Former Baltimore Hogan Lovells head slated for CEO spot

The former head of Hogan Lovells’ Baltimore office has been recommended as the new CEO of the global law firm.

Steve Immelt also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland from 1979 through 1983. Immelt was managing partner at the firm’s Baltimore office for 10 years.

Stephen ImmeltImmelt is currently serving as global co-head of litigation at the law firm and would take over the CEO position from Co-CEOs Warren Gorrell and David Harris in July 2014.

The firm’s partners will vote on Immelt’s appointment.

“The firm is in a very strong position, our best ever,” Immelt said in a firm news release. “If elected, it will be a privilege to succeed David and Warren.  We are recognized as one of the world’s leading law firms with unique strengths in many practices and industry sectors, a focus on understanding our clients’ business needs; and providing creative insight and practical solutions across our geographic reach.”

Hogan Lovells was created on May 1, 2010 with the combination of  U.S.-based Hogan & Hartson and Europe-based Lovells.

Alleged former BGF member refiles suit against officers

A former self-described member of the Black Guerilla Family has refiled a lawsuit alleging he was assaulted by Baltimore City Detention Center officers who also gave BGF members information that “guaranteed he would be seriously injured.”

Calvin Hemphill is seeking more than $60,000 from several officers, including the BCDC’s former security chief, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday afternoon in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

GavelThe lawsuit contains similar allegations to one Hemphill filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore in July 2012, almost nine months before the first corrections officers were indicted for their involvement in a widespread prison drug ring run by the Black Guerilla Family.

Hemphill dropped the federal lawsuit in April 2013, shortly after the indictments were handed down, because he had been transferred to Hagerstown (where he is now incarcerated) and he said continuing the litigation was becoming too costly, according to federal court filings.

Hemphill’s state lawsuit is typed and contains more legalese than his federal lawsuit, which was handwritten and more conversational. But gist remains the same — Hemphill claims he was assaulted and beaten by corrections officers June 2, 2012, after he attacked a female officer. Hemphill alleges he assaulted the officer in order to get transferred out of the BCDC for his own safety. The female officer told BGF leader Tavon White that Hemphill told her about the gang’s dealings and that White had impregnated two other female officers, according to Hemphill’s lawsuit.

White confronted Hemphill and was planning to have gang members attack Hemphill before he attacked the officer, according to the lawsuit.

In a court filing to dismiss the federal lawsuit, lawyers for the state said Hemphill was still a BGF member at the time of the incident and that he was “combative and resistant” when officers arrived after he assaulted the female officer so any force used was to restore order, not punish.

Sparrows Point countersues in wastewater dispute with city

Before shutting down last year, RG Steel’s plant at Sparrows Point employed 2,000 steelworkers. At its height, the Bethlehem Steel operation employed more than 30,000.

Aerial view of Sparrows Point (File Photo)

When we last waded into the dispute between Baltimore and Sparrows Point over the flow of treated wastewater, a federal judge agreed to allow the city’s effluent to pass through pipelines at the former steel mill through the middle of December. Lawyers on both sides also wrote in court filings they were “actively engaged” in settlement negotiations.

All of this was over a temporary restraining order requested by the city. But the city also filed a complaint at the same time, asking for an injunction against Sparrows Point to allow the wastewater to continue to flow.

So Sparrows Point filed an answer to the complaint earlier this month with a counterclaim against the city. The counterclaim reiterates many of the points Sparrows Point made in filings about the temporary restraining order, chiefly that the city breached the parties’ contract for use of the pipelines by not paying the $80,000 monthly fee on time.

The counterclaim seeks a declaratory judgment that the city breached its contract and that the contract is no longer in effect, along with damages caused by complying with the temporary restraining order.

The city filed Tuesday its response to Sparrows Point’s counterclaim, reiterating its argument that it never breached the contract.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Before judge sued judge, he sued his lawyer

GavelIn Monday’s paper, I wrote about a lawsuit filed by retired Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Kenneth L. Johnson against one of his former colleagues, retired Judge Clifton J. Gordy.

Turns out that’s not the only lawsuit filed by Johnson in connection with his 2005 case against a real estate firm – Johnson also sued his lawyer.

Johnson filed a $2.5 million legal malpractice lawsuit against Baltimore lawyer Edward Smith Jr. in 2009, according to city court records. Johnson alleged a defendant was never properly served and that Smith failed to notify him of case developments, interrogatories and documents. The resulting sanctions “precluded Johnson from introducing evidence and having his expert testify at trial,” according to the filing, which also claims Johnson “suffered economic loss and emotional trauma.”

“Absent defendant’s negligent failure to exercise diligence in pursuing discovery and failing to properly serve a defendant, Plaintiff would have prevailed and would have collected damages under his claim for fraud and misrepresentation,” the lawsuit states.

Much like in his lawsuit against Gordy, Johnson requested his lawsuit against Smith be transferred out of Baltimore because of his being a former member of the bench.

