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.

A Titanic Trial

I wrote a story for today’s paper on a Court of Appeals opinion concerning a medical malpractice case. The main issue was whether the expert witness spent too much of his professional life as, well, an expert witness. (The Court of Appeals said that yes, he did, and was therefore properly disqualified from testifying in the case.)

In the course of writing the story, I rediscovered this gem from 2007, when the case went to trial. It’s a story from The (Erstwhile) Examiner, and it deals with the clash between two high-profile, ego-rific “titan”  litigators: Steve Snyder and Billy Murphy. Snyder represented the plaintiffs (on appeal, the case was handled by Snyder’s one-time partner Andy Slutkin) and Murphy was one of the lawyers for the doctor and the hospital.

The article’s worth a look in case you missed it the first time around, and even if you caught it then but want to relive the magic. This thing got ugly. Some highlights:

“After Mr. Snyder found out, for the first time today, that I was being retained by the University of Maryland to be in this case, frankly he lost his cool,” Murphy told Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lynn Stewart, according to a transcript of the proceedings. “What he said to me was, in a voice loud enough for the defendant to hear … he said, ‘I’m going to tear him apart.’ And then he turned around and literally screamed at Dr. Zoarski, ‘I’m coming after you! I’m going to get you!’ And he said it several times.”

At one point, Snyder told Murphy in open court that he didn’t like him anymore. Eventually, the judge got beyond frustrated:

Finally, Judge Stewart had had enough.

“This is it. Last warning to everybody,” she said. “No finger-pointing, children. No stomping your feet. No screaming. No yelling. No dancing around. No calling names. No throwing sticks and stones. No putting gum in each other’s hair.”

Oooh, and let’s not forget what happened when the race card was played:

Snyder took particular offense to Murphy’s late appearance in the case, because Murphy and several members of his team are African-American, as was the judge and several jurors.

“I think it’s racially motivated,” he told the judge.

After hearing that, Murphy replied sarcastically to Snyder’s comment in court: “We’re just some colored lawyers. We’re not trying to hurt nobody.”

I wish I’d been there. Sounds like a journalist’s dream trial. But here’s the best part: After the trial ended in a defense summary judgment, Snyder told the Examiner reporter:

“Billy Murphy can take no comfort in the victory,” he says. “It will be very short-lived. I have no doubt that it will be reversed. In fact, I will quit law if it doesn’t get reversed.”

I’ve put a call in to Snyder to see if he wants to make good on that threat. No word yet.

Attorney Billy Murphy on “The Wire”

billy_murphy.jpgDid anyone see Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy‘s cameo performance on “The Wire” Sunday night?

Here’s a synopsis of one scene with Murphy in it, from the HBO’s synopsis of the episode, Took:

State Senator R. Clayton “Clay” Davis tries to talk defense attorney Billy Murphy into taking on his case without receiving his full fee up front. Davis offers $25k up front and $25k when Murphy seats a jury. Murphy insists on his full $200K fee, but Davis counters that he’s giving him a great publicity opportunity going up against State’s Attorney Rupert Bond. Charmed, Murphy tells Clay to save his silver-tongued salesmanship for the jury.

And here’s from the ep’s Wikipedia entry:

Senator Davis appears in court, and it looks as though he is going to be heading to prison. With the amount of paperwork that Freamon and Sydnor got on Davis, it didn’t seem like he could get off. That was until he hired Billy Murphy to help him out with his case.

Let us know what you thought of Murphy and “Took.”


Billy goes Baltiwood

murphy-billymf33.jpgBaltimore lawyer William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. is no stranger to cameras: he has stood in front of them after defending boxing promoter Don King in federal court in Manhattan in 1998 and after winning a $276 million verdict against what was then First Union National Bank in 2002.

But more recently, Murphy seems to have taken a jurist admirer’s words to heart.

“He’s got a flair,” retired Baltimore City Circuit Judge Edgar P. Silver said in a 2002 Daily Record article on Murphy. “He could’ve been a Hollywood actor.”

Murphy will play, essentially, himself in the upcoming final season of HBO’s Baltimore-based series, “The Wire,” The Baltimore Sun reports.

And as soon as the Washington-based nonprofit Flex Your Rights Foundation raises enough money to complete the project, Murphy will narrate its next public awareness video: “Street Law: How to Deal with Police & Racial Profiling.”

Any other lawyers or judges out there who are ready for their close-ups?

BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer