Equity or non-equity? They won’t tell.

Firms are extremely sensitive about publicly differentiating between equity and non-equity partners. NALP decided to start collecting that data from firms, but the firms resisted and NALP has now dropped the effort, the AmLaw Daily reports:

NALP’s [James] Leipold says most firms cited privacy concerns for not divulging the details of their partnership arrangements. Because some firm offices are quite small, firms indicated they were concerned that nonequity partners would be easily identified and stigmatized, says Leipold.

A professor quoted in the article says the firms really want to protect their billing rates, not their nonequity partners. If clients don’t know the breakdown between equity and non, firms can charge high rates for all partners, she says.

Groups representing female and minority lawyers are especially peeved at the firms’ refusal to share their data. They want to know, basically, what proportion of a firm’s “partners” have a real stake in the firm and share in the profits, and what proportion are partners in name only, in actuality just employees with fancy titles.

It’s the difference between having real power and the semblance of power, says Fernande Duffly, a judge on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and a former president of the National Association of Women Judges. Duffly, an advocate for achieving greater diversity in the profession, had pushed NALP to collect the information for the last two years. “If you’re making a career selection, you want a place where you have opportunity for real leadership; I think law students want to be full partners,” Duffly says in explaining why the breakdown is important. She adds that she has a personal stake in the issue: “Law firm partners are part of the pipeline for our judiciary.”

For what it’s worth, The Daily Record also faced major resistance when we solicited information about equity versus non-equity partners for our Money Issue last year. A lot of firms refused to fill out our survey on revenue, profits and other money questions, but many also declined to break down their partnership ranks by equity and non-equity.

Law school buys naming rights to stadium

In a very unusual promotional deal, a law school in Michigan has bought the naming rights to a minor league ballpark. The Lansing Lugnuts (goofiest-sounding team name ever) will now play at Cooley Law School Stadium.

Quoting Cooley President Don LeDuc, The National Law Journal writes:

“It’s a little bit unique, but this is just one example of how we do marketing to get our name out there,” LeDuc said.

Cooley has long taken a different approach to marketing than do most law schools — it has advertised on billboards and sponsored television and radio programs, for example.

“People like to pretend that education isn’t competitive, but it is,” LeDuc said. “You’ll probably see more things like this in the future.”

With 3,600 students at campuses in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Auburn Hills and Ann Arbor, Mich., Cooley is the largest law school in the country and attracts a large number of part-time students. Cooley has been expanding steadily, but just keeping the student body at its present level requires getting its name out into the public, LeDuc said.

Can you see anything like this ever happening with either of the two law schools in Maryland? I’m thinking no. However, if UB Law ever does decide it wants Oriole Park at Camden Yards to be known as “University of Baltimore School of Law Oriole Park at Camden Yards” (or something like that), perhaps its most prominent alumnus can float a discount.

UM board defends Rothenberg

I mentioned in my story in Wednesday’s paper a letter written by the Board of Visitors at the University of Maryland School of Law concerning former Dean Karen H. Rothenberg and the recent audit of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Here is the letter in entirety. The board’s chairman, Paul D. Bekman, said the seven judges and one elected official (Sen. Ben Cardin) who are members were ethically precluded from endorsing the letter because of their positions. Otherwise, the letter represents the board’s unanimous position.

Gansler’s Hope

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler strongly indicated late yesterday that — surprise, surprise — he intends to run for re-election this year.

Gansler, who has yet to declare formally for another four-year term, dominated the news yesterday with the release of his written opinion that Maryland must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

Buried by the avalanche of the opinion’s coverage was the Supreme Court’s decision reinstating a Maryland man’s child sexual abuse conviction. Gansler had successfully argued the state’s appeal to the justices.

Asked whether his high-court victory was a good omen for his as-yet unannounced re-election bid, Gansler did not hesitate.

“I hope so,” he said.

So, does Gansler have your vote?

Creamery stalled by second lawsuit

The last time I wrote about the Prigel Family Creamery was in July, when Bobby Prigel and his Bellevale Farm Inc. received a $250,000 loan from the county for their proposed creamery and store.

It turns out that shortly after the loan was announced, opponents of the Glen Arm business filed a second lawsuit against the creamery seeking to halt its opening. (The first lawsuit, arguing the creamery is prohibited under a state easement regulation, is on appeal.)

The second lawsuit, which also names the the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, alleges Prigel did not submit all “plans, specifications and other information” as required by DHMH, and that DHMH is awaiting final plans even after the building’s shell has been completed. The lawsuit is specifically concerned about a “lack of a plan for wastewater treatment,” which could harm the groundwater used by the Prigels’ neighbors.

Lawyers for Prigel, in seeking to dismiss the complaint, point out the creamery has not applied for nor been issued a milk processing permit and that the building itself remains unused and vacant. A lawyer for DHMH, in a similar motion, called the complaint “premature” and said the public would be better served by the lawsuit’s dismissal.

“DHMH’s willingness and availability to work with permittees prior to the submission of an application is exactly the kind of service the citizens and State desire and deserve,” the motion states.

Judge H. Patrick Stringer denied a defense motion to dismiss the lawsuit during a hearing last week in Baltimore County Circuit Court on grounds that the defense did not directly address the plaintiffs’ claims in its motion to dismiss. Stringer denied the motion without prejudice, however, meaning Prigel could file another motion to dismiss in the future.

Following the hearing, Prigel’s lawyers indicated they were gathering evidence from DHMH to show compliance with state building regulations.

The last time I saw Marshall

My colleague Brendan Kearney’s article today on a play about Thurgood Marshall, being staged by Maryland judges, reminded me of the last time I saw the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice.

It was June 27, 1991, in the court’s ceremonial East Conference Room. Marshall, who had recently announced his retirement from the high court, was holding a farewell news conference.

The tone of the session was set with Marshall’s response to the first question from the press. “How do you feel?” the reporter asked, amid speculation that the justice was stepping down because of his health.

“With my hands,” Marshall replied without skipping a beat.

He later answered the reporter’s question more directly: “I’m getting old and falling apart.”

Marshall died 19 months later at age 84.

Monday law blog round-up

Happy Monday! Here are some law links to start your day:

  • Did you know it’s legal to marry your first cousin in Maryland? Legislators, including the powerful head of the House Judiciary Committee, want to change that.
  • The ever-fiery Page Croyder says district court judges are handsomely compensated for doing not much work. Anyone want to respond to her allegations?
  • It was really tough to get a job as an associate at a top law firm in 2009, even if you were graduating from an excellent law school.
  • It’s four years to the day since Clarence Thomas’ last question at oral arguments. A new paper argues that his silence hurts the court and his own reputation.
  • Last Wednesday, an Iowa prosecutor returned from a lunch break in a murder trial with ash on his forehead. The defense attorney objected, saying it might sway the jury, the judge agreed, and the prosecutor wiped it off. Thoughts?
  • The lady who crusaded against dog poop on the streets of New York, leading the city to enact a pooper-scooper law, has died at age 99. Sounds like she was a real pistol.

Words will never hurt you?

Ohio State law professor Christopher M. Fairman offered his take Sunday about the controversy over the use of the word “retard.” Fairman said he would not be signing a petition championed by the Special Olympics to ban the use of “the r-word,” which is not surprising considering he is the author of this book.

There were two main points I took away from Fairman’s essay in The Washington Post:

  1. “Words themselves are not the culprit; the meaning we attach to them is, and such meanings change dramatically over time and across communities”
  2. “Invariably, negative connotations materialize around whatever new word is used. …This illustrates one of the recurring follies of speech restriction: While there may be another word to use, a negative connotation eventually is found. Offense – both given and taken – is inevitable.”

Fairman also notes courts have found government-backed “speech codes” unconstitutional.

Reaction to Fairman’s essay has been strong, including opposing views from Post columnist Michael Gerson and Timothy Shriver, president of the Special Olympics. And perhaps the most prominent opponent of the word “retard” lately has been Sarah Palin.

Washington Post readers had a chance to respond to Fairman as well during an online chat. What do you think of his position? Should “the r-word” be considered on par with “the n-word”?

A new kind of problem-solving court

From Slate comes this fascinating item: A handful of jurisdictions throughout the country are trying a new tack in dealing with returning veterans who get into legal trouble. The jurisdictions are starting specialized veterans courts, modeled in some ways on drug courts and other problem-solving courts. Veterans often come back from war with some big problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder, that lead them into crime. The idea is to divert them from jail, to get them treatment, and to ensure that they don’t commit more crimes. Dahlia Lithwick writes:

One hundred twenty veterans are enrolled in the Buffalo program, and 90 percent of graduates have successfully completed the program. The recidivism rate is zero. Since the Buffalo experiment launched, 22 other cities and counties have created their own veterans courts along similar lines, and the Senate is looking at legislation introduced by John Kerry and Lisa Murkowski to fund more veterans’ courts for nonviolent offenders.

Lithwick raises some questions about veterans courts and ends up concluding that jail isn’t the appropriate place for criminals with drug and mental-health problems, regardless of whether they’re veterans. She also links to this excellent article from Westword in Denver on veterans courts. It puts a human face on the veteran crime wave and is definitely worth a read.

Should we consider veterans courts in Maryland? Is there enough veteran-related crime here for it to matter?

A Man for This Season

My colleague Danny Jacobs’ article on the logistical headache the recent blizzard has given area courts reminded me of Jan. 8, 1996, when Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist refused to close the Supreme Court, even though the rest of the federal government had shut down due to a snowstorm.

Eight of the nine justices made it to the court, having been driven there by Supreme Court police in four-wheel drive vehicles. The only justice absent that day was John Paul Stevens, who could not make it back to Washington from his Florida home due to airline cancellations, The Washington Post reported the following day.

The court heard the three arguments scheduled for that Monday. The cases involved railroad, patent and copyright law. The lawyers arguing were either nearby Washington attorneys or out-of-towners who were staying in local hotels and who somehow made it to the court.

Attorney Carter G. Phillips, who argued one of the cases, told The Post that he had fortunately practiced his argument on Sunday, despite the impending snowstorm. “My wife must have told me a dozen times as I worked, ‘Why are you even looking at this? The court isn’t going to be in.”