The case ultimately was settled in 2011, according to court records.

Should city solicitor be an elected office?


City Solicitor George A. Nilson

In the midst of debate earlier this week at a City Council committee hearing on whether the council should have its own legal counsel, another idea concerning the job of city solicitor was proposed.

“We may want to consider the solicitor’s office become an elected position,” said Councilman Warren Branch, an East Baltimore Democrat.

The city solicitor is appointed by the mayor to lead the Law Department, which represents and advises the city government. The solicitor also has a vote on the Board of Estimates, the city’s spending panel.

Branch also suggested replacing the city solicitor’s seat on the Board of Estimates so it “doesn’t look like he’s in the council’s pocket or mayor’s pocket.”

None of Branch’s colleagues commented on the idea. City Solicitor George A. Nilson, who appeared before the committee, only noted the state’s top legal position, attorney general, is also an elected position.

“I think that’s an issue for another day,” he said of Branch’s proposal.

Branch agreed.

But what do you think — should city residents elect the city solicitor?

BDC seeks $200K unpaid loan from former hotel owner

Inn at the Black OliveMF01The Baltimore Development Corp. is seeking repayment of a $200,000 loan it made to the previous owners of The Inn at the Black Olive in Fells Point.

The BDC gave the loan to The Black Olive Development Co. LLC in February 2011, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The judgment by confession seeks the unpaid principal of more than $196,000 as well as more than $29,000 in attorneys’ fees.

The Black Olive Development Co. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in March. The company is owned by the Spiliadis family, which also owns the nearby Black Olive restaurant as well as Olive Grove Catering Inc. The catering company is also named as a defendant by the BDC.

The boutique hotel was sold at auction in June for $3.9 million to 1st Mariner Bank, which holds the mortgage and foreclosed on the property in January.

The sale was completed in June, according to bankruptcy records. The Spiliadis family continues to run the hotel under an arrangement with 1st Mariner.

Settlement unlikely in wrongful death lawsuit against Tshamba

Gahiji Tshamba

Gahiji Tshamba

A $30 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a man killed outside a Baltimore nightclub by a former city police officer appears headed to trial.

A lawyer for Gahiji Tshamba, the ex-officer, wrote in a status report filed Tuesday in federal court that they “believe there is no prospect of settlement.”

Tshamba is serving a 15-year sentence in the shooting death of Tyrone Brown outside of a Baltimore nightclub in June 2010. Tshamba was off-duty at the time and shot Brown 12 times with a department-issued gun. The incident began when Brown slapped Tshamba’s female friend on the backside.

The lawsuit filed by Brown’s family in March 2011 seeks $10 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

The Baltimore Police Department and City of Baltimore were also named as defendants in the suit but had claims against them bifurcated, meaning they will be heard separately from Tshamba’s.

In their status report filed last week, lawyers for police and the city said their clients want to participate in Tshamba’s trial as intervening parties on the issue of whether Tshamba acted “under the color of law,” meaning he was still acting in his official duties as a police officer.

Lawyers for Brown’s family in their status report said Monday they objected to police and the city intervening because there would be no chance for discovery from police and the city since the case was bifurcated.

A supplemental settlement conference is scheduled for Dec. 3, according to court documents.

Baltimore, decoded

Starting today, you will be able to view and actually understand Baltimore’s charter and code.

The OpenGov Foundation has named Baltimore the first “open law city” in the country. Starting at 10 a.m.,, will display easy-to-understand versions of the city charter and code.

The foundation worked with the city to produce the website on a software platform for displaying state codes called The State Decoded.

The free platform was developed in 2010 through a grant from the Knight Foundation. According to its website, The State Decoded makes city and state codes and charters readable for “normal humans” with “beautiful typography, embedded definitions of legal terms, and a robust API.”

While Baltimore is the first city to use the platform, states such as Maryland, Virginia and Florida have websites available through the software program.

Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday, the 98th anniversary of Baltimore native Babe Ruth’s first major league home run. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– The West, Texas, fertilizer plant was woefully under insured.

– Is there “a fundamental right … to engage in intimate contact“?

– A new book on The Roberts Court will hit stores this week.

– Businesses speak well of the aforementioned court.

Law comes to the Stoop

Fred BealefeldThe legal system will get a public airing next Monday as the popular Stoop Storytelling Series trains its spotlight on the law.

The show’s theme, “Justice Talking: Stories about crime, punishment, and life (and death) in the legal system,” will draw personal essays from a panel of locals at Centre Stage.

Story tellers include former Baltimore Police Chief Frederick H. Bealefeld III (pictured), Fox 45 producer Stephen Janis, public defender Carol Dee Huneke and Mark Farley Grant, whose life sentence for murder was commuted last year after he spend almost 30 years incarcerated.

The show is a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright and is co-sponsored by the Open Society Institute-Baltimore.

Prior to the stories, author Karen Houppert will present her new book, “Chasing Gideon: the Elusive Quest for Poor People’s Justice” at a launch party at Centre Stage.