Dock of the Bay out to sea?

As I’ve followed the Dock of the Bay saga through its many iterations, the one constant has been the neighbors’ vigilance to ensure the Millers Island restaurant does not violate court orders and zoning regulations prohibiting live music and karaoke.

I received a forwarded e-mail late last month, for example, that a neighbor noticed the speaker system was still set up at the restaurant, in violation of a court order.

I thought about those neighbors when I saw in The Sun on Thursday that restaurant owner Lawrence J. Thanner is planning to build a floating bandstand.

“I’m preparing to bring a raft over soon,” he told The Sun. “I’ve got materials for it already.”

I’m guessing there will be some permit and zoning battles before the water shows can begin, if they are even allowed at all.

(And, because I know you are wondering, it does not appear Dock of the Bay has rockfish nor Blowfish on the menu.)

Law blog roundup: Maryland’s ‘bedbug barrister’

The tryptophan should be through your system by now — no excuse for napping under your desk this Monday. Take a look at these law links to ease you back into work after the extended weekend.

Baltimore County visitation center gets permanent home

It’s fitting in a way that a building that used to house the poor and homeless will on Friday officially become the new location for Baltimore County Circuit Court’s visitation center. Because the center, run through the court’s Family Support Services office, has been an orphan of sorts since its inception 11 years ago.

Officially known as the Supervised Visitation and Monitored Exchange Program, the visitation center primarily is used to allow meetings between children and “high-risk parents,” as well as drop off and pick up children whose safety is not a concern despite an issue between the parents.

The center has never had its own space, only sharing county buildings, according to Mark Urbanik, coordinator of Family Support Services. It most recently had space on the east side and west side of the counties until funding losses made the arrangement unsustainable.

So the court went to the county and asked for a new space. The county chose a central location, Cockeysville and building, The Almshouse, which dates to 1873 but closed in 1930. It was most recently used by the Baltimore County Historical Society.

The center hosts 125, one-hour-long supervised visitation sessions a month, Urbanik said. “High-risk” parents could include those with a history of drug problems or who are considered a flight risk, he said. There are about 10 monitored exchanges each month, he added, in cases where one parent has a restraining order against the other, for example.

Its new second-floor home features a large “romper room” with toys, games and crafts for families, Urbanik said. Perhaps more importantly, the center has separate parking lots for parents to prevent any chance encounters.

Urbanik added there is also room for a possible expansion in the future.

Law blog roundup

It’s the day after Halloween. If you’re still coming down from your sugar high, here are some law links to help you sober up.

Top 5: ‘I never laid a hand on her’

Here’s a look at the Top 5 law stories from The Daily Record’s staff this week.

1. Cardiologist sues St. Joseph Medical for fraud – by Danny Jacobs

Stephen L. Snyder might normally be one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers suing the former St. Joseph Medical Center cardiologist accused of implanting unnecessary stents in hundreds of patients.

But on Thursday, he filed a $60 million lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Mark G. Midei, accusing the hospital of pursing “an epic campaign of corporate deception, trickery and fraud” resulting in his “complete destruction.”

2. Maryland Court of Appeals adopts new foreclosure rule – by Steve Lash

Maryland’s highest court on Tuesday approved an emergency rule designed to identify and weed out irregularities in the mortgage foreclosure process.

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Defamation lawsuit can go forward, but will it succeed?

I wrote last week about the defamation lawsuit Rick Reinhardt filed Julie Ensor, his rival for clerk of the Baltimore County Circuit Court. The article prompted some online discussion, and the big question was one my editor posed when I initially told her about the story: Can a person be sued for defamation based on something he or she tells a police officer?

The short answer – yes. A divided Court of Appeals ruled in 1993 that statements to police are not afforded absolute privilege, meaning they are not immune from defamation lawsuits. (The case is Caldor v. Bowden if you’re scoring at home.)

