on the way the courts provide legal representation in civil matters, provide information to and assist litigants who represent themselves, enhance communications with court users who are less than proficient in English, and remove barriers for court users who have physical or mental disabilities. Thanks to everyone who participated in responding to the survey. The survey results are on-line, in an interactive format.
The DC Drug Court September Graduation/Cookout was a Joyous Celebration
More information The DC Superior Court Drug Intervention Program (aka Drug Court) had its September graduation today, and what a perfect day it was. The graduates were happy and proud, with a sense of accomplishments. The joy on their faces, and their family members' and loved ones' faces was readily apparent. Chief Judge Satterfield was there, along with Mayor Bowser and Councilmember Robert White, to congratulate the graduates. Judge Jackson, who presides over drug court, got a big round of applause from the graduates, who praised his faith in them and his patience.
Mayor Bowser talked about spreading prosperity throughout the city, and how the fair and just system we have is essential to that. Interim Police Chief Newsham spoke about how the drug court program mends families and builds communities. DC's newest Councilmember, Robert White, shared some of the challenges he'd overcome, and told graduates that 'grit and determination are key.'
DC Safe Surrender Takes Place Three Saturdays in September
An Opportunity for those with Bench Warrants to Get Back on TrackMore information
The DC Safe Surrender program is an opportunity for persons who have outstanding parole, pre-trial release or probation bench warrants for non-violent felonies or misdemeanors in D.C. to surrender voluntarily at the Moultrie Courthouse. DC Safe Surrender recognizes that many persons have bench warrants because they failed to appear for a court hearing or violated conditions of probation or parole, and they now want to resolve the matter and move forward with their lives. The program’s goal is to reduce the number of outstanding bench and parole warrants. The program provides persons with a way to turn themselves in, without the risk of being arrested at home, in front of their family and children, or during a routine traffic stop. An attorney will be appointed to represent each participant when he or she appears before a judge. During similar programs in 2007 and 2011, 98% of those who turned themselves in went home that same day.
The first day of DC Safe Surrender 2016 began with 8 people in line by 8am, and more than 2 dozen when the doors opened at 9am. Nearly 70 people turned themselves in. The mood was relaxed and those surrendering encountered staff members from a number of agencies (DC Superior Court, PDS, USMS, USAO, OAG, PSA and CSOSA) all there to make the process as smooth and comfortable as possible. Willie Jones, the first DC Safe Surrender 2007 participant, was at the courthouse to encourage people to surrender.
The DC Safe Surrender program will take place at the Moultrie Courthouse (500 Indiana Avenue, NW) on three consecutive Saturdays, September 10, 17 and 24, from 9am-4pm. For more information, including a list of those with bench warrants eligible for the program, go to www.dccourts.gov/safesurrender or the Safe Surrender facebook page.
"DC Safe Surrender is an initiative focused on increasing public safety, and we hope to build on the success of the 2007 and 2011 programs," Chief Judge Satterfield said. "By taking responsibility for their actions, participants of Safe Surrender will demonstrate they are taking the appropriate steps towards becoming responsible members of the community. They will end the risk of being arrested at a traffic stop or on the job or in front of colleagues or family members. I encourage everyone with an outstanding bench warrant for parole, supervised release or probation to turn themselves in; Safe Surrender is an excellent opportunity."
Click here to listen to J. Leibovitz and Willie Jones talk with Harold Fisher on WHUR
The DC Courts Kick-Off Next Strategic Plan Information-Gathering Process
More information The District of Columbia Courts are involved in a year-long process of collecting information to inform our upcoming 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. On May 17-19, 2016, as part of that effort, the DC Courts surveyed court users on their experience with the courts. The survey also asked questions to assess if DC Courts are accessible and treat people with fairness and respect.
Approximately 100 judicial officers and employees, including Chief Judge Washington and Chief Judge Satterfield, handed out surveys over the course of the 3 days, encouraging participation. Volunteers wore "You Be the Judge" t-shirts and handed out surveys at entrances and exits of the Historic Courthouse and Moultrie Courthouse. The survey was available in English, Spanish and Amharic. The survey was completed by approximately 1,300 persons conducting business in the courts during those days.
