Commission names candidates for Montgomery County Circuit seat

The Judicial Nominating Commission has nominated nine candidates to fill Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William J. Rowan III’s seat when he retires on April 3, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The nominees, whose names have been submitted to Governor Martin O’Malley for consideration, are:

Cynthia Callahan, Charles Martin Cockerill, Judge Gary Gilbert Everngam, Joseph Michael Quirk and Judge William Graves Simmons.

Also up for consideration are Judge John Michael Conroy Jr., Judge Barry Andrew Hamilton, Judge Cheryl Ann McCally and Brian David Shefferman.

New UM law dean connects with great-grandfather

One of the first things Phoebe A. Haddon saw when she visited the University of Maryland School of Law during its dean search was “Thurgood Marshall’s Early Career in Maryland: 1933-1937″ an exhibit in the library that bears the name of the late Supreme Court justice. 

“It’s so meaningful to be part of an institution that takes the commitment to diversity very seriously,” Haddon said Monday, when she was introduced as the new dean of Maryland law, effective July 1.

Haddon will become the ninth dean in the school’s 185-year history and the first African-American in the position, a fact not lost on her for several reasons. She is a fourth-generation lawyer, and her great-grandfather, A.W.E. Bassette, was both a lawyer and an educator. Bassette, in fact, founded the first school for freed slaves in Hampton, Va., according to Haddon. Bassette now has an elementary school named after him in Hampton, honoring his 39 years of teaching that began in 1876.

Larry S. Gibson, the longtime Maryland professor behind the Marshall exhibit, said the school traditionally is near the top of national rankings in producing black lawyers. Joining Maryland at the top? Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, he said, where Haddon is currently a professor and whose dean, JoAnne A. Epps, is also an African-American woman.

“It’s a further indication that the whole nation is removing race as a barrier to achievement,” Gibson said of Haddon’s appointment.

This week in Maryland Lawyer

ON THE COVER: For Exxon plaintiffs, the trial may be over but closure has yet to come. Also read about how Exxon’s lawyer felt welcome despite being the stranger in town, and why plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven L. Snyder got the job.

The Senate Budget & Taxation Committee rejects cuts to the Maryland Legal Services Corp.’s budget as well as a new reporting requirement on the Maryland Disability Law Center.

In Breaking News, the operator of Hollow Creek Golf Club loses its suit against Middletown over how much water the town has to supply the courses; legislation that would prohibit individuals from suing under state law, unless the statute expressly permitted such suits, came under sharp attack before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee; the Court of Special Appeals has reversed a $207,000 verdict in a consumer-protection case, holding that without expert testimony, a car owner could not prove a mechanic botched repairs and hid irreparable water damage; and daughter’s payments could make mother a landlord in a lead paint case.

In other news, the House and Senate approve similar police surveillance bills and Chris Bosh claims that the mother of his infant daughter isn’t cashing his support checks.

Read about how DLA Piper US LLP attorney Melissa A. Hearne helps Holocaust survivors apply for reparations from the German Government in Pro Bono.

In Verdicts & Settlements, a jury rules against a Rosedale homeowner who claimed a developer’s improperly designed stormwater management system is ruining his property.

Jack L.B. Gohn writes about bonus baby befuddlement in The Big Picture.

Stay up-to-date with our Law Digest, with cases from the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland Court of Special Appeals and U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Law blog round-up

Happy blustery Monday! Here’s what’s new around the Web:

  • After hearing from a dance scholar from the University of Maryland and watching videos of strippers performing, a New York judge held that pole-dancing is an art form, meaning it qualifies for a sales tax exemption. OK, there’s a lot I could say about this, but I’m going to limit myself to observing that this is probably the first time ever that someone has written the following sentence: “He told the New York Law Journal he sees similarities between objections to strip clubs and new Mormon temples.”
  • The Post’s Sunday piece about the Baltimore cult-related death of a 16-month-old contains this terribly sad sentence about the child’s mother’s guilty plea: “Ramkissoon, 22, has agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge on one condition: The charges against her must be dropped if her son, Javon Thompson, is resurrected.”
  • This blog on Maryland gangs appears to be new and worth checking out.
  • A mathematician has developed a formula to predict whether newlyweds will stay married. I could see someone making a bunch of money off this–or maybe not. Some people may not want to know. HT: Maryland Divorce Legal Crier.
  • “Could I get away with performing magic in the courtroom, or would that backfire on my client’s cause?” Jon Katz wonders. (He also holds forth on a gross-out stunt he performed at his son’s recent birthday party.)

UM Law: “It’s Haddon”

Phoebe Haddon, currently of Temple University, is to be UM Law’s next dean, the school announced this morning. Reporter Danny Jacobs, who’s been following the story, is at a press conference on campus as I write this.

Haddon will be the law school’s first African-American dean and its second female dean (Karen Rothenberg, the first, is stepping down June 30).

Not yet familiar with her background? Check out Haddon’s LinkedIn profile.

On her visit to campus earlier this year, Haddon summed up her vision for UM Law in three words: “urban research institution.” She sees the clinics and programs at the law school being applied to problem solving in local communities.

She was chosen over the two remaining finalists, Wendy Collins Perdue (of Georgetown University Law Center) and Linda S. Mullenix (of the University of Texas School of Law).

Alumni and current students: do you agree with the selection committee’s choice? What advice would you give to Haddon as she prepares to take over on July 1?

The hips don’t lie

If only lawyer-turned-belly dance teacher Rachael Galoob Ortega, aka “Saphira“, lived in Maryland. It could have been our best “Unbillable Hours” feature ever.

My favorite law-related anecdote from the story about when she was a lawyer by day and dancer by night:

Her two worlds comically collided one night, after she’d spent part of the day discussing the motion docket with a county judge. At a party that evening, she was in the midst of a solo dance, dressed in full belly-dance garb and a long wig, when she shimmied up to a table and recognized the judge. “He said: ‘Oh my God. That’s Rachael Galoob — she was in my courtroom today!’ ” Saphira recalls. “And of course, the room erupted in laughter.”

She winked at the table and moved on.

No improper venue for a lawyer’s joke?

Humor can be hard to come by in a federal witness murder trial in which one of the defendants faces the death penalty.

But this week in Baltimore, the judge and lawyers in the case of Patrick A. Byers Jr., charged with ordering the killing of Carl S. Lackl Jr., and Frank K. Goodman, who allegedly paid a Bloods gang member to do Byers’ bidding, have seized upon scarce opportunities for comic relief.

Just before trial began on Monday afternoon, William B. Purpura, one of Byers’ defense attorneys, walked over to members of the U.S. Attorney’s office who had come to watch their colleague’s opening statement.

“It’s not too late to give up,” he said with a grin.

On Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Purcell Jr. apologized to the jury for fiddling with his BlackBerry, explaining that he was arranging for the attendance of witnesses, not checking MySpace.

“You’re not on Facebook, Mr. Purcell?” U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett asked from the bench.

The balding veteran prosecutor paused, then rejoined, “Not with this kind of face, no.”

Will the real Goliath please stand up?

Before the pretrial motions hearing began Thursday in the City Hall corruption probe cases, State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh joked with the assembled press corps about the defendants’ horde of attorneys and his office’s meager resources.

“Look at how many lawyers they have,” he said. “This is our entire office.” (The entire legal staff anyway; the office’s investigators were not present.)

Dixon’s defense lawyer, Arnold M. Weiner, saw the situation differently.

“It’s hard to feel sympathy for a prosecutor who conducts a multi-year investigation with a full staff of investigators and assistants and who comes into court with four of them and then complains he doesn’t have the resources to do the case that he’s brought,” Weiner said.

So, where do your sympathies lie?

Justices laugh, judge takes a leap

Nine days left, and less than 10 laughs separate the top three contenders — that’s DC Dicta’s count, anyway, in its ongoing quest for The Funniest Justice. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia maintains his six-laugh lead over Justice Steven Breyer, with the chief justice in third place.

That’s all well and good, but give me the drama of a Judge Ian Richards any day. Richards, elected last year to Broward County (Fla.) Circuit Court (and perhaps the first black judge ever to have his election attributed to racial prejudice – the incumbent was Hispanic), can be seen in this video with his robes flying as he vaults from the bench to save a witness from being assaulted.

I haven’t seen a judge move like that since Judge Judy.

Firm postpones start dates for a year

Ballard Spahr is the latest firm to delay first-year associates’ start dates. The incoming class will now start in September of 2010. No, that’s not a typo. Yes, the associates will have to wait a whole year.

The firm will pay them each a $45,000 stipend “if they find legal work in the meantime that provides public service or enhances their professional development.”

Ballard Spahr is based in Philadelphia but has 49 lawyers in Maryland.

Another firm with a major Maryland presence, Venable, announced earlier this month that its own first-years would start in January 2010.