Natural gas company calls fault on Turf Valley owner

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Turf Valley (File photo)

[UPDATED NOV. 21, 1:30 P.M. - After a conference call with both parties, a federal judge ordered Mangione Enterprises to stop building the tennis court until a Dec. 31 hearing on the matter.]

Earlier this year, we wrote about a natural gas company’s federal lawsuit alleging it could not perform necessary maintenance on pipelines because tennis courts and golf paths at Turf Valley Country Club encroached on its easements.

In August, a federal judge ruled club owner Mangione Enterprises of Turf Valley LP could not interfere with Columbia Gas Transmission LLC’s right to access its easements.

The ruling also allowed Columbia Gas to remove “structures and encroachments within the easements” – such as a tennis court, which it did.

Columbia Gas finished its work late last month and warned Turf Valley about the dangers of rebuilding the court on top of a natural gas pipeline.

Last week, however, Mangione informed Columbia Gas it would be rebuilding the tennis court, prompting Columbia Gas to file an emergency temporary restraining order Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

“The public will undoubtedly benefit from an order enjoining construction that has the potential to result in serious bodily injury or death should an explosion occur,” lawyers for Columbia Gas wrote.

Should the temporary restraining order not be granted, Columbia Gas says it has a right to condemn the area where Mangione wants to build the tennis court under the federal Natural Gas Act.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The Howard County Public School System has decided to eliminate its in-house legal department.

The school’s new superintendent, Renee A. Foose, will cut two legal positions — a staff attorney and general counsel — effective Monday.

In the future, the school system will rely on outside counsel. When a legal issue arises, a panel of four administrators will review the case and then decide how to deal with it. If the system needs outside counsel, it will send it to an attorney with an expertise in that area.

The school system said the decision will allow it to separate administrative and legal decisions as well as cut costs. The restructure will save the school system $200,000 in initial estimated costs.

So, here’s our question for you:

Do school systems still need in-house legal departments? Or are they better off taking on legal issues as they come and sending the cases to outside counsel?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • Chesapeake Energy Corporation named a new general counsel. James R. Webb will replace the company’s former general counsel who was demoted after defending the Oklahoma City-based company’s CEO for questionable loan practices.
  • The drama continues at Yahoo! as its new general counsel gets angry about leaked memos.
  • More procurement managers take over legal spending from in-house departments.
  • Follow us on Twitter for the In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse
  • Want the latest on who’s been hired, fired or moving and shaking in between? Head to our Movers and Shakers page to find out.
  • For networking events and other happenings this week in Maryland, check out our calendar of events.
  • Get the very latest updates from our law reporters on Twitter: @TDRKristi, @Steve_Lash
  • Check out The Daily Record on Facebook.

Share the road

Last week, I read an Above the Law post that really got my blood boiling. A North Carolina man was sentenced to just 120 days in prison after he shot a bicyclist in the head during a roadside confrontation — in front of the rider’s three-year-old daughter.

The ATL blog referred readers to the full Alt Transport article, aptly titled, “Want to Get Away With Murder? Just Run Over A Bicyclist.” Using the North Carolina case, along with a couple unaddressed hit-and-runs, to illustrate his point, the author argued for nationwide laws to command justice for cyclists and other “vulnerable road users” who are injured or killed by motorists.

Fast forward to one week later: A Howard County man who hit and killed a teenage boy last August pled guilty Tuesday to driving while impaired during the incident. Police said he had heroin in his pocket and failed a field sobriety test after he struck the cyclist. The punishment for taking a child from his family? Six months in the clink.

I am sick to death of motorists getting a slap on the wrist when they significantly and fundamentally alter the lives of cyclists — and the lives of their surviving family members. In the Howard County case, their son’s death caused both parents to lose their jobs, leading to foreclosure and, for the mother, a personal bankruptcy filing, according to The Baltimore Sun.

It’s not as if this sort of tragedy is an anomaly. In fact, accidents involving bicycles have become so commonplace that one D.C. website reports the number of cyclists struck each week in the district. There were six — reported — just last week. Anecdotally, having had the conversation with bike commuters in various cities, I have not personally spoken to anyone who rides more than recreationally and has not been hit or at least clipped by a vehicle.