DC Superior Court Hosts 2016 Juror Appreciation Week
More information Memorial Day is a time honored occasion to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice that our service men and women have made to protect and defend the rights and liberties afforded to us as citizens of this great nation. There is perhaps no better way to say "Thank You" than to actually exercise those guaranteed freedoms that our fallen heroes fought, bled, and died for. And so, against that backdrop, the DC Superior Court made it a priority to acknowledge and thank the residents of the District of Columbia – who, through their service as jurors, embrace the full implications of what civic responsibility means. The vital role of the judiciary, as the third branch of government, could not be fulfilled without ordinary citizens – through their service as jurors – providing the necessary framework to deliver justice and accountability for our community. Each year, the DC Superior Court calls over 30,000 residents, from across every ward in the city, to serve as potential jurors. And each year the residents of the District of Columbia "answer the call" to participate in our collective democracy by serving jury duty.
Juror Appreciation Week is the Court's way of saying "Thank You!" to the nearly 1,000 citizens that partner with us on a weekly basis in the process of administering justice for the District of Columbia. Their hard work and sacrifice bring our Constitution and democracy to life, through rendering decisions in cases that impact people's lives in very real and meaningful ways. Like anything worth having, protecting our freedoms through the judicial process will cost something. In consideration of the important sacrifice that potential jurors make, and with an eye towards Goal 1(B)(5) of the Court’s Strategic Plan – "Improving the efficient use of jurors by examining new approaches for verifying trial readiness, calling jurors for service, and assembling panels" – the Jurors' Office continues to make great strides to ensure that the Court's business processes maximize the jurors' sacrifice.
Beginning with Chief Judge Satterfield, and followed by a member from his judicial leadership team (Presiding Judge Leibovitz, Judge Wright, Presiding Judge Bartnoff, Deputy Presiding Judge Lee, Presiding Magistrate Judge Beshouri, and Deputy Presiding Magistrate Judge Gray), as well as James D. McGinley, Clerk of the Superior Court, each juror orientation group was greeted and given the opportunity to ask questions about the court system and the jury process. Additionally, jurors were apprised of upcoming initiatives such as the implementation of a "call-in system" and the acquisition of a new Jury Management System. Jurors learned how continuing efforts such as these would help the Court better align its daily demand for jurors with the number of jurors that we bring in each day. Jurors were also reassured that, through such initiatives, the Court is committed to improving its juror utilization rates, as well as extending the period of time that residents are called to serve.
The DC Courts value the tremendous effort, contribution, and role that our jurors play in helping us fulfill our mission "to protect rights and liberties, uphold and interpret the law, and resolve disputes peacefully, fairly and effectively in the District of Columbia." Juror Appreciation Week is our way of acknowledging their "Public Service" to the community.
Family Treatment Court Holds 14th Graduation
More information On Friday, April 29, 2016, the Family Court hosted the Fourteenth Family Treatment Court graduation. Five women graduated to lives without drugs and alcohol and with their children at their sides, after a rigorous year-plus of treatment, programming, and therapy to help identify the challenges to their sobriety.
After the processional of graduates into the room, Chief Judge Satterfield spoke, congratulating the graduates and saying that despite scheduling conflicts, he was there to support them and to support Magistrate Judge Gray. Judge Puig-Lugo then spoke, also congratulating the graduates, but reminding them that while this was a conclusion, it was also a beginning. And he made sure they knew that the Family Treatment Court family would be with them always. Ms. Jocelyn Gainers, Director of the Family Recovery Program, read an inspirational poem, and then Judge Gray introduced Carson Fox, CEO of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Fox kept his remarks brief because, he said, the day was not about him but about the graduates. He told them that in searching for a word that would sum-up the day, what he came up with was 'Inspiration,' saying that the graduates were an inspiration to him, as he knew they were to others following in their footsteps in the program to their families and tyo all of us in attendance. He reminded them all that they were extraordinary people. Marquitta Duverney, Director of DC's Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA), told the graduates that they each had light inside them, that they were in charge of it and not to let anyone take it away from them. Marie Morilus-Black, Deputy Director of the DC Child and Family Services Agency's Office of Well-Being, acknowledged the rough road the women had travelled, but said she was confident that they could become women their children would look up to. And like Judge Puig-Lugo, she reminded the women that the support team that is the Family Treatment Court is "not going anywhere" and told them that "you've found your village." David Cook from Court Appointed Special Advocates spoke briefly and congratulated the graduates. Songstress Corisa Myers then performed What about the Children? a song that included the lyrics "And if not for those who loved us and who cared enough to show us, Where would we be today?"
