Top 5: ‘There has to be a change’

With Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill moving through the House of Delegates, there has been much news from Annapolis this week. But there was also news from Baltimore, as legal affairs reporter Brendan Kearney reported that the city has spent more than $800,000 settling police misconduct cases so far in 2011. Those stories and more in this week’s legal affairs top 5:

1. Same-sex marriage bill vote delayed again – by Steve Lash

The House Judiciary Committee will try again Friday to vote on the historic same-sex marriage measure, according to a senior member of the panel.

“God willing and the creek don’t rise, we’re voting tomorrow,” Del. Curtis S. “Curt” Anderson, D-Baltimore City and a supporter of the bill, said late Thursday afternoon. “Let’s just go forward.”

Vote counters on the committee say the bill will clear the panel if one of its two holdouts — Dels. Jill P. Carter, D-Baltimore, or Tiffany T. Alston, D-Prince George’s — votes for it.

2. City settles police misconduct claims – by Brendan Kearney

Two months into 2011, verdicts or settlements of lawsuits alleging misconduct by Baltimore police officers have cost the city more than $800,000.

Settlements of such cases totaled more than $7.25 million from mid-2007 to mid-2010, and there were additional settlements in the second half of last year, including three totaling $195,000 approved at a December meeting of the city’s spending panel that prompted a member of the City Council to ask the police department for answers.

3. Court of Appeals faults Jewish holiday rulings – by Brendan Kearney

The Montgomery County judges who denied a plaintiff’s requests to postpone or suspend a June 2008 medical malpractice trial so he could observe a Jewish holiday abused their discretion, Maryland’s top court has held.

The Court of Appeals said Alexander Neustadter, who is an Orthodox Jew, is entitled to a new trial of his case against the doctors and hospital that cared for his now-dead father.

4. Court upholds award for former Redskin – by Steve Lash

A former Washington Redskins punter who suffered a career-ending back injury during a preseason practice in 2005 can collect workers’ compensation from the team under Maryland law, the state’s intermediate appellate court ruled Monday.

The Court of Special Appeals decision is a victory not only for Tom Tupa but potentially for all current and former Redskins and Baltimore Ravens players injured while competing for the two National Football League teams whose home games are in Maryland, said Tupa’s attorney, Benjamin T. Boscolo.

5. A year without MICPEL – by Danny Jacobs

Allan J. Gibber had a routine with the Maryland Institute for the Continuing Professional Legal Education of Lawyers Inc. for more than 30 years. He would update and add supplements to his popular “Gibber on Estate Administration” and then lead seminars at four locations across the state.

To mark the 2011 supplement to his fifth edition, though, Gibber has only one scheduled talk, March 15 in Baltimore. The Maryland State Bar Association will air the session live online and then archive it for future viewings. The event will be the MSBA’s first attempt at a live webcast.

Whose money is it?

Maryland State Bar Association Thomas D. Murphy urged a House panel this week to reject legislation that would require any unspent annual revenue of the Attorney Grievance Commission to go to the state’s general fund rather than remain with the disciplinary body.

The AGC receives its funding from an annual court-ordered assessment on attorneys that is earmarked for oversight of the legal profession, Murphy told the House Judiciary Committee. The funds are not intended for the general use of the state and thus should not go to the general fund, he added.

“We Maryland lawyers paid our money to that [AGC] fund,” said Murphy, of Murphy & Mood PC in Rockville. The money “should be spent for the purpose we wrote our checks,” he added.

Murphy testified against House Bill 765, which would require AGC’s $7.85 million surplus as of last June 30 to go to the state treasury, as well as any future annual surpluses. The commission anticipates a $9 million surplus as of next June 30.

Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr., the bill’s chief sponsor, told the committee that Maryland must find ways to “beef’ up its revenue. Transferring AGC’s unspent money to the general fund would generate “$9 million worth of the beef,” said Conaway, D-Baltimore City.

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