By: Danielle Ulman
Welcome back! Time to catch up on some law-related tidbits:
- In a rough divorce, who gets to keep the friends?
- Even good doctors make mistakes — and doctors who do work on superstar athletes are not immune from malpractice lawsuits.
- Consumers struggling with payments really have to be on the lookout these days for scammers, but some in Erie, Penn. have been duped beyond the norm. A debt collection company there set up a FAKE courtroom, complete with faux judges and sheriffs. This one’s a doozy.
- An insurer is suing the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority for $8 million because its water lines are so leaky that firefighters could not get enough pressure to put out a fire in the home of Peggy Cooper-Cafritz, a collector of fine art.
- Voters in Iowa ousted three judges from the state’s Supreme Court last week. The three were part of the unanimous decision to allow same-sex marriage in 2009.
- Lamebook v. Facebook
- The University of Missouri, Kansas City has launched a small firm and solo attorney incubator for recent grads.
By: Steve Lash
During the foreclosure crisis, much of the attention has focused on the people who have lost their homes.
But what about the purchasers of the foreclosed properties faced with what 50 state attorneys general – including Maryland’s Douglas F. Gansler — say is the real possibility that those foreclosures contained paperwork errors?
The situation illustrates why buyers should always insist on having their own title insurance coverage, rather than relying on the title policy the lenders insist they purchase, says real-estate attorney Lawrence S. Conn, of Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones PA in Baltimore.
“This is exactly the type of title defect that title insurance is designed to protect,” Conn said of paperwork errors in the foreclosure process.
The lender’s title policy, though, protects only the lender. Anything beyond that, such as the buyer’s down payment, would require an owners’ title policy, which is only marginally more expensive.
A buyer neglects this added coverage at his or her own peril, Conn added.
“Make sure that in this climate, [purchasers] certainly have title insurance,” he said.
By: Danielle Ulman
The kids are back to school and you’re at work. Take a minute to check out some law links to start the week.
- Copyright laws might prevent public consumption of the Savory collection — a treasure trove of jazz recordings from the 1930s and 1940s.
- Two couples with ties to the Maryland legal community made the New York Times Weddings/Celebrations page.
- Virginia’s AG says the state can further regulate abortion clinics.
- The Maryland Injury Law Blog is supporting sitting judges Laura Kiessling and Ronald Jarashow in the race for Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge — even though they say only 11 people could make an informed decision in that race.
- Lots of students on other career tracks work for free in summer internships, but law schools in Florida are refusing to post requests seeking summer associates who will work for free because of labor laws.
- More and more are leaving big law behind.
- The Huffington Post has a Q&A with Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.
By: Steve Lash
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler might soon be getting a call from Gov. Martin O’Malley, if he hasn’t already received one, seeking a campaign donation.
The governor, in his solicitation, might raise the following points:
- Gansler is running unopposed for re-election; O’Malley is not.
- Gansler has campaign money he need not spend on himself; O’Malley does not.
- Gansler might want to run for governor in four years; O’Malley cannot if he wins re-election this fall against Republican challenger Robert Ehrlich and is term-limited out of office.
- Gansler, if he plans a gubernatorial run, thus has a rooting interest in O’Malley’s victory this fall, as it is easier to win an open seat than one occupied by an incumbent (O’Malley’s win over then-Gov. Ehrlich in 2006 being an exception).
But cheers of “Go, Martin, Go” do not win re-election fights. Money does — and Gansler has plenty to spare.
The attorney general might also want to spread the wealth. Donating to many Democrats in tight races this fall could be an investment that pays dividends for Gansler in 2014 when he might seek gubernatorial-campaign support.
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.