General Assembly takes up bill to allow illegal immigants to get driver’s licenses

Maryland’s legislature is debating a bill that would overturn the state’s law prohibiting illegal immigrants from getting driver’s licenses.

Sen. Victor Ramirez, D-Prince George’s County, is sponsoring the measure. He says the granting of licenses to illegal immigrants is a “necessity” because it would “allow people to drive to work, to get insurance.” He also said the bill would offer more protections and generate millions of dollars in new revenue.

Under federal law, the licenses would be only for driving.

“You cannot use it to get on an airplane,” Ramirez told WTOP-AM. “You cannot use it for federal purposes.”

That fact would be specifically indicated on the license itself.

The bill has strong support from fellow Democrats. But opponents, such as Del. Kelly Schulz, R-Frederick, say the measure could take away incentive to become legal.

“When you give someone a state ID, it is an agreement for them to be here,” she told WTOP.

Maryland made it illegal to give licenses to illegal immigrants in 2009. Washington state, New Mexico and Illinois all permit illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

A very, very personal theft

There was a brief story (ha!) in The Annapolis Capital that caught my attention. Seems a burglar took cash, phones and “more than $650 in high-end bras and panties from a woman’s unlocked apartment Monday,” according to Annapolis police.

The woman had left her apartment unlocked for 10 minutes while taking her daughter to the school bus stop, according to police. When she returned, she “found that a pile of laundry was missing, including $650 worth of Victoria’s Secret bras and panties.”

I’m no expert on women’s underwear, but $650 seems like a lot of money to spend on undergarments. I could probably buy a 20-year supply of underwear for myself for the same amount (or, even better, a 40-year supply if you turn each pair inside-out).

My fiance, who is more well-versed in women’s underwear, said the dollar amount is high, especially since Victoria’s Secret often offers deals.

That’s good news for the robbery victim, who now has a chance to restock her drawers, which I guess is a cotton lining of sorts to all of this.


Jury still out in House of Correction death penalty case

After four full days of deliberation, the jury in the death penalty case against Lee E. Stephens remains undecided about whether he and another man killed a corrections officer in the former Maryland House of Correction.

Cpl. David McGuinn was stabbed to death while on duty during an ambush style attack from behind as he was taking the final lockup count for the night at 10 p.m. on July 25, 2006. Stephens was charged with first-degree murder in McGuinn’s death.

The case went to the jury last Wednesday. While court was not in session Friday, the jurors in the case have been deliberating since. On Tuesday, jurors again did not deliver a verdict and were sent home about 4 p.m.

The case against Stephens is based on eyewitness testimony from former inmates on the cell block where the attack occurred and DNA testing of blood recovered from Stephens’ personal effects. The jury has the option to find Stephens guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Hackner told the jury when they were given the case that the verdict form also included an option to find Stephens guilty of second-degree murder. A first-degree conviction would open the door to further hearings about whether to impose capital punishment.

The jury has had a tough job put in front of them. There are reasonable issues raised on both sides and, with no video footage, a lot of the state’s case came down to a prisoner who said he saw everything through a mirror he held out of his cell door.

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Law blog roundup

Good morning. Here are some law links for you on this balmy Monday:

  • The Washington Post goes over the same-sex marriage vote in Maryland’s House through the eyes of Speaker Michael E. Busch.
  • NPR takes us back to 1980, when then-attorney general Ben Civiletti (at left) wrote the legal opinion that Congress must say yes to the federal budget to avoid a government shutdown.
  • Local-ish lawyers in love.
  • For ef’s sake sounds about right.
  • The moral of the story? Don’t put suggestive screen savers on your coworker’s computer, and, whatever you do, don’t put feminine products on her keyring.
  • Another name emerges in the legal insider-trading scheme that has rocked D.C. and New York firms.

Law blog roundup

Good Monday morning. If you’re still tired after losing an hour of sleep over the weekend, look at the bright side: it may be light outside when you leave your office tonight. If that doesn’t do it for you, perhaps the law links below will.

  • A lawyer reviewing claims that chemical testing at Fort Detrick has caused a cancer cluster says it ain’t so.
  • Law firms are doing better, but it’s mostly because of cost-cutting measures.
  • Maryland’s failed gay marriage bill exposed religious fault lines.
  • When all it takes is “I’m sorry.”
  • Ag art lovers: better get out there and get snapping soon. A Florida bill could make it illegal to take photos of farms there.
  • The National Law Journal has a comprehensive package on Legal Aid.
  • A Philadelphia public school teacher has been yanked her from the classroom for publicly opposing a plan to turn her school into a charter school. The union expects her to be fired today.
  • L’Affaire Renault.

Top 5: One person, one vote

Just when it appeared a full-scale review of Maryland’s constitution had been approved by voters, it hadn’t.

And just when it appeared a Baltimore interior designer had won a seat on Baltimore’s Orphans’ Court, it turned out she hadn’t.

And, finally, just when it seemed Alison Asti was running on a slate with another candidate for Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge, it turned out she wasn’t.

It was that kind of week for Maryland legal news, as evidenced by The Daily Record’s top five most-read staff-written stories.

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MSBA’s predicament: Principle or past president?

Well, this could get awkward.

Alison Asti, who filed Monday to run for a seat on the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, is a past president of the Maryland State Bar Association. So, do you think she can count on the MSBA’s endorsement?

Not likely.

The MSBA’s longstanding policy is to endorse the sitting judges, and a vote for Asti would be a vote to unseat Judge Ronald H. Jarashow (who joined the court on March 1) or Judge Laura S. Kiessling (Feb. 19).

Bet that next Board of Governors’ meeting will be fun, won’t it?

I should mention that Asti also chairs The Daily Record’s independent Editorial Advisory Board, but this paper has a foolproof way of dealing with endorsements. We don’t make them.

An appeal with some weight

The Court of Special Appeals received a special delivery earlier this week: the original case record from the $150 million verdict in favor of 89 Jacksonville homeowners against ExxonMobil Corp. A judge upheld the award in September, at which point Exxon noted its appeal.

It took a truck to haul “27 boxes and one plastic map” to Annapolis, according to court records. A breakdown of the boxes:

  • 8 contained the complaints filed by the homeowners in the mass-action suit
  • 6 were marked “Alban, et al v. Exxon,” the lead case in the trial (the plaintiffs were collectively called the Alban plaintiffs)
  • 5 contained exhibits
  • 3 contained jury questionnaires
  • 2 contained transcripts
  • 2 contained “memos, appendices and verdict sheets”
  • 1 contained jury selection sheets

Arguments in the case take place in September. In preparation, I’ve heard Exxon made copies of all of the exhibits at a cost approaching five figures.

A history lesson from Gov. Mandel

My cover story in Monday’s Maryland Lawyer about the Sunnyside church talks about state law governing corporate and property rights of religious entities. There was one question I could not answer before my deadline: where did this 1976 law come from?

(Unfortunately, there is no quick link to the statute. If you want to see it, click here, then “Maryland Code”, “Corporations and Associations,” “Title 5. Special Types of Corporations,” “Subtitle 3. “Religious Corporations.”)

I had heard that former Gov. Marvin Mandel testified in the General Assembly on the law’s history this past session. Mandel told me Monday the same thing he told the House Committee about the law.

“I still think it’s unconstitutional,” he said. “The state shouldn’t get involved in religion.”

Yet it was Mandel who introduced the legislation at the request of the Episcopal Church, which was having an “internal battle over its assets.” He said he made his reservations about the bill known, but ultimately signed it into law because the factions had decided the bill was best the way to solve the problem. (For what it’s worth, Mandel is Jewish.)

The Sunnyside case is the first time in 35 years legislators looked at a law Mandel thought would have been long gone from the books by now.

“No one’s questioned it up until this time,” he said. “I was surprised no one stepped forward and contested it.”

The former governor added that he would be keeping an eye on the Sunnyside case as it makes its way through the courts.

Duke victory gladdens senator

A beaming Sen. Lisa A. Gladden took her seat in the Senate chamber this morning. The source of the Baltimore Democrat’s delight became apparent about one hour into the session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, urged the lawmakers to take notice of “the vice chair” of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Gladden revealed that under her dark-blue suit jacket she was wearing a light-blue shirt emblazoned with the name of her undergraduate alma mater: Duke University.

Yes, that Duke University — the school which defeated Butler University 61-59 last night to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. And the school dubbed “The Evil Empire” in College Park and environs for its heated rivalry with the University of Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I don’t have anything to say today because I think everybody knows,” Gladden told her colleagues. “I don’t want to gloat. It was a great game and a great victory for the ACC.”

But Sen. James N. Robey, a University of Maryland alumnus, declined to let Gladden off so easy.

“Can you name one player on the Duke team?” Robey, a Howard County Democrat, asked in an effort to put Gladden on the spot.

Gladden was silent for about, er, one shining moment before responding, “Johnny Dawkins.”

Dawkins played for Duke but not last night. He was the team’s starting point guard in the mid-1980s — when Gladden was also a student at the Durham, N.C., school.