DLA Piper: Hollywood hot spot

On the set of "Whirlwind" at DLA Piper's Baltimore office. (Photo courtesy of DLA Piper.)

Hollywood is back in Baltimore.

Clayton LeBouef, an actor from “The Wire,” filmed scenes from his new movie, called “Whirlwind,” at DLA Piper’s Baltimore office last week in the main reception area.

On “The Wire,” LeBouef played Orlando, a front man who ran a strip club for the Barksdale drug organization. LeBouef is also known for his role as Col. George Barnfather in “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

DLA Piper’s glass office building has been a Hollywood hot spot in recent years. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s HBO comedy, “Veep,” shot several scenes for its pilot episode at the building. Several scenes in the 2005 movie “Syriana,” starring George Clooney, also were filmed at The Marbury Building at 6225 Smith Ave.

The recent movie shoot at DLA Piper is just one of a number of Charm City’s recent forays into the film industry. In addition to “Veep,” the HBO movie “Game Change,” about John McCain’s and Sarah Palin’s 2008 bid for the presidency and vice presidency, was filmed in Baltimore. (Both “Game Change” and “Veep” won awards at Sunday’s Emmys.)

The Netflix show “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey has also been around town, filming at a sound stage in Edgewood, as well as in the city in places like the Peabody Institute in Mount Vernon.

All are part of an effort by Maryland to boost the film industry in the state.

Ben & Jerry’s fights for naked truth

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is not being so sweet to a film company it says is infringing on its trademarks.

A Massachusetts court has granted a request from Ben &  Jerry’s for a temporary restraining order against a company that makes pornographic films.

The ice cream company took issue with Cabellero Video for giving its films titles that were a little too similar to trademarked ice cream flavors.

The film company took names like “Chocolate Fudge Brownie,” “Peanut Butter Cup” and “Boston Cream Pie” and gave them a racy twist — “Chocolate Fudge Babes,” “Peanut Butter D Cups” and, yes, “Boston Cream Thighs.”

Whether ice cream plays a role at all in these cinematic endeavors is unknown but, needless to say, the Vermont-based ice cream company is not pleased about the 10 DVDs that Cabellero has released in its series.

Ben & Jerry’s argues that the porn packaging even sports the company’s signature cows and clouds design from its ice cream cartons. The ice cream maker said in a statement that it

acted to protect its company, brand, products and image. This is a clear cut issue where the video company is imitating Ben & Jerry’s logo, flavor names and trade dress to sell their products. We have taken prompt legal action to stop the manufacturing and sale of these materials.

The film company is due in court Tuesday to show cause as to why a permanent injunction should not issued.

Holy superhero law book Batman!

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No — it’s a law book!

An upcoming book delves into the justice system in the superhero world. Attorneys and comic book fans James Daily and Ryan Davidson co-wrote the book “The Law of Superheroes,” which will be published in October.

The book takes a look at how both villains and superheroes would have to deal with the realities of the law. For example: Could the Joker plead insanity if he went to trial? Which superhero is the most law-abiding? Does the right to bear arms apply to Wolverine’s metal claws? Can villains be held accountable for property damage? Can Superman sue if someone reveals his true identity? Are the mutants from X-Men a protected class?

The book grew out of Daily and Davidson’s blog, “Law and the Multiverse: Superheroes, supervillains, and the law.” The two started the blog in 2010 and the idea started over a dinner party conversation Daily had with friends. Daily wrote about the idea on an online project collaboration site. Davidson saw the post and contacted Daily asking to work together on the idea.

Since then, it’s been a flurry of theoretical comic book legal debates. Some of the most current posts discuss bankruptcy law issues and legal ethics in the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Davidson practices mostly insurance law in Indiana and Daily is licensed to practice law in Missouri works for Stanford University’s Hoover Project on Commercializing Innovation. And with the blog and the new book, the two attorneys are a regular real-world Justice League.

Law meets art in award-winning local video

Before today, I had never heard of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi nor his fantastic facial hair. It turns out in 1923 he made a bronze scuplture, “Bird in Space,” that he shipped to the United States in 1927. Customs officials levied a $4,000 tax on it upon arrival because it was, in their view, a hunk of metal. Brancusi said it was art, which was not taxed at all. He took his case to court and won in 1928, his money refunded.

I learned all this thanks to the winner of video contest sponsored by Maryland Lawyers for the Arts in honor of the organization’s 25th birthday.

The three local filmmakers–David Sloan, Thea Canlas and Matthew Hickey–swept the $500 grand prize and $250 audience award. You can see the video below – its title, “Left-Brained People Helping Right-Brained People,” is a riff on MLA’s motto. The short also alludes to other, famous artistic legal battles, including the fair use case of Rogers v. Koons.

“We were initially a little worried that our idea would incite the wrath of two groups that tend to take themselves very seriously—artists and lawyers—but it is that very seriousness that makes the piece work as a parody,” Sloan said, according to a press release from MLA.

One hairy insurance policy

What began as being too lazy to shave while on vacation last week has morphed into my first deliberate attempt at facial hair.

My goatee will be gone by the weekend, when I have to be in pictures for a family wedding, but for now it’s growing on me. (Ha!)

Whether I sport a goatee in the future will largely depend on what a future Mrs. Jacobs thinks of it. But then I read about Head and Shoulders insuring the flowing locks of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu for $1 million.

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Last night at The Senator Theatre

Let me start by saying I went to The Senator last night simply to see, for free, a classic film I’d never watched all the way through and to check out what I thought would be a neat event. I didn’t go as a reporter; I didn’t bring a notebook; I didn’t interview former Senator owner Tom Kiefaber (who I’ve actually never spoken to, only read about), and didn’t intend on writing anything until after the whole evening unfolded. Rather, I went dressed in shorts and sneakers with some old family friends and got there only a few minutes before the festivities kicked off, lucky to snag one of the few remaining unclaimed seats in the auditorium.

All disclosures and caveats aside, the point is I’m glad I went because how many opportunities do you get to watch Obi-Wan duel Darth Vader for the first time while simultaneously taking part in a memorable episode of Baltimore history?

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Southwest Video update

Last time I wrote about Southwest Video, the Halethorpe business was closed even after the county Board of Appeals ruled it was improperly shut down by county officials. Southwest did eventually reopen – only to be shut down last week once again by county officials.

Meg Ferguson, the county hearing officer, ordered the business closed July 1 until it removed all of its “viewing booths and video display devices.” Ferguson also fined Southwest $13,200 on top of the $50,800 she fined the business in the spring for operating an adult entertainment business in a prohibited commercial zone.

Mike Mohler, deputy director of the county permitting office, said he and colleagues would be returning to Southwest today to make sure the video booths had been removed.

Howard Schulman, Southwest’s lawyer, called the closing illegal, alluding to his earlier, successful argument that a court order and the accompanying due process are necessary to shut the business down.

“The county unfortunately has resorted to illegal methods to enforce what it says is the law,” he said.

Schulman said Southwest is considering its legal options, one of which is to sue the county for damages in order to “decide the matter once and for all in a judicial setting.” (Southwest has filed two mandamus-related lawsuits against the county stemming from the zoning and code enforcement actions.)

All of this comes as the Baltimore County Council approved Tuesday more restrictive zoning laws for adult entertainment businesses. Among other changes, stores with adult content that exceeds 15 percent of the total inventory would be classified as adult entertainment businesses and must be located in manufacturing zones. That’s down from the 20-percent threshold but more than the 5-percent figure proposed in response to Halethorpe residents’ complaints about Southwest during a council session in May.

Schulman, who skimmed the legislation when I called him, said it seemed “too broad in terms of its scope and reach.”

Ripped from the headlines

On this Take Your Child to Work Day, I remember the time in August 2008 when my daughter — a fan of the televison show Law & Order — tagged along as I covered a double-murder trial in Montgomery County.

I told her not to expect there to be a lead male prosecutor and a female assistant sitting “second chair,” a staple of the long-running NBC show. 

I also warned her that gruesome pictures of the crime scene would not be introduced into evidence, as occurs often on the program. After all – as I was told in law school – the prejudicial effect of such photographs on the defendant outweighs their probative value for the jury.

But when we entered the courtroom, there was Montgomery County State’s Attorney John J. McCarthy at the prosecution table sitting with his female assistant, Kathy Knight. And during the trial, the prosecutors successfully introduced into evidence bloody pictures from the 2002 slayings of Gregory Russell, 47, and his 9-year-old daughter Erika Smith at the father’s Silver Spring home.

My credibility now destroyed, what happened next was only fitting.

During a break in the trial, McCarthy came over and introduced himself to my daughter. She politely responded, “Hello, Mr. McCoy.”

[For those of you who may have been in a coma for the past 16 years, or without a TV, the chief prosecutor on Law & Order is Jack McCoy, played by Sam Waterston.]

As for the trial, defendant Anthony Q. Kelly was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

For extra credit, name the movie that co-starred Waterston and someone who was famously acquitted of a double murder. The answer is here.

‘Response’ to movie could be Oscar

The University of Maryland School of Law soon might be able to add “location for an Academy Award-winning film” to its promotional materials.

The Response,” written by alum Sig Libowitz and filmed at the school in February 2008, is one of 10 films in the running for Best Live Action Short.

The 30-minute movie is based on the Guantanamo Bay tribunals and follows a trio of military judge advocate generals as they decide on a detainee’s guilt or innocence. The law school has an executive producer credit.

The shortlist will be pared down to no more than five next month, and the nominees will be announced Feb. 2. The Academy Awards will air March 7.

Ferris Bueller, Esq.

Washington lawyer Edward McNally grew up with the late movie director John Hughes in the Chicago suburbs — and had 27 days off his final semester of high school — but says he is not the real-life Ferris Bueller.

At the same time, McNally admits the “Ferris-ian high jinks were the everyday stuff of our boyhood lives” in an essay from Wednesday’s Washington Post. And McNally also says he’s drawn on the “Tao of Ferris” throughout his legal career:

In my service as a federal prosecutor and as a defense attorney, one key lesson from Ferris is his repeated message to his despondent buddy Cameron. Your current situation doesn’t have to be your fate. There’s always another way.

My favorite part of McNally’s touching tribute is his final anecdote. Let’s just say Ferris would have been proud - and Abe Froman might have had reason to complain.