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D.C. Affairs Community Honors Congresswoman Norton at Holiday Reception

December 08, 2023

By Angela Mackie-Rutledge

D.C. Affairs Community Steering Committee cochair Austin Ownbey, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Affairs Community Steering Committee cochair Ann Wilcox, and D.C. Bar President Charles R. Lowery Jr.
From left to right: D.C. Affairs Community Steering Committee cochair Austin Ownbey, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Affairs Community Steering Committee cochair Ann Wilcox, and D.C. Bar President Charles R. Lowery Jr.

On December 4, the D.C. Bar District of Columbia Affairs Community held its holiday reception honoring the District’s elected leadership and recognizing the extraordinary work of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

“I want to say right away, I may be in Congress, but I’ll never give up my membership with the D.C. Bar,” Norton told attendees.

In her remarks, Norton talked about progress made on the D.C. statehood bill and the “unprecedented attack” on D.C. home rule in recent months. “D.C. statehood is my top priority in Congress. As a third-generation Washingtonian, the political rights of D.C. residents are deeply personal to me. But more important are core democracy, civil rights, and equal justice issues,” Norton said.

“The struggle for civil and human rights for all Americans has been the central theme of my professional life. The country was founded on the principle of ‘no taxation without representation,’ yet D.C. residents taxed without full representation in Congress cannot consent to the federal laws that govern them and, ultimately, cannot consent to the local laws that govern them because Congress has the final say on all D.C. matters,” she added.

Norton said statehood is the only political solution for D.C. residents to secure voting representation in Congress and the right to control their own affairs.

Echoing Norton’s calls for D.C. statehood were Michael D. Brown, U.S. shadow senator for the District, and Dr. Oye Owolewa, shadow member for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Owolewa, a pharmacist, talked about the expungement clinics he launched in partnership with advocacy groups to help previously incarcerated individuals clear their records and provide them an opportunity for a second chance. He said his training in health care and his current role in Congress have given him a unique perspective into some of the larger issues plaguing the District.

“Last year my house got shot into,” he remarked to a stunned crowd. “And rather than be upset about it, I figured out why it was happening.” Owolewa said loitering in the area by unemployed individuals drove one frustrated resident to fire a warning shot that made its way into Owolewa’s home.

A criminal record can have long-lasting impacts that extend far beyond a conviction, affecting various aspects of an individual’s life, including employment, education, access to public benefits, voting rights, and volunteering opportunities, Owolewa said.

Ann Wilcox, cochair of the District of Columbia Affairs Community Steering Committee, said the reception was an opportunity to bring together the District’s elected officials and members of the legal community to discuss issues affecting the District. Among those in attendance were D.C. Councilmembers Brooke Pinto (Ward 2), Matthew Frumin (Ward 3), and Janeese Lewis George (Ward 4); U.S. Shadow Senator Paul Strauss; D.C. Bar President Charles R. Lowery Jr.; D.C. Bar President-Elect Shaun M. Snyder; and ABA Delegate Karen Roos.

The District of Columbia Affairs Community focuses on local law and governance and offers networking opportunities with government and business leaders. “We want to develop these relationships as we present programs and public statements on D.C. policies,” Wilcox said.

Frumin expressed his gratitude to the Bar and its various resources to help lawyers develop in their careers. “I’ve worked for big firms and then small firms, and then I set out to be a solo practitioner. I have to say, when I did that [went solo], the D.C. Bar was enormously supportive. First, the training, then a whole safety net of people who I would go to for advice,” Frumin said. “Thank you for everything the D.C. Bar has done for me over the years, and I look forward to interacting with the D.C. Affairs Community and getting suggestions for things we should be doing on the Council.”

Intellectual property attorney Rob Kimmer said networking with the D.C. Bar “helped me meet the right people at the right time, which led to my first job,” while Jaden Cloobeck, JD candidate at George Washington University Law School, relished the opportunity to make “serendipitous connections” with D.C. Bar leadership and others.

Angela Mackie-Rutledge is a law student at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School and one of the D.C. Bar's writers in residence for 2023–2024.

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