7.10.2016

Job Fair Registration is Open!

The bidding for the 2016 Job Fair is open. We have worked diligently to provide you the opportunity to interview with a wide variety of employers from throughout the country. We have 23 employers currently registered and awaiting for you to apply. These employers include major law firms and public interest organizations.

Read more here.

7.07.2016

Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia

The Mental Health Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia is hiring! If interested, please email your resume, cover letter, transcript, writing sample and two references to mhdinternclerk@pdsdc.org. Job description and more information can be found here.

7.02.2016

Student Registration Packets are Here!

Students!

The Registration packets are now available. Don't miss out on the upcoming Job Fair at the American University Washington College of Law on Saturday August 6, 2016. Renew your NBLSA membership here and make the most of this opportunity.

Student packets are here!

Register here: https://law-nblsa-csm.symplicity.com/students/

Updated dates:
Student Bidding Opens - July 10, 2016
Student Bidding Closes - July 17, 2016
Employer Selection Period - July 18 - July 22
Student Acceptance Period - July 23 - July 26

3.03.2016

NY Legal Education Opportunity Program for Pre-Law Students

he New York Legal Education Opportunity Program (NY LEO) promotes diversity within the legal profession by improving the probability of success for minority, low-income and economically disadvantaged students who aspire to attend law school. NY LEO is an intensive six-week law school preparation program scheduled to take place June 6, 2016 through July 15, 2016 at the New York State Judicial Institute, the court system’s judicial education training center, located on the campus of Pace Law School, in White Plains, New York. The program is designed to provide a solid foundation for success in law school by strengthening the analytical, writing and study stills of prospective law students. Classes are taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty from New York State law schools. Tuition, room and board, modified meal plan, books and supplies are provided free of charge to participants thanks to funding provided by New York State Assembly and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, a 2009 NY LEO alumna.
To qualify for this program you must:

1) be a minority, economically disadvantaged or educationally disadvantaged resident of New York;

2) be a college graduate by June 2016; and 

3) have been accepted or have an application pending at a New York law school for Fall 2016 enrollment.

The application deadline is March 25, 2016. Application forms and additional information can be found a twww.nycourts.gov/attorneys/leo.

A PDF Brochure can be downloaded here.

Reed Smith Diverse Scholars Program

We are pleased to present Reed Smith’s 2016 Diverse Scholars Program.  Reed Smith has a strong commitment to diversity which has resulted in a firm in which diversity and inclusion permeate the culture.  Rewarding young future leaders for their efforts in the area of diversity and introducing them to the Reed Smith culture are two important goals of this program

The Diverse Scholars Program provides two $20,000 awards to be used to defray necessary expenditures related to her/his legal education for the second year of law school, as well as a paid summer associate position after completion of the second year of law school.  The program is open to first-year law students who have demonstrated excellent academic scholarship and a commitment to diversity and  inclusion.

Scholarship applicants must submit a resume, a completed application (2016 Diverse Scholars Application)a personal statement, law school transcript, undergraduate transcript and a legal writing sample to:  DiverseScholars@reedsmith.com.

Summer associate positions in 2017 are available in:  Chicago; Los Angeles; San Francisco; New York City; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Houston, and Washington, D.C.  Applications must be submitted on or before July 25, 2016.

Students may also visit the Diverse Scholars page located within the law students section at http://careers.reedsmith.comfor more information about our program and to download an application.  To learn more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion, please visit http://diversity.reedsmith.com

If you have any questions about our Diverse Scholars Program please send an inquiry toDiverseScholars@reedsmith.com.

2.11.2016

Job Opportunities with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ( SEC )

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) is writing to inform you of job opportunities within our organization (please see attached).  Feel free to share these opportunities with members of your organization who may be interested and qualified.  You may have your members contact me directly with any questions they may have.
Brief Background:
OMWI was established in July of 2011, as required by Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.  OMWI is responsible for:
  • Taking affirmative steps to seek diversity at all levels of the SEC’s workforce,
  • Increasing participation of minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the SEC’s programs and contracts, including standards for coordinating technical assistance to such businesses; and
  • Assessing the diversity policies and practices of entities regulated by the SEC.
Many thanks,