Magistrate Judge Gray then spoke to the graduates, telling them that they were fabulous women, courageous women and reassuring them of her confidence in their ability to succeed. Family Treatment Court Coordinator Dr. Sariah Beatty then called the graduates up to the podium one by one to receive their certificate. Dr. Beatty spoke about the progress they'd made, the obstacles they’d overcome and the unique contributions each had made. The graduates were thrilled with their certificates, their awards and the bag of gifts that each were given. The ceremony was closed with another musical selection from Corisa Myers (the most appropriate 'You are the Wind Beneath My Wings') and then Dr. Beatty's final thoughts and reflections.
The DC Superior Court sadly announces the passing of former Chief Judge Fred B. Ugast on April 6, 2016.
2015 Ollie May Cooper Award Given to DC Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric Washington
More information On October 22, 2015, Chief Judge Eric T. Washington of the DC Court of Appeals was given the Ollie May Cooper Award, which is presented annually to a member of the Washington Bar Association who has given outstanding service to the bar or whose leadership and organizational efforts have enhanced the image of the Washington Bar Association.
The award is named in honor of Ollie May Cooper who graduated from the Howard University School of Law, magna com laude with an L.L.B. in 1921 and who, along with Isadore Letcher, were the first African-American women in the United States to form a law partnership owned and operated by women. Over the years, Ms. Cooper served in various capacities at the Howard University Law School including teaching a course, serving as the law school’s law clerk, and serving as the secretary to at least 10 of the deans. She was the founder of the Epsilon Sigma Iota Legal Sorority and touched the lives of countless students and lawyers during her 43 year association with her alma mater. (Source: Washingtonbar.org)
November 21 – DC's 29th Annual Adoption Day Celebration
On Wednesday, August 19, 2015 DC Superior Court's Drug Court held its monthly progression and graduation ceremony. The ceremony was co-hosted by the Pretrial Services Agency (PSA), which provides the treatment and case management for the program. In attendance were a number of other partner agencies, including the DC US Attorney's Office, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the DC Public Defender Service, the DC Office of the Attorney General, among others. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield and Clerk of Court James McGinley joined numerous friends and family members of the graduates in celebrating the accomplishments of not just the six who were graduating, but the numerous others who were progressing from one phase of the program to another.
The ceremony began with the graduates' processional during which they received a standing ovation. PSA Case Manager Tarinna Terrell welcomed the audience and asked Drug Court participant Tonya Boles to come forward to offer words of encouragement, which were very well-received. Case Manager Mike Vaughn then introduced the guest speaker, author and advocate Janice Ferebee, who provided warm and encouraging comments to the graduates. As one who has 25 years in recovery, Ms. Ferebee recounted her own descent into drug use and how she went from being a straight A student, to an addict involved with a South American drug cartel. During a journey through her addiction disease, Ferebee said it was her mother who was her strongest step in making a change in her life. She urged the graduates to "allow family to be a part of the success story that is your life." She closed by reminding them that "The people that matter won't judge you, and the people that judge you won't matter"The graduation continued with PSA Director Cliff Keenan recognizing the Drug Court partners, and introducing Michael Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy as the graduation's keynote speaker. Director Botticelli highlighted how joyous drug court graduations are, noting "If you're ever having a bad day, find a drug court graduation." Director Botticelli, in recovery for over 25 years, gave the graduates the secrets to his own success story, going from a man standing before a judge 27 years ago, making what he said was the first smart decision he had made in several years by opting for treatment, to becoming the Obama Administration's director of drug policy. He noted that recovery is not an easy task, "[it] does not promise you a straight and happy life, but it does promise you a real life." He told graduates that he was "so very proud of each and every one" of them.
Following Director Botticelli's remarks, those who were progressing from one phase of the program to another were called up and given a certificate and a small token of recognition. Then Judge Gregory Jackson, Presiding Judge of the Drug Court, and Director Botticelli greeted each graduate in the well of the courtroom as they were called up to received their certificates. Each graduate spoke briefly, sharing his or her appreciation for the program and the support of their family and friends.
Before closing the ceremony, Judge Jackson asked those in the audience to share their thoughts and words of encouragement. He then offered his own words of encouragement to the graduates and spoke of how much of an effort they had put in, how resolute they had been, and how proud he was of them. Judge Jackson ended with a reminder that today really "wasn't an ending point, but the first day of the rest of their lives."