I don’t mean to vilify all drivers. Yes, there are plenty of motorists out there who give cyclists a wide berth on the road, just like there are plenty of bike riders who wait at every stop light and plenty of pedestrians who never jaywalk. But the next time you’re barreling down the street in a two-ton piece of metal and come upon a cyclist, remember that you’re sharing the road with someone who, unlike you, doesn’t have the added protection of a steel exoskeleton.

Keep the summer suits coming!

image006.jpgI began last week by blogging about my search for people wearing the suits of summer, specifically white linen and seersucker.

Tips slowly trickled in throughout the week, which is all the more impressive considering the weather hasn’t exactly been conducive for summer suits.

I also received a e-mail from Ellicott City lawyer Terry McAndrews with a photo of him in his white linen suit. (He’s above, giving an award to outgoing Howard County Bar Association President Jack Willis.)

McAndrews wrote he wears the suit throughout the summer, mostly for weddings and similar special occasions, although you might see him wearing it to court in the days surroundig the various summer holidays.

“Old-fashioned fashion survives,” he wrote.

Please keep sending me pictures to make it thrive.

Suburban students offered reward to “snitch” on food fight

To snitch, or not to snitch: that’s the $30 question, if you’re a student at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia.

The principal offered a $30 reward for the names of the students who started a food fight in December, creating a mess of complaints.

The AP reports, “While the controversy lacks the grit surrounding the “Stop Snitching” street video produced in nearby Baltimore, which warned against cooperating with police in drug investigations, the principal’s offer prompted a discussion over the propriety of such offers.”

Howard County does not have a policy on the issue, but cash rewards have been offered in the past for information on vandals, graffiti incidents and theft.

Baltimore County schools allow cash rewards, if the school superintendent and county police agree. Baltimore city, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties don’t offer them.

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Thieves get copper-happy in HoCo

When I visited Chicago last month, my colleague and I noticed reports of theft of stainless-steel appliances from residential construction sites. My colleague shared that in his hometown of New Orleans, residents often complain of copper pipe thefts from home sites under construction.

Turns out the theft of this valuable metal doesn’t always happen so far from home.

Patuxent Square, a new commercial/residential development in North Laurel, Md., is hiring a night watchman after $10,000 of copper pipe fittings were ripped off at its construction site, the HoCo Times reported last week.

And the Patuxent Square development is just one of many. According to the story, the Howard County Police say copper thefts from county construction sites tripled in October (14 reports) and November (13 reports). At scrap dealers, copper yields about $3.20 per pound.

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor 

HoCo chooses civility

I was on Route 175 in Columbia last week when I saw an odd bumper sticker on the car in front of me: “Choose Civility in Howard County.”

At first, I thought it was imploring Columbians to be more racially tolerant.

Since the (albeit small) sample of Howard County residents I asked didn’t know, I turned to the local blogosphere.

Sure enough, Hometown Columbia was able to point me in the right direction: Choose Civility is an initiative led by the HoCo Library that “intends to enhance respect, empathy, consideration and tolerance in Howard County.”

Their strategy for doing so? Recommended reading (“Choosing Civility” by P.M. Forni of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project), a Facebook group and car magnets.

At least they’re aiming near and far.

Anyone out there involved in this initiative care to comment? Are people in Hoco becoming more civil, or are those involved already the pillars of civility?

I, for one, will honk for joy if area drivers truly mend their ways.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Where everyone (at the designer-discount store) knows your name

A Filene’s Basement opened Wednesday morning in Columbia.

In yet another area where many of the residents seemingly can afford to pay full-price, the new designer-discount store will offer Ralph Lauren sweater sets and the like for just $29.99.

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Although it’s been six years since I lived in Howard County, when I visit now, it looks like a rival sibling of a Montgomery County town.

You know what I mean — how you can’t walk 25 yards without passing a Panera Bread or seeing a little kid decked out in Crocs.

It used to be a refuge, with less traffic, less development, less pressure, less people.

Anyone love the new Columbia?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Uncontrollable growth?

The immigrant population in the Baltimore area grew by almost 40 percent between 2000 and 2006, the Baltimore Sun and the Census Bureau reported Wednesday.

In those same six years, the immigrant population in Howard County alone increased by a whopping 59 percent.

With all the talk of development due to BRAC, has the state been preparing for the infastructure changes that this increase in population demands?

Is the state of Maryland really prepared to handle this massive influx of new residents?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor