By: Steve Lash
The missive Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and 10 of his East Coast colleagues sent Monday to embattled British Petroleum reads like the proverbial lawyer’s letter subtly threatening litigation if the Gulf of Mexico oil spill spreads to the Atlantic Ocean.
First, the letter from the 11 attorneys general contains the language of a legal claim for damages.
“Though the immediate area of impact from this catastrophe is in the Gulf region, portions of the East Coast are at foreseeable risk of substantial harm,” the letter states (emphasis added). “Even if our coast waters and communities are not directly impacted, there may well be significant harm to the migratory bird and fish species that form an important part of our natural resources and economy.” Read the rest of this entry »
By: Steve Lash
Call this a case of The Magnificent Seven meets All in the Family.
Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, the junior jurist on Maryland’s seven-member Court of Appeals, dissented this week from the panel’s decision that police lacked probable cause to search a drug suspect’s home despite having a warrant.
In her dissent, Barbera cited the Supreme Court’s 2003 Maryland v. Pringle decision for her proposition that the bar for probable cause belief is not “particularly high.”
In Pringle, the Supreme Court called probable case “a practical, not technical conception that deals with the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act.” The court added that probable cause is “a fluid concept — turning on the assessment of probabilities in particular factual contexts — not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules.”
I know what you’re thinking: What’s the big deal? Judges quote from Supreme Court decisions all the time. It’s called citing precedent, stare decisis.
True. But how many judges have the opportunity to cite Supreme Court cases that were argued by their husband?
Gary E. Bair, then with the Maryland attorney general’s office, successfully argued in Pringle that police officers had probable cause to arrest the front-seat passenger after they found cocaine in the back armrest of the car during a traffic stop.
Bair is now an appellate-defense attorney at Bennett & Bair LLC in Greenbelt, and he and Barbera co-teach criminal-procedure courses at American University’s Washington College of Law. A main topic of the classes is, you guessed it, probable cause.
By: Steve Lash
Those expecting fireworks between Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr., R-Anne Arundel, when the two met before a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday were sadly disappointed.
Dwyer, who said he plans to call for Gansler’s impeachment this month, extended his right hand and greeted the attorney general before the committee session. Gansler accepted the handshake and returned the greeting.
Gansler appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to testify in favor of a constitutional amendment to eliminate contested elections for circuit court judges. (Read all about it here.)
Dwyer, a member of the Judiciary Committee, wants to oust Gansler over the opinion he issued last month on same-sex marriage. The opinion supports Maryland’s recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions, even though such marriages are illegal here.
Dwyer says the opinion violates Gansler’s oath to uphold Maryland law, which defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Gansler counters that Maryland is required under the federal Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause to accept legally binding contracts — including marriage contracts — from other states.
By: Caryn Tamber
There’s just too much good law-related stuff out there this morning to tell you all about! Here’s a special, miniature (fun size, if you will) law round-up:
- John Bratt of the Baltimore Injury Lawyer Blog says he’s glad he doesn’t work for Doug Gansler. Bratt noted my colleague Steve Lash’s report that assistant attorney general Brian Kleinbord is the attorney of record for Maryland v. Shatzer, which Gansler argued in the Supreme Court yesterday. “You know what that means?” Bratt writes. “It means that Kleinbord and the other lawyers wrote the briefs and did all the work. Now that it is time for argument, the guy at the top of the letterhead is swooping in to take advantage of all of the attention, and the glory if he wins.”
- The guy who wants the military to combat proselytizing of soldiers and cadets is suing to get a former Navy chaplain to “stop asking Jesus to plunder my fields… seize my assets, kill me and my family then wipe away our descendants for 10 generations.” The former chaplain says he was just quoting Scripture and never incited violence against Mikey Weinstein, though he said he “pray[s] the Psalm that his days are few.”
- This line from The National Law Journal’s account of the opening day of the Supreme Court term yesterday is hilarious: “Justices Breyer and Clarence Thomas spent several minutes during arguments peering at the marble friezes of lawgivers on the walls of the Court high above them, apparently noticing new features they hadn’t seen before from their earlier vantage points.” I really can’t add anything to that.
By: Barbara Grzincic
On the Cover: Welcome to the first Monday in October! This morning marks the Supreme Court debut of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Assistant Public Defender Celia Anderson Davis, who will argue over a Hagerstown man’s child sex abuse conviction. The question is whether a request for counsel, years earlier, should have stopped police from questioning the suspect without a lawyer after they obtained additional information. Read the main story, some advice from Gansler’s predecessor, and a preview of the new term.
In the News: The Court of Appeals heard argument in a legal malpractice case that challenges the “case within a case” methodology … the ban on self-represented lawyers claiming attorneys’ fees applies even to bad faith or frivolous actions, the Court of Special Appeals holds … Maryland Legal Services Corp. renews its quest for a higher filing-fee surcharge … Sen. Ben Cardin finds a civil audience for his health-care talk at UB Law… and a former CBS Early Show personality appeals a ruling that knocked out his medical malpractice claim.
By: Steve Lash
The Supreme Court will be packed for Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Assistant Public Defender Celia A. Davis when they argue the case of Maryland v. Shatzer before the justices.
The draw will not be the case itself, though it does present an intriguing right to counsel issue. Nor will most of the public be enticed primarily by the participants (with apologies to Mr. Gansler and Ms. Davis).
No, the attraction will be the date of the high-court showdown: Oct. 5, the first Monday in October. Not only will the day mark the opening of the Supreme Court’s 2009-2010 term but also, presumably, the first day on the bench for Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed former Justice David H. Souter, who retired this summer.
A Senate vote on Sotomayor’s anticipated confirmation is expected within the next few weeks.
Maryland v. Shatzer is scheduled to be the second case argued on that historic day.
In Shatzer, the state is appealing a Maryland Court of Appeals decision that threw out an accused child molester’s conviction because police questioned him nearly three years after he first requested an attorney. The Maryland court said the time span did not vitiate Michael Blaine Shatzer Sr.’s invocation of his right to counsel, and that police, years later, were barred from questioning him until an attorney was provided.
By: Barbara Grzincic
What effect will the Supreme Court’s ruling on drug-label warnings, Wyeth v. Levine, have in the state’s trial courts? While it will undoubtedly move cases forward, lawyers in Maryland don’t expect a flood of new litigation. As one noted, “There hasn’t been this huge holding back” by trial lawyers here.
MICPEL, already struggling with the economy, faces a new hurdle: replacing its longtime executive director, Brent Burry, who will return to his native South Carolina next month.
In other news:
- Med-mal defense litigators at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston will be leaving for Hodes, Pessin & Katz in the coming weeks;
- The top court dismissed Bar Counsel’s action against a Tydings partner who billed the firm for the fair market value of flights he purchased with frequent-flier miles;
- Bankruptcy lawyers continue to switch firms — and some have formed a new Annapolis boutique firm;
- Investors suing golf-course developer Neal Trabich haled both him and his former attorney into court in a discovery dispute. (The judge found no fault with the “experienced, highly talented and widely respected” Andrew Radding, but withheld judgment on Trabich); and
- The new U.S. Attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr., was in Baltimore on Friday to address the National District Attorneys Association’s board of directors.
In Verdicts and Settlements, a former tenant was awarded $10,000 in attorneys’ fees for defending against retaliatory back-rent suits by her landlord. (Also, see this story about the settlement of a suit between rival car dealerships.)
Three years out of school, Alicia N. Ritchie may be a young lawyer, but she’s already an old hand at pro bono representation.
In Opinion/Commentary, Our Editorial Advisory Board looks at the shadow banking industry, while DLA Piper’s Jack Machen outlines what’s right and what’s wrong with Baltimore’s green-building ordinance.
PLUS: On the Move, Briefs/Week in Review and our weekly Law Digest of cases from the Maryland appellate courts and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
At a press conference in Reisterstown earlier today, Attorney General Doug Gansler and the Humane Society of the United States announced a crackdown on illegal animal fighting.
Up to $5,000 will be given to anyone who provides information which leads to an arrest or conviction of someone involved in illegal animal fighting.
The announcement comes a year after former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted on federal dogfighting charges and two years after a Texas pitbull breeder was killed for the $100,000 he had won at a fight. Vick accepted a plea agreement last August and was sentenced to 23 months in jail.
A pitbull terrier named Kane was brought outside the Humane Society during the press conference as an example of a dog that is used for dogfighting.
This dog was about as gentle and friendly as you could get. With an array of cameras pointed in his direction, Kane continued to munch on the grass – and later spit up a wad of it during Gansler’s speech.
In Maryland, dogfighting is most prevalent in Baltimore City.
View a video of the press conference below.
RICHARD SIMON, Multimedia Reporter
Photographer Eric Stocklin joined Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler on a boat tour of the Chester River yesterday, a body of water shared by Kent and Queen Anne’s County on the Eastern Shore.
The group was led by Tom Leigh of the Chester River Association, who presented findings on the health of the river.
A recent report by the state Dept. of Natural Resources on Maryland’s major tributaries identified five threats to water quality in the basin; the Chester River was rated “severely stressed” in four of them and “moderately stressed” in the fifth.
Gansler, you may know, has started a campaign (PDF) to look for ways to cut pollution in state waterways.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler now says 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote in the Feb. 12 primaries as long as they will be 18 by the general election.
|Total voter turnout
|18 to 24
|25 to 44
|45 to 64
|65 to 74
That used to be Maryland’s policy — until Gansler advised the Maryland State Board of Elections that a December 2006 opinion by the Court of Appeals, which struck down an early voting statute, suggested the practice was illegal.
In the latest advisory opinion, Gansler stood by the first interpretation but said it’s outweighed by the First Amendment rights of the 17-going-on-18-year-olds.
But here’s the question: even if the policy is changed back, how big a difference will it make? A quick look at U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicates that young people don’t, in fact, rock the vote: Although the 18-to-24 age group dramatically increased in voter turnout from the 2002 to 2004 elections, it still remains the lowest in the state.
Will this proposed change make a difference? Or, in the long run, is it not about numbers but about a constitutional right?
Liz Farmer, Legal Affairs Writer