Search committee formed for new UM Law dean

haddonThe University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law has announced the members of the search committee that will lead a national search for a new dean.

Dean Phoebe A. Haddon will step down at the end of the academic year and return to the faculty.

The committee is chaired by Richard P. Barth, dean of the university’s School of Social Work. The co-chair is Barbara Gontrum, associate dean for academic affairs at the law school.

The committee will be working with an executive search firm and “hopes to conclude its work by March,” according to the law school.

The other committee members, announced Wednesday, are:

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Facebook program to stop cyberbullying launches in Md.

facebookMaryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has made stopping cyberbullying one of his key initiatives. On Thursday, Gansler, who is also running for governor, announced Maryland would serve as the pilot location for a Facebook-backed program to combat cyberbullying.

The Education Escalation Channel is designed to streamline reporting of cyberbullying on Facebook and provide each school system with a direct line of communication with the social media company.

Facebook outlined the plan Thursday during the Maryland Association of Boards of Education fall conference.

“We can no longer brush off these [cyberbullying] episodes and we must reject a ‘kids will be kids’ mentality that ignores how to confront this troubling trend,” Gansler said in a statement. “I commend Facebook for working with us to give educators a more streamlined way to report possible instances of cyberbullying among their students.”

The launch coincides with the start of National Bullying Prevention Month and with a new law in Maryland that broadens email harassment to include text messaging and social media.



Law blog roundup

Today is Monday, the 89th birthday of film star Lauren Bacall. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– Harper Lee moves to kill her copyright suit.

Enrollment drops at Washington law schools.

– Any bets on how this case will be resolved?

– Seattle newspaper compiles Justice Antonin Scalia’s “greatest hits.”

Law blog roundup

Jacques Vergès

Jacques Vergès

Welcome to Monday, the 20th anniversary of the Mattel/Fisher-Price merger. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– Should old age be taken into consideration by governors and parole boards?

– Defense attorney for Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal dies in Paris.

– Flurry of settlements may be imminent in Sandusky case, lawyer says.

– Law school fights disclosure of its students’ poor record on the bar exam.

ABA moves back law school graduate employment survey

law schoolThe American Bar Association wrapped up its annual meeting Tuesday in San Francisco. During the meeting, the ABA’s legal education section voted to change the graduation employment reports to 10 months out of law school from nine months.

The change was requested by law deans in California and New York who said “delayed bar exam results and admissions in their states put them at a disadvantage in jobs reporting,” according to the National Law Journal.

The measure was passed by only one vote and the controversy has already begun. (The new rule will go into effect for the Class of 2014.)
Above the Law has more from critics of the decision. It steps back from the vote to look at the bigger picture:

We are living through a crisis in legal education. Tuition is skyrocketing, people can’t get jobs, law school applications are cratering. And here the regulating body for American legal education has responded by changing the reporting date for entry-level employment from February 15th to March 15th.

What do you think about the ABA’s decision?

Law blog roundup

Happy Monday, Happy Holy Week and Happy Passover!

Here are some items to get your week of piety started.

– A look at the role of federalism in the upcoming Supreme Court arguments on same-sex marriage.

– In other Supreme Court news, the high court has agreed to hear another case involving affirmative action and college admissions.

– In case you missed it last week, “Mr. Burns” presided over the trial of “Bart Simpson.”

– Did you hear the one about the law school student who fell off a classroom chair and sued?  (HT: Above the Law)

– That laser pointer you use for your presentations might be illegal.



Parent appeals suspension of 7-year-old who made pastry into shape of gun

Bethesda-based attorney and noted basketball heckler Robin Ficker seems to be building quite a nice niche for himself.

Ficker is representing the father of a 7-year-old who was suspended from his Anne Arundel County school for transforming his breakfast pastry into the shape a gun.

The father filed a formal appeal Thursday, requesting that the second-grader’s school record not reflect the offense.

