Supreme Court stays out of W.R. Grace dispute

The Supreme Court declined to step into a dispute over the definition of “asbestos,” dashing the hopes of Columbia-based W.R. Grace & Co. and six of its former executives. The decision allows the prosecution to move forward with criminal charges under the Clean Air Act for the release of asbestos from its vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, prior to 1990.

If convicted, Grace faces fines of $280 million and the individual defendants face prison time of up to 15 years, Bloomberg News reports. The case is W.R. Grace & Co. v. United States, 07-1286 and 1287. We’ll have more on this story in tomorrow’s Daily Record.

In other action, the high court issued three opinions – one on sentencing, one on right to counsel, and one on a collection agent’s right to sue Sprint and AT&T on behalf of pay-phone operators (PDFs). Details are available on our sister blog, DC Dicta.

Nothing yet on the Exxon Valdez damages award, the D.C. handgun-ban challenge or whether rape can be a capital crime, all of which will be coming out any day now. Literally.

BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor/Law

Law blog round-up

Hello! Here are some law links to start your week:

  • “We’re staying together for the sake of the house,” and other musings on getting divorced in a down economy.
  • Judges increase criminal sentences as they get closer to an election, a pair of researchers find. Hat tip: Indefensible.
  • The Legal Marketing Blog has a few tips for keeping your client’s general counsel happy.

CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

This week in Maryland Lawyer

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  • Prosecutors, the defense bar and victims’ advocates are bracing for changes to the discovery rules in criminal cases, which take effect next week after four years of debate. Steve Lash looks at the new rules in our cover story.
  • Office, sweet office: Like many county courthouses, the one in Towson is flanked by law offices that look downright home-y. Danny Jacobs talks to planners and practitioners about the phenomenon.
  • A Howard County jury awarded $2 million to a former employee of Columbia-based Authsec Inc., finding the computer security firm breached an oral agreement to give him 49 percent of the company.
  • Sodexo Inc. has settled its lawsuit over what it claimed was an $87 million overpayment in federal income taxes between 1995 and 1997.
  • Is the theory that ‘any exposure’ to asbestos contributes to mesothelioma good science, or junk science? Monday’s scheduled hearing on the issue was scuttled by a settlement, but don’t expect the question to go away.
  • The Court of Appeals issued a trio of attorney sanctions last week: A disbarment, a suspension and a reprimand.
  • How did a bankruptcy lawyer wind up arguing constitutional law on behalf of a group of homeless “campers”? Find out here.

PLUS: Columns by Joe Surkiewicz and Jay G. Foonberg; a news summary of other legal and business items; “On the move”; and our law digest, including opinions from the state Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court, 4th Circuit and District Court.

BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor/Law