Danielle Brown
Recruitment Coordinator, Contractor
Phone: 202-551-6369| Email: BrownDani@sec.gov   

cid:image003.jpg@01D01AD2.4728B990        cid:image004.jpg@01D01AD2.4728B990

2.10.2016

State of the Black Mid-Atlantic: Shrouded in Secrecy: How Grand Jury Proceedings Leave Justice in the Dark

Shrouded in Secrecy: How Grand Jury Proceedings Leave Justice in the Dark
Jordan M. Harvey*

            On December 3, 2014, a grand jury in Richmond County, NY announced that it would not indict the NYPD officer who choked Eric Garner to death.[1]  It was reported that the grand jury deliberated for less than a day before deciding not to charge the killer with a crime.[2]  Protests engulfed America’s largest city for weeks following the announcement.  A national uprising that had begun in Sanford and grown in Ferguson reached a fever pitch on Staten Island.  Millions clamored for justice and demanded answers.  Among the myriad questions posed by protestors was, “What went on in that grand jury room?”  What evidence was presented?  How zealously did the prosecutor argue for an indictment?  Why did he allow Mr. Garner’s killer to testify for hours?  Did he ask the killer why he violated police procedure and choked an unarmed, non-threatening man to death?  We do not know the answers to those questions, and we may never know. Why? Because grand jury proceedings are kept secret from the public.
The Need for Government Transparency
“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”[3]  Louis D. Brandeis, who later became an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, penned these famous words in 1913, decrying the corrupt secrecy of investment bankers on Wall Street.[4]  Brandeis spoke then of the purifying power of “real disclosure” to reduce the rampant economic inequality he saw around him.[5]  This time-tested maxim remains as true today as it was then, not only for economic inequality, but also in terms of racial inequality in the criminal justice system.  The post-Snowden America in which we now live has seemingly re-affirmed its commitment to transparent government through national legislation ending the Bush-era data collection programs.[6]  Many people have also manifested their mistrust of the government by demanding that police officers everywhere use body cameras to record their daily interactions.[7]  However, when it comes to grand jury proceedings, jealously-guarded secrecy remains the status quo.  Indeed, grand jury proceedings have managed to avoid the “sunlight” and escape the purifying scrutiny that is only possible through full disclosure.
Disclosure and transparency have played an enormous role in the current movement to reform police departments.  Videos, often recorded on a bystander’s cell phone, are proving to be the disinfecting “sunlight” for what have long been, and continue to be, dark and corrupt practices by police officers.[8]  However, as we saw in the case of Mr. Garner in Staten Island, being able to see the true version of events is only part of the solution.  The grand jury chose not to indict his killer, despite the widely-circulated cell phone footage of the killer choking Mr. Garner to death as he gasps for air and pleads, “I can’t breathe.”  The road to justice hit a stumbling block at the grand jury stage.  This problem is greatly exacerbated by the fact that we still do not know why the grand jury chose not to indict, because grand jury proceedings are completely secret and sealed from public view. 