Robin Leone, a media law lawyer with Saul Ewing LLP in Baltimore, said Reinhardt’s bigger challenge will be proving he was defamed. (Full disclosure: Leone has represented The Daily Record in a First Amendment matter.) Reinhardt has to show Ensor’s statement was false and that she intended to harm him when talking to police.

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More on ‘no-body’ cases

Two follow-up items on yesterday’s Maryland Lawyer cover story about the no-body murder trial underway in Baltimore County:

1. Almost as interesting as the circumstantial evidence prosecutors will use is the evidence they are not allowed to use.

Surveillance video shows Tracey Gardner-Tetso’s car pulling into a Days Inn parking lot in Glen Burnie the night she went missing in March 2005. The grainy tape shows a “tall subject exiting the vehicle,” according to a May 2009 request for a search warrant and seizure by county police Detective Philip G. Marll.

Marll wanted to measure the height of the TransAm to compare it to the height of the pick-up trucks parked next to the car in the surveillance video.

“The subject who exits Mrs. Tetso’s vehicle appears to be almost as tall as the height of the pick-up truck,” Marll wrote.

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No laughing gas needed

Lawyers for Jacksonville residents and ExxonMobil Corp. are back in Baltimore County Circuit Court on Thursday and Friday for pretrial hearings on the experts the plaintiffs are seeking to use in the upcoming gas station leak trial.

(The most recent start date for the trial was Monday, but that has been postponed until the end of November.)

Thursday’s hearing began with some discovery motions filed by The Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos PC, which represents approximately 450 individuals and 150 households in Jacksonville. Lawyers for the plaintiffs wanted documents about the remediation effort from Kleinfelder, which worked on the spill site.

A lawyer for Kleinfelder said the documents would be available by next week. When pressed by the plaintiffs as to the amount of information, Judge Robert N. Dugan jumped in.

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Sitting judges: ‘Unofficial’ update

The state Board of Elections’ vote totals are still listed as “unofficial.” But a week out from election day, I think I can report the results of the contested judicial elections primaries without fear of a “Dewey Defeats Truman” situation.

There were three contested judicial races in the state, with sitting judges in other jurisdictions running unopposed. In Cecil County, Judge V. Michael Whelan defeated challengers Harry D. Barnes and John H. Buck, while all four sitting judges in Baltimore County – Jan Alexander, Sherrie Bailey, Ann Brobst and John Nagle III – cruised to victory over challenger T. Scott Beckman.

The race was much closer in Anne Arundel County, however. Challenger Alison Asti finished second in the Republican primary and missed out on second in the Democratic primary by just 500 votes (out of 56,000 cast) in her bid to unseat either Judge Laura Kiessling or Judge Ron Jarashow.

A state election board official said the top two finishers in each primary move forward to November’s general election. That means all three candidates’ names will appear on the ballot in alphabetical order. (Kiessling, who won both primaries, will only be on the ballot once.) The two top vote-getters will receive a 15-year term on the circuit court bench.

From storefront to restaurant

Monday’s Maryland Lawyer cover story is about a controversy surrounding the paved parking lot of The Oregon Grille. One thing I could not fit into the story is a bit of the history and significance of the restaurant’s building, which adds some context to the legal dispute.

The Oregon Grille occupies the last company store in use in Baltimore County, according to Ruth Mascari, who sits on the board of directors for the Baltimore County Historical Trust. The store dates back to at least 1846, when county records note storekeeper C.J. Rosan had an inventory worth $1,200, according to the Baltimore County Public Library’s archives.

The nearby Oregon Furnace started up three years later. It was destroyed by fire in 1853, but ore mining continued at the site for another 30 years, according to John McGrain, a former county planner and historian who has written about the county’s manufacturing villages.

Thomas Kurtz, Oregon’s last foreman, then bought the entire 457-acre tract and continued operating the general store, according to McGrain.

The property remained in the Kurtz family until the county purchased it in 1969 and created Oregon Ridge Park.