“The chewed pastry was not capable of harming anybody, even if thrown,” said the appeal, which was addressed to Anne Arundel Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell and Park Elementary School Principal Sandy Blondell. “It could not fire any missile whatsoever.”

William “B.J.” Welch’s son was suspended March 1 for two days after eating his breakfast pastry, which was similar to a Pop-Tart, and yelling, “Look I made a gun,” according to the appeal. He pointed the gun-shaped pastry at students in a hallway and at kids at nearby desks, the appeal also states.

“It was harmless,” Welch told The Washington Post. “It was a danish.”

After the suspension, Welch requested that his son’s record be cleared of words such as “gun” but school officials rejected the request.

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Bad grade? So sue me

What’s the cost of a mediocre grade in a college course? To Megan Thode, it’s $1.3 million.

The former Lehigh University graduate student is suing over a “C+” in an internship class, saying she deserved a “B” and that the lower grade prevented her from advancing toward her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist, the Express-Times reported.

The professor testified in Northampton County Court in Pennsylvania that Thode was downgraded in her class participation score for outbursts and inappropriate behavior. Thode ended up with a master’s in education in human development instead of a master’s in education in counseling psychology, which, according to her lawsuit, would result in $1.3 million more in salary over a lifetime.

Thode isn’t the first student to sue for a higher grade. The Huffington Post listed cases of grading lawsuits from Texas Southern University’s law school, the University of Massachusetts and Canada’s Concordia University.

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Six-year-old’s suspension for making gun gesture overturned

RRoscoe Nix Elementary Schoolobin Ficker, a Bethesda-based attorney who may be best known for his heckling at basketball games, is in the news again.

Ficker successfully represented a Silver Spring family whose six-year-old son was suspended from school for making a gun gesture and pointing at another student. Montgomery County officials rescinded the suspension Friday.

Ficker argued that school officials overreacted to the pretend gesture and said the boy, who attends Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School, is too young to comprehend in any meaningful way the significance of his actions.

“He doesn’t understand,” Ficker said. “The law says he is not old enough to form intent.”

The boy made the universal sign for a gun one week after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Ficker said the school was ”looking at the worst possible interpretation of a young, naive six-year-old.” He also argued that school officials should have discussed the situation with the boy’s mom and considered the implications of the suspension.

“They could have called the mother in. They didn’t do that,” Ficker told The Washington Examiner. “They just said, ‘You’re suspended.’ Five years from now, when someone in to Montgomery County looks at his permanent record, they’re going to see that he threatened to shoot another student.”

If the name hasn’t yet rang a bell, Ficker became well known heckling opponents of the Washington Bullets from his seat behind the visiting team’s bench at USAir Arena in Landover. When the team moved to the MCI Center (now Verizon Center) in downtown Washington, it reseated Ficker far away from the court, prompting him to give up his seats in protest.

His antics became so well known that the Phoenix Suns’ Charles Barkley flew him to Phoenix and gave him a seat behind the Chicago Bulls’ bench during the 1993 NBA Finals. He was so over the top, however, that he was removed by security during the first quarter.

The Maryland Court of Appeals suspended Ficker’s law license in June 2007 in response to complaints of poor client representation. His license was reinstated later that year.

ABA memberships for all

While there seems to be a lot of negative news about law schools these days, here are some good tidings.

The interim dean at the St. Louis University School of Law, whose dean left amid controversy over accusations the university was using the law school as its cash cow, is buying each student at the law school a membership to the American Bar Association.

Tom Keefe will pay $14,212 for the 836 students at the law school. Memberships for the ABA at the group rate cost $17 per student. Four other law schools across the country buy every student a membership, which allows them to participate in ABA sections and seek grants form the organization.

Keefe is recovering from a bit of a rocky start earlier this summer. After being named interim dean in August, he told our sister paper Missouri Lawyers Weekly that he would not be controlled by the university or be the university president’s “butt boy.”