As part of its mission to promote pro bono and public interest law and access to justice, the Council engages in public interest advocacy.

On April 18, 2003, the Washington Council of Lawyers filed an amicus brief in the case of Arthur v. D.C. Government, et. al. in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. In this case, Morris Arthur, a client of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, seeks the return of interest that accrued on funds he was required to deposit with the court registry for the District of Columbia Courts. In support of Mr. Arthur’s claims, the Council argued that the District’s practice of taking all interest earned on court registry funds is an unconstitutional taking of property without just compensation. Mr. Arthur seeks the return of more than $35,000 in accrued interest.

On September 9, 2004, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the case, finding in support of the position taken by the Washington Council of Lawyers. While the Court remanded the case for various factual findings, it held that any interest that was or should have been earned on the Arthurs’ court registry funds belonged to Mr. Arthur and/or Mrs. Arthur; that “the District’s retention of such interest constituted a taking for public use under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States;” and that depending upon the calculations on remand of the net loss suffered by the Arthurs, just compensation would be required.

As stated in the “Interest of Amici” section of the brief, the Council filed this amicus brief because “The Council is united in its conviction that the legal system must serve the needs of the poor and the powerless as well as the wealthy and powerful. The Council has always taken a strong interest in administration of justice issues, and has advocated on behalf of the disenfranchised. The Council seeks to ensure that all litigants have equal access to the courts, and that they are treated with fairness throughout the court process. The Council has filed amicus curiae briefs, such as this one, on issues affecting the public interest.” AYUDA, the Consortium of Legal Services Providers, the Council of Latino Agencies, the Partnership for Civil Justice, and Public Citizen Litigation Group joined us as amici in the Council’s brief.

The Council’s brief was prepared on a pro bono basis by a team of lawyers from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson headed by partner Barry Nigro. The Council is grateful to all members of the Fried, Frank team for their hard work, dedication, and commitment, and for the truly professional services they provided.

To view a PDF copy of the Council’s brief, click here.

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