Law blog roundup

RockwellA happy soggy Monday to you on a week where many of the state’s lawyers will be heading “downy ocean” and we all celebrate Old Glory. Here are some law links to chew on:

– As online privacy dominates the news, Ron Miller of the Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog has details on a new Maryland Rule concerning personal information and court records.

– Why some lawsuits over Obamacare will come from the health care legislation’s supporters.

– “A Cuyahoga County prosecutor was fired this week after he admitted posing as a woman in a Facebook chat with an accused killer’s alibi witnesses in an attempt to persuade them to change their testimony.” (HT: Above the Law)

Steve Martin and his banjo (HT: Lowering the Bar)

Chewbacca and his light-saber cane

Awards and announcements roundup

Several local lawyers are receiving high honors these days.

– Victoria Sulerzyski, an attorney at Ober|Kaler, received the 2012 Volunteer of a Lifetime Award from United Way of Central Maryland in a ceremony Sept. 20.

Sulerzyski has volunteered for over 10 years at places like PACT: Helping Children with Special Needs; the Kennedy Krieger Institute; Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities; and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

– Seven local firms received recognition as  ”highly recommended” Maryland firms in the newest edition of “Benchmark Litigation.”

The list includes DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells, Kramon & Graham P.A., Miles & Stockbridge P.C., Whiteford Taylor Preston LLP, Venable LLP and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP. Attorneys and these and other firms were also named “Local Litigation Stars.”

— Phoebe Haddon, dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, is hosting this week the 2012 Teaching Conference of the Society of American Law Teachers.

Haddon won the society’s “Great Teacher” award last year. The conference hosts more than 150 law professors Thursday through Saturday. This year’s theme is “Teaching Social Justice, Expanding Access to Justice: The Role of Legal Education and the Legal Profession.”

Maryland native runs animal law practice

For Maryland native Jennifer Reba Edwards, the practice of law has gone to the dogs.


Edwards runs the only law practice in Colorado solely concentrated on animal law, The Denver Post reports. Edwards opened the Animal Law Center in Wheat Ridge after she graduated from law school in 2006.

Edwards’ practice handles everything from animal ownership disputes to national, high-profile cases. The practice won a $24 million settlement with a pet food company in a class-action suit in which Edwards represented owners whose pets had died after eating the company’s food.

The practice also deals with cities or areas trying to ban specific dog breeds like pit bulls and a case where a dog was shot by a police officer when answering a call at someone’s house. Edwards has almost been attacked by a wolf and was peed on by a tiger in the course of her work.

“But that’s OK,” Edwards told the Post. “I like to meet my clients.”

Closius on debt, future of law schools

Today’s Maryland Lawyer cover story is our interview with Phil Closius, dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law. One thing he said that I couldn’t fit into the story is that the average UB student graduates with about $90,000 in debt.

He once recited that figure to an alum and his daughter, a prospective student. “That high?” the father said. “That’s all?” the daughter said.

The figure is “on the low side” for law schools, Closius said, but he sees it the way alum does.

“If you come to UB, the bulk of students are going to have to be able to deal with a $90,000 debt service on a $65,000-a-year salary,” he said. “That’s not easy.”

The school, incidentally, has raised tuition 77 percent in the last 7 years.

Watch video from the Newsmakers interview with Dean Closius

“The only thing that justifies it is, so is everyone else in the law school world,” Closius said.

In that vein, I asked him about the future of law schools; a recent law review article predicts there will be   fewer law schools in the years to come. Closius said he believes law schools will close or shrink in size.

“The pressures are becoming too strong,” he said. “If you’re not producing jobs, if you’re not giving people the economics that make sense, you’re going to get hurt. And I think it’s going to happen soon.”

Just not at UB, he was quick to add.

“I don’t think we’re closing,” he said. “We’re on the good side.”

For the ‘Love’ of biking

Last year at this time, Mike Hamburg was preparing to bike around northern Israel to raise money for a children’s hospital in Jerusalem. This year’s Wheels of Love charity ride will take him on a route near Israel’s borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

“A bunch of Jewish doctors and lawyers biking near Gaza; nothing good can happen,” the Pikesville lawyer joked Monday. (For the record, police escorts accompany riders throughout the five-day bike ride.)

Continue reading

More on ‘no-body’ cases

Two follow-up items on yesterday’s Maryland Lawyer cover story about the no-body murder trial underway in Baltimore County:

1. Almost as interesting as the circumstantial evidence prosecutors will use is the evidence they are not allowed to use.

Surveillance video shows Tracey Gardner-Tetso’s car pulling into a Days Inn parking lot in Glen Burnie the night she went missing in March 2005. The grainy tape shows a “tall subject exiting the vehicle,” according to a May 2009 request for a search warrant and seizure by county police Detective Philip G. Marll.

Marll wanted to measure the height of the TransAm to compare it to the height of the pick-up trucks parked next to the car in the surveillance video.

“The subject who exits Mrs. Tetso’s vehicle appears to be almost as tall as the height of the pick-up truck,” Marll wrote.

Continue reading

Here comes the bride (and the bride, and the bride)

Earlier this year we wrote about the upcoming nuptials of the Kunkel girls, three sisters who were sharing a wedding day. Well, that special day is Saturday in Wisconsin. And now their story has been picked up by the national media. The women and their soon-to-be husbands appeared Thursday morning on the CBS Early Show.

Full disclosure: I know Katie from our days at the University of Maryland; her dad, Tom, is the president of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and the former dean of Maryland’s journalism school. (Her dad has also kept a blog leading up to the big day.)

Congratulations to the entire Kunkel family.

YouTube Preview Image

From storefront to restaurant

Monday’s Maryland Lawyer cover story is about a controversy surrounding the paved parking lot of The Oregon Grille. One thing I could not fit into the story is a bit of the history and significance of the restaurant’s building, which adds some context to the legal dispute.

The Oregon Grille occupies the last company store in use in Baltimore County, according to Ruth Mascari, who sits on the board of directors for the Baltimore County Historical Trust. The store dates back to at least 1846, when county records note storekeeper C.J. Rosan had an inventory worth $1,200, according to the Baltimore County Public Library’s archives.

The nearby Oregon Furnace started up three years later. It was destroyed by fire in 1853, but ore mining continued at the site for another 30 years, according to John McGrain, a former county planner and historian who has written about the county’s manufacturing villages.

Thomas Kurtz, Oregon’s last foreman, then bought the entire 457-acre tract and continued operating the general store, according to McGrain.

The property remained in the Kurtz family until the county purchased it in 1969 and created Oregon Ridge Park.

A sketch is worth 1,000 words

My colleague Danny Jacobs’ article on the courtroom sketch that attorney Sally B. Gold keeps in her office hit home with me — literally.

I, too, have a sketch of one of my courtroom exploits, which I have hanging in a hallway of my house. The sketch — which accompanies this post — was drawn Dec. 2, 2003, by the aptly named Art Lien, as the Supreme Court was hearing arguments in Locke v. Davey.

In the case, the high court ruled on Feb. 24, 2004, that Washington state did not violate a student’s constitutional right to free religious exercise by excluding him from its scholarship-awards program because he was pursuing a degree in theology.

In the sketch, I am the one in the lower right-hand corner with dark hair and a pen in my raised left hand, preparing to take notes. (The blonde woman at lower left is Nina Totenberg.)

Please tell us the story behind one of your courtroom sketches by commenting on this post.

Did you have a Professor Kingsfield?

As reported in today’s Maryland Lawyer, many former students of the late University of Baltimore law professor Royal G. Shannonhouse III will remember him — quite fondly — as the school’s answer to Charles W. Kingsfield Jr., the contracts professor in the novel, movie and television series The Paper Chase who made his students’ life a living hell.

The most memorable scene from the 1973 movie — and one that now seems quaint in an era of cellphones — is when Kingsfield, played by John Houseman, reaches into his pocket and tells student James T. Hart in front of the whole class, “Mister Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.”

Hart, played by Timothy Bottoms,  responds to the professor’s comment by calling him “a son of a bitch.”

But Kingsfield, as is his wont, gets in the last word: “Mr. Hart, that is the smartest thing you’ve said all day. You may take your seat.”

Who was your Professor Kingsfield? Tell us about him or her in the Comments.