Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday, the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Here are some news items to get the week started.

Boston Tea Party– Is the first person appropriate before the Supreme Court?

– Ikea faces wrenching allegations.

– Employers should take stock of this case.

– This lawsuit has lasted longer than many marriages.

Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday, the start of a week to be thankful for family, friends, fowl and football. Here are some news items to get the festivities started.

– Skier Bode Miller competes in a cross-country custody clash.

– Ten years ago this month the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Maryland v. Pringle: a traffic-stop case involving attorneys with names you will recognize.

Yemeni court will decide if a couple can or can’t elope.

– Everything you wanted to know about the judiciary but were afraid to ask.


Law blog roundup

DisneylandHappy Monday and welcome to what we hope is a smooth holiday work week for you. Here are some news items to ponder as you mentally prepare for your Thursday barbeque:

– An incredibly powerful first-person account of domestic violence and its aftermath.

– More on Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s denial Sunday of a request to stop same-sex marriages in California.

– Maryland’s ban on certain kinds of crib bumpers is now in effect.

– Family court judge tells mother: “You’re going to Disneyland!” (HT: Above the Law)

Law blog roundup

Welcome to the first Monday in a month of madness. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– Wrongful foreclosures on military members exceed estimates.

– Do the opponents of Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage in California, have standing?

– Red-light camera company faces storm of corruption allegations in the Windy City.

– Michelob maker mounts media campaign amid lawsuits alleging the company waters down its beer.

Same-sex marriage faces opposition in St. Mary’s County and elsewhere in Md.

When the Maryland law legalizing same-sex marriage goes into effect next week, couples wishing to tie the knot in St. Mary’s County may face some resistance by local officials.

Some St. Mary’s County Circuit Court employees will stop performing marriages, insteading asking others to perform the duty, the Washington Examiner reports.

“There are some [deputy clerks] that have voiced some opposition to doing it — [they have] religious feelings about it … so it’s basically my idea that they won’t do any marriage at all,” said Joan Williams, clerk of the St. Mary’s County Circuit Court. “Some people are just very against same-sex marriages, and I have to respect their reasons and their decisions.”

John Zito, president of the Maryland Wedding Professionals Association, said he is aware of one wedding photographer (who he would not identify) who “didn’t feel comfortable” taking same-sex couples’ photos because he was not used to posing two grooms or two brides together.

And one trolley operator in Annapolis has gotten out of the wedding business altogether in order to avoid discriminating against same-sex couples. His decision has emboldened opponants  to lobby for a loophole to the law that would allow for a conscience clause to allow for commercial vendors to not provide services to same-sex couples.


Maryland Legal Aid Bureau hosts Pro Bono Days

The Maryland Legal Aid Bureau is sponsoring two Pro Bono Days – free legal clinics - this month. The first will be held this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Randallstown branch of the Baltimore County Public Library (8604 Liberty Road in Randallstown). The second will be held next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Maryland Legal Aid’s Baltimore office (500 E. Lexington Street).

Volunteer attorneys will provide consultations in the areas of divorce and custody, landlord/tenant, wills & advance directives, bankruptcy, expungements, government benefits, criminal and consumer law.

Private lawyers who wish to volunteer their services can call 443-451-2810.

Family law that is not rated G

I don’t know much about family law, but I do know a good double entendre when I hear one. And there were plenty heard Friday during the Family and Juvenile Law Section’s program at the Maryland State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting in Ocean City.

The theme for the session was exploring custody issues through parodies of the “Real Housewives” reality TV series. Only these episodes took place in Hagerstown, Dundalk and Salisbury, the latter of which featured the man pictured wearing a chicken on his head (naturally).

Each sketch featured some not-for-courtroom words, caricatures, some risque dialogue and, particularly in the case of the Dundalk sketch, some great accents.

(I filmed the two Hagerstown sketches as well as the Dundalk scene. Apologies for the video and audio quality, but I hope you can get the gist.)

The sketches were followed by a brief discussion by “erudite panel members” (really, that’s what it says in the program) on issues raised in the sketches. Here’s what I gleaned from the panel:

If a custody case involves the possibility of a child moving, the lawyer should remember the child “is going to lose one of their parents,” said Keith N. Schiszik of Day & Schiszik in Frederick. “You have to look very-fact specific as to how the kid is going to be hurt or not.”

When it comes to comity and where cases should be tried, the “good manners rule” should be followed, said Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Callahan.

“If they did it right in [another] state, we’re not going to run them over,” she said.

Judges do pick up the phone and talk about who should hear the case, according to Court of Special Appeals Judge Patrick L. Woodward.

“Most judges are practical. [They think,]‘One less case in my court is better,’” he said.

When working on custody agreements, Schiszik has made it practice to include a clause seeking the status quo in the child’s school, medical providers and religious activities unless both parties agree to a change.

The panel, plus the lawyers in attendance, all agreed the longer a lawyer waits to seek an emergency hearing, the less of an “emergency” it appears to be to the judge.

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

Happy Columbus Day. If you’re at work, like those of us at The Daily Record, here are some law links to check out. If you’re off today, get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather.

  • Is the cost of supplying lawyers to defendants in bail hearings worth it? Page Croyder says it would require lawyers to be available 24-7 and cost taxpayers a boatload.
  • Good news in the legal industry: Jobs are on the rise. The national economy may still be in the dumps, but law firms are adding employees.
  • The former voice of Dora the Explorer is suing MTV and Viacom for forcing her to sign a contract without allowing a lawyer review it. The girl’s family claims she’s been underpaid by at least $2 million. Vamanos! We have to sue!
  • D’oh! EEOC sues employer for disability discrimination based on obesity.
  • One South Carolina family law firm says no kvetching — we’ll get to you when we can.
  • Attorneys and judges are grappling with juror comments on Facebook. This might be deja vu for readers who followed the Dixon trial.
  • Lawyers will fight death penalty with economic argument: It’s just too expensive (HT: How Appealing).

The 71-hour day and other billing practices

There’s alternative billing, as my colleague Danielle Ulman wrote about in Monday’s paper, and then there just might be Glenn C. Lewis’ alleged billing practices.

Lewis had days with as many as 71 billable hours, and in a 16-month period in 2003 and 2004, he billed clients for “3,620 hours, or an average of 226 hours per month, or 7.4 hours a day, 365 days per year,” according to a story in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Lewis told the Post the 71 hours in a day billing was “block billing,” where he entered his hours for many days at once, and that he works night and weekends.

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