Same-sex marriage faces opposition in St. Mary’s County and elsewhere in Md.

When the Maryland law legalizing same-sex marriage goes into effect next week, couples wishing to tie the knot in St. Mary’s County may face some resistance by local officials.

Some St. Mary’s County Circuit Court employees will stop performing marriages, insteading asking others to perform the duty, the Washington Examiner reports.

“There are some [deputy clerks] that have voiced some opposition to doing it — [they have] religious feelings about it … so it’s basically my idea that they won’t do any marriage at all,” said Joan Williams, clerk of the St. Mary’s County Circuit Court. “Some people are just very against same-sex marriages, and I have to respect their reasons and their decisions.”

John Zito, president of the Maryland Wedding Professionals Association, said he is aware of one wedding photographer (who he would not identify) who “didn’t feel comfortable” taking same-sex couples’ photos because he was not used to posing two grooms or two brides together.

And one trolley operator in Annapolis has gotten out of the wedding business altogether in order to avoid discriminating against same-sex couples. His decision has emboldened opponants  to lobby for a loophole to the law that would allow for a conscience clause to allow for commercial vendors to not provide services to same-sex couples.


Wednesday legal news round up

Happy Wednesday, and a belated Merry Christmas to those who celebrated. Without further ado, here is your legal news round up:

- Marijuana is officially legal in Colorado and Washington, but the states are waiting to see how the Justice Department proceeds.

- Bernard Madoff’s brother, Peter Madoff, sentenced to 10 years in prison.

- A bill moving through Russia’s parliament could prevent Americans from adopting Russian children.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

It’s all about staying out of trouble in this week’s In-House Interrogatory.

Corporate Counsel has a story with tips on how in-house counsel can avoid becoming targets of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The article says to be on the look out for risky transactions, make note  of employee complaints, seek outside counsel in times of doubt and avoid going along with everything the company’s business team says and does.

So, here’s our question for you:

What are your tips for staying careful and avoiding sticky situations with the Department of Justice?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

Follow us on Twitter for In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse

Legal pitfalls at holiday parties

office holiday partyThe Daily Record had its holiday party over the weekend, and yours might be just around the corner. But before you raise your glass in celebration of the season, I thought I’d pass along some thoughts on legal issues relating to work party soirees.

Getting toasted

What if you’ve had one too many drinks and need a lift home? Does your employer have to pay for your transportation? Your employer only has to keep you safe when you are on the clock, so if the party is not during company time the employer is most likely not responsible for providing a ride.

“Driving home is not normally considered part of the work day unless the employee is paid for that time,” notes John P. Hancock, Jr., a lawyer with Butzel Long in Detroit.

Dancing the Night Away

If you feel like cutting a rug after one too many eggnogs and then hurt yourself — or someone else — on the dance floor, does workers’ compensation apply?

Hancock said it depends on where the party takes place.

“If the company has the party at a restaurant or other public place and there is a cash bar rather than an open bar, the injuries resulting from intoxication may not be covered by workers’ comp,” he says.

“Each state is different, but if it is a party run and supplied by the employer and especially if it is on the company premises, it is likely any injuries at the party will be covered by workers’ comp,” Hancock added.

Ways to Recover

If you get hurt by a drunk coworker, there are a couple of legal recourses.

“The injured employee or bystander could always go after premises liability,” Hancock said. This means he could sue the owner of the property where the injury occurred. And you can sue for negligence.

Careful what you say….

Finally, make sure that you watch what you say, even though you are not in the office. Teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t extremly offensive likely won’t rise to the level of sexual harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted),” the agency has said.

Law blog roundup

obama newtownAnother Monday, another law blog roundup. We tried to find some lighthearted stuff, but this one is written with a heavy heart.

– Slate’s Emily Bazelon on Sandy Hook Elementary School and gun culture

– For John Bratt’s feelings on a certain aspect of written discovery, the title of his Baltimore Injury Lawyer blog post says it all.

– An interesting look at the intersection of gay marriage and affirmative action at the Supreme Court

– The right way to address students when a professors screws up giving the final exam. (HT: Above the Law)

What are your top stories of 2012?

Each December, The Daily Record runs a list of the year’s top stories. This year, want to hear from you.

Which local law story or stories would you include for 2012? A high-profile trial? A multimillion-dollar court verdict?

Post your thoughts in the comments section and it could appear in the newspaper along with our story.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The Supreme Court of Illinois last month made a decision in favor of the corporate counsel community.

The court ruled that attorney-client privilege still exists in a business transaction after exchanging legal advice during negotiations, Corporate Counsel reported.

The case dealt with three shopping mall companies who shared legal advice during business transactions on a partnership agreement. Each company obtained advice from their respective attorneys and talked about it with each other.

The plaintiffs argued the defendants waived attorney-client privileges by talking about this with each other.

Though a trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and a state appeals court upheld the ruling, the state supreme court overturned it.

So, here’s our question for you:

Do you agree with the state supreme court’s decision? Does sharing legal knowledge during a business transaction waive attorney-client privilege?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • The Securities & Exchange Commission’s general counsel is leaving
  • AND the Defense Department’s general counsel is leaving, too.
  • MetLife Inc. announced a new general counsel.
  • Florida’s governor named his general counsel to lead the state’s jobs agency.
  • Southwest Airlines’ general counsel will retire and the airline company already named a successor.
  • What it’s like to be a GC in China and India.
  • California State University’s general counsel will retire.
  • Lucasfilm’s general counsel talks Star Wars and George Lucas.
  • University of Rochester named a general counsel.

Follow us on Twitter for In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse

You got to believe? Not really

If you read to the end of an article at about countries where you can be executed for being an atheist, you will find a mention of Maryland. No, not for that, of course, but Maryland is listed as one of seven states where it is illegal for an atheist to hold public office.

What’s up with that?

It’s in Article 37 of the state constitution, which reads, in part: “That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God.”

However, though the article remains, it was successfully challenged in 1961 by Roy R. Torcaso, who had refused to swear an oath in Montgomery County Circuit Court affirming his belief in God in order to become a notary public. Torcaso’s case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor.

Associate Justice Hugo Black’s opinion said government may not “constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.’ [Government may not] constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers.”

Torcasco became a notary public, swearing to uphold the laws of Maryland and the U.S. Constitution, his obituary in the Washington Post said. He died in 2007 at age 96.

Law firm holiday party tops the charts

Work holiday parties are slowly coming back this year after the number of offices holding festive fêtes fell steadily over the last few years. Only 74 percent hosted parties last year, but this year the number is up to 91 percent.

Most people are excited when their office holiday parties have an open bar. But those employees do not work for The Lanier Law Firm.

The firm, which has offices in Houston, New York, Los Angeles and Palo Alto, had country music superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill perform at their company holiday gathering last weekend, The Houston Chronicle reported.

The firm is known for its elaborate Christmas parties — at the party in Houston, the country music power couple performing their love duet, “Like We Never Loved At All,” before splitting off and performing a solo set each, singing many of their big hits for over an hour.

Attendees were certainly living like they were dying as the party also offered “carnival rides, inflatable playground playthings and a food tent filled with fajitas and barbecue.”

And, as if that were not enough, the former vice president of Guatemala and a world-renowned heart surgeon spoke at the party, which raises funds for his mission to supply and staff health clinics in impoverished countries.

Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday and the morning after a crushing Ravens defeat. Here are some news items to start the recovery.

– This smuggling case is for the birds.

– Banks face lawsuits despite nationwide settlement.

– First televised criminal trial in Illinois raises a question of privilege.

– Woman who owes $163 million judgment might be hiding on island paradise.