Law blog roundup

Today is Monday, the 159th anniversary of the publication of Alfred Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.” Here are some news items to get the week started.

Charge of the Light Brigade– New York Times profiles lawyer assigned to manage a bankrupt Detroit.

– Ex-San Diego mayor faces sentencing today.

– Victims of forced sterilization seek reparations in Virginia.

– Federal appeals court will consider constitutionality of California law requiring DNA collection from every person arrested.

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.

Law blog roundup

DetroitWelcome to the first Tuesday in September. Here are some news items to get this post-Labor Day week started.

– An American city tries to emerge from bankruptcy.

– China holds an open trial.

– What is the most dangerous position in football? Inquiring workers’ compensation lawyers want to know.

– Did Chicago’s Metra invite a lawsuit?

From ‘Juiced’ to bankrupt

Jose Canseco, the man famous for starting the clock on one of baseball’s darkest hours, is in the news again.

And no, it’s not because of steroids: Canseco filed for bankruptcy protection in Nevada earlier this week.

In 1986, Canseco was the American League’s rookie of the year. Two years later, the Oakland A’s outfielder was the AL MVP. His 462 home runs in 17 seasons had him in the Hall of Fame conversation until 2005, when he co-authored a tell-all book that chronicled his longstanding history with using performance-enhancing drugs.

“Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big” identified numerous ex-teammates as users, including former Oriole great Rafael Palmeiro.

Many players denied the accusations, including Palmeiro, who was suspended in 2005 for a positive drug test. Major League Baseball soon declared war on performance-enhancing drugs.

Canseco wrote a follow-up book in 2008, “Vindicated,” where he revealed additional information on new players and their PED use. He’s been shopping a third book that will reportedly not out any more players as steroid users.

But, given his current financial situation, will he change his mind? After all, everyone loves a good scandal.

Judge in Jewish Times case calls out lawyers

Some next-day thoughts on the unexpected outcome of the two-and-a-half-day bankruptcy hearing of Alter Communications, publisher of the Baltimore Jewish Times (in which the judge rejected the restructuring plans of both Alter and its printer-turned-creditor, H.G. Roebuck & Son Inc.):

The federal judge in the case, James F. Schneider, lightened the proceedings several times with his ultra-dry wit. At one point Maria Ellena Chavez-Ruark, Alter’s attorney, was reading back word-for-word Schneider’s decision to confirm Alter’s plan in December — a decision that was later overturned by a higher court.

“It sounds so good and yet the (U.S.) District Court reversed it,” Schneider interrupted with a wistful sigh. “Such lovely prose.”

But when it came time for Schneider to make his decision he turned deathly serious, calling out not only the parties involved for their two years of bitter litigation but also their attorneys for attempting to play on his emotions.

Schneider prefaced his remarks by saying he thought Ruark and Roebuck’s attorneys, William L. Hallam and Kevin J. Pascale were some of the finest lawyers he knew. The judge then proceeded to scold them for “the extent they’ve gotten so close to the facts and issues of this case that they’ve lost their objectivity and taken on the personas of their  clients.”


Continue reading

Bankruptcy (law) pays

I don’t profess to be an expert on the legal job market, but it appears business is still booming for bankruptcy lawyers. (Are you listening, Recent law school grads looking for a job?)

Legal fees in the Tribune Co.’s bankruptcy proceeding recently topped $150 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. Tribune, the media giant whose holdings include The Baltimore Sun, filed for bankruptcy in December 2008. Its primary lawyers have been paid $41.7 million and its “restructuring adviser” $14.7 million since the case began, according to court filings, the Journal reports.

From the end of March to the end of April alone, those working on the case received more than $10 million in fees and expenses, the Journal reports.

Even Tribune’s representation isn’t hiring, there might be another way in: the company is also paying for “committees and other professionals appointed by the court,” according to the Journal.

Law blog roundup: Bedbugs and baseball’s steroid era

Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens

It’s Monday again, but for Ravens fans, today comes with a cherry on top: Monday Night Football. Here are some law links to get your day started.

  • A weekend news release trumpeted that Billy Murphy would break his silence on the Jessamy-Bernstein race for state’s attorney at a press conference today. Looks like he already spilled the beans.
  • Are medical malpractice caps dead? One doc thinks so.
  • One American files for bankruptcy every 15 seconds.
  • Continuing their summer tour through New York, bedbugs have made their way into the Manhattan DA’s office.
  • Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may have broken the law, but Bill James argues, so did Babe Ruth.
  • Laid-off attorney shopping her services as a cleaning woman.
  • In South Carolina, having sex with a client’s wife is a conflict of interest.

Hockey fight enters the courtroom

I would consider myself a casual hockey fan; I especially enjoy the playoffs and the power of the playoff beards.  My one personal fan rule is that, whenever possible, I root for Canadian teams. It’s their sport, and I think it’s silly the National Hockey League expanded into cities that only see snow when “It’s A Wonderful Life” is on television.

Cities like Phoenix, where the NHL finds itself today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court trying to seize ownership of the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes. The league’s opponent is Jim Balsillie, a Canadian billionaire who founded Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry.

Balsillie is the only prospective buyer of the club, offering more than $240 million, and he wants to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario. But this is his third attempt at buying a franchise — the two previous attempts failed — and earlier this summer NHL owners voted 26-0 against Balsillie owning a franchise because he lacked the “good character and integrity required of a new owner,” as one owner put it.

The NHL has countered with a $140 million offer, essentially becoming the team’s caretaker until another owner can be found.

Not surprisingly, today’s hearing is front-page news in Canada, with at least four major newspapers blogging live from Phoenix. The hearing is expected to continue through Friday, and Judge Redfield T. Baum has said he will rule in the case no later than Oct. 1, when the NHL’s 2009-2010 season beings.

The Coyotes franchise, incidentally, moved to Phoenix from their original home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1996 because of financial problems.

Bankruptcy judges just temping

The latest group to seek the government’s help in handling the economic downturn is the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.  Business, it seems, is too good there.

As reported by our sister blog, D.C. Dicta, the Judicial Conference of the United States is asking Congress to boost the number of bankruptcy judges in the country (currently 324) by 13, and convert 22 “temporary” judgeships, created by the bankruptcy reforms of 2005, to permanent status.

Three of those temporary judgeships are in Maryland and will expire in 2011, according to the Judicial Conference.

Somebody ought to tell the folks over at the Maryland Manual, which says the three most recent appointees are all good to go until 2020.

This Week in Maryland Lawyer

mdlawyer323.jpgWhat 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.