The Grand Jury
The grand jury is among the more controversial institutions of our criminal justice system, even outside the context of police shooting cases.[9]  Although conceived as a way to empower citizens against the potential tyranny of the government,[10] the secrecy afforded grand jury proceedings can actually cause tyranny to occur.  This is because grand jury proceedings, in addition to being secret, are not adversarial.[11]  There is no defendant or defense attorney present when the prosecutor is presenting her case.[12]  Most surprising of all, grand jury proceedings don’t even include the presence of a judge.[13]  For that reason, there are no cross-examinations of witnesses or objections to what the prosecutor says or does. The way in which prosecutors explain the law to the jurors and what prosecutors say about the evidence are not subject to any kind of oversight.  In effect, grand jurors see and hear only what prosecutors put before them.  Of course, prosecutors technically have an obligation to behave ethically.  However, due to the secretive nature of grand jury proceedings, there are no safeguards to enforce this rule. 
This negatively affects the African-American community in two principal ways.  First, as is widely understood, African-Americans are consistently charged, convicted, and sentenced more severely than similarly-situated members other racial groups.[14]  Therefore, when prosecutors seek the aid of a grand jury in charging criminal defendants—a disproportional number of whom are Black—grand juries almost always return an indictment as requested by the prosecutor.  According to a U.S. Department of Justice study on plea bargaining, “Grand juries are notorious for being ‘rubber­stamps’ for the prosecutor for virtually all routine criminal matters.”[15]  Intuitively, this makes sense.  After all, when the prosecutor’s side of the story is the only side that is told, the prosecutor usually gets the outcome she desires. 
This helps explain the second way in which grand juries negatively affect members of the African-American community—when they become victims of police brutality.  A fundamental fact of the criminal justice system is that prosecutors rely on police officers to build a case for them.[16]  Without helpful, supportive, and accessible police, prosecutors would struggle to satisfy the burden of proof to which they are held in criminal trials.  Therefore, when one of those crucial police officers suddenly becomes a potential defendant, an obvious conflict of interest emerges.  Consequently, prosecutors are often reluctant to aggressively pursue such cases.  As we have established, prosecutors unilaterally decide everything a grand jury will see and hear.  Therefore, she can easily create a favorable situation for her law enforcement colleagues and greatly reduce the possibility of an indictment.
Perhaps the most infamous recent example of this sort of biased prosecuting occurred in the grand jury proceedings surrounding the killing of Mr. Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.  In the normal case, prosecutors will make a short presentation of one-sided evidence and then ask the grand jury to indict the target of the investigation on specific charges.[17]  For reasons already discussed, this normal procedure leads to indictments in over 90 percent of cases.[18]  In the case of Mr. Brown’s death, however, the prosecutor treated the grand jury proceedings like a trial in which he was the killer’s defense attorney.[19]  The prosecutor cross-examined potential witnesses against the killer, aggressively interrogating them about inconsistencies in their testimony.[20]  In most cases the prosecutor wants an indictment, so he will not invite the potential defendant to testify because this will give him the chance to explain himself to the grand jury.  In this case, however, the killer was allowed to testify and explain his side of the story for four hours, without any aggressive cross-examination by the prosecutor.[21] 
 In addition, most grand jury proceedings consist of one witness, the arresting officer, and a clear explanation to the jurors of what charge the prosecutor desires for the alleged defendant.[22]  However, in the case involving Mr. Brown’s death, the prosecutor called almost 60 witnesses throughout the 75 hours of proceedings.[23]  At the same time, the prosecutor suggested no specific charge to the jurors and gave them no guidance on which they could base an indictment decision.[24]  This approach allowed the prosecutor to do two things.  First, it burdened jurors with an overwhelming mountain of conflicting evidence and no framework in which to evaluate it all.  This created a confusing environment in which jurors would likely err on the side of caution and not indict.  Second, when the killer was not indicted, this approach allowed the prosecutor to absolve himself of responsibility and proclaim that he had done his job by presenting all the evidence to the grand jury. 
The most troubling travesty perpetrated by the prosecutors in the case of Mr. Brown’s death was the flagrant lie they told to the grand jury.  One of the prosecutors gave false and misleading instructions to the grand jury regarding the controlling law on whether police officers can kill a fleeing suspect without considering the officer’s fear for his own life.[25]  The prosecutor cited a Missouri statute as applicable law, despite the fact that this statute had been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985.[26]  She eventually corrected the record, but not until weeks after citing the unconstitutional statute and long after the killer had had his four-hour testimony session.[27]  The only reason we know that all of these travesties took place is because the documents, transcripts, and other records from this case were released to the public in a highly unusual showing of transparency.[28]  How many other grand jury proceedings are riddled with glaring errors?  We will never know until grand jury proceedings are made more transparent. 
Transparency Solutions
The first and easiest way to make the grand jury system more transparent is to simply remove the secrecy behind which corrupt prosecutors hide.  This solution has been proposed by scholars and interest groups for years.[29]  Some counties in certain states have gone a step further and have done away with grand jury proceedings for police officers altogether.  On August 11, 2015, California became the first state in the country to enact legislation ending the use of secret grand jury proceedings to investigate the fatal use of deadly force by law enforcement.[30]  Senate Bill 227, the newly-enacted grand jury legislation,[31] amended the old state statute and moved investigations of deadly police shootings out of the jurisdiction of a grand jury and into the regular criminal justice process.[32]  This solution will be more difficult in other places, like New York,[33] because the secrecy of grand juries in those states is guaranteed by the state constitution, not just by statute, as it was in California. 
            The second possible solution is to implement a system of special prosecutors.  These prosecutors would be brought in from another jurisdiction for the sole purpose of investigating and prosecuting cases related to police misconduct.[34]  This resolves some of the conflict-of-interest concerns and ensures that the prosecutor has no relation whatsoever to the potential defendant.  Ideally, both of these solutions will be implemented around the country. 
Secrecy encourages corruption and allows the unethical to operate with impunity, to the detriment of the most vulnerable among us.  The African-American community has been oppressed, marginalized, and kept in the dark by the criminal justice system in this country.  Bringing transparency to the institution of the grand jury will shine a disinfecting light on these inequities and allow us to effectively solve them.  We must be able see and comprehend the problems in order to address them, and increased transparency is the key to doing that.



* J.D. Candidate, The George Washington University Law School.
[1] J. David Goodman & Al Baker, New York Officer Facing No Charges In Chokehold Case, N.Y. Times, Dec. 4, 2014, at A1.
[2] Id.
[3] Louis D. Brandeis, What Publicity Can Do, Harper’s Weekly, Dec. 20, 1913, at 10.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 12.
[6] Mike DeBonis, Congress turns away from post-9/11 law, retooling U.S. surveillance powers, Wash. Post (June 2, 2015), http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-moves-ahead-with-retooling-of-us-surveillance-powers/2015/06/02/28f5e1ce-092d-11e5-a7ad-b430fc1d3f5c_story.html.
[7] Paul R. La Monica, Cameras on cops still in demand a year after Ferguson, CNN Money (Aug. 7, 2015, 12:45 PM), http://money.cnn.com/2015/08/07/investing/ferguson-body-cameras-taser-digital-ally/.
[8] The tragic and disturbing cases of Mr. Walter Scott, Ms. Sandra Bland, and many others have proven time and again that police officers are quite capable of telling flagrant lies to justify their murderous use of force.
[9] See generally Roger A. Fairfax, Jr., Grand Jury Innovation: Toward a Functional Makeover of the Ancient Bulwark of Liberty, 19 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 339 (2010).
[10] Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Handbook for Federal Grand Jurors 1-2.
[11] Id. at 3-4.
[12] Id.
[13] Id.
[14] See Christopher Ingraham, Charting the shocking rise of racial disparity in our criminal justice system, Wash. Post (July 15, 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2014/07/15/charting-the-shocking-rise-of-racial-disparity-in-our-criminal-justice-system/; see also ACLU, Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice, available at https://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/racial-disparities-criminal-justice; see also NAACP, Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, available at http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet.
[15] See U.S. Dept. of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Plea Bargaining: Critical Issues and Common Practices (1985).
[16] Alex S. Vitale, Why police are rarely indicted for misconduct, Al Jazeera (Nov. 24, 2014, 10:00 PM), http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/11/ferguson-police-misconductdarrenwilsongrandjury.html; Jeffrey Fagan & Bernard E. Harcourt, Fact Sheet: Questions And Answers For Columbia Law School Students About Grand Juries, http://www.law.columbia.edu/media_inquiries/news_events/2014/november2014/Facts-on-Ferguson-Grand-Jury.
[17] Vitale, supra; Fagan & Harcourt, supra.
[18] Vitale, supra.
[19] Fagan & Harcourt, supra.
[20] Id.
[21] Id.
[22] Id.
[23] Id.
[24] Id.
[25] Id.
[26] Id.; Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985).
[27] Fagan & Harcourt, supra.
[28] N.Y. Times, Documents Released in the Ferguson Case (last updated Dec. 15, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/11/25/us/evidence-released-in-michael-brown-case.html.
[29] See generally Benjamin E. Rosenberg, A Proposed Addition to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Requiring the Disclosure of the Prosecutor's Legal Instructions to the Grand Jury, 38 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 1443 (2001); See also Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, Access to grand jury information and material, https://www.rcfp.org/secret-justice-grand-juries/access-grand-jury-information-and-material.
[30] Melanie Mason, Gov. Brown signs law barring grand juries in police deadly force cases, L.A. Times (Aug. 11, 2015), http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-brown-grand-juries-20150811-story.html.
[31] Cal. S.B. 227 (2015), available at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB227#.
[32] Jack Martinez, California Is the First State to Ban 'Ferguson Juries' in Violent Cases, Newsweek (Aug. 12, 2015, 2:52 PM), http://www.newsweek.com/california-ferguson-police-violence-grand-juries-law-362365.
[33] N.Y. Const. art. I, §6.
[34] Ali Winston, How Special Prosecutors Can Help Bring Police to Justice, Bloomberg (Dec. 11, 2014), http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-12-11/how-special-prosecutors-can-help-bring-police-to-justice.