State legal group advocates nationally

Maryland Legal Aid is spearheading an effort advocating for migrant workers’ access to legal services and community service and healthcare providers.

Maryland Legal Aid is leading a group of 35 legal and social services organizations from around the country in asking the United States to respond to a letter from the United Nations that criticizes the country’s treatment of migrant farm workers in labor camps.

The United Nations letter is actually a response to a complaint filed by Maryland Legal Aid and its partners saying that there is not enough access to migrant worker camps in the United States, according to a Maryland Legal Aid news release.

In their letter to the U.S. State Department, the groups ask to meet with government representatives to discuss solving the problem and improving access to farm workers.

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

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)

Bar raised highest in California

Bar exam

Prospective lawyers await the Maryland bar exam in 2010. (File photo)

It was either John Muir or Katy Perry who once described California as a place where “the grass is really greener.” Now we can add to the list of Golden State superlatives: toughest bar exam.

The Witnesseth blog has complied rankings of the most difficult bar exams based in part on bar passage rates from 2010 to 2011.

Arkansas finished No. 2, with Washington state, Louisiana (and its Napoleonic Code) and Nevada rounding out the Top 5.

Maryland finished 10th, four spots behind Virginia, which has bar exam takers with the highest LSATs, according to Witnesseth. Washington, D.C., was omitted from the list because of a too small sample size.

The news comes as Illinois announced earlier this month it would raise the minimum passing grade for its bar exam by four points. Maybe that will help boost its 32nd ranking.

In what state did you take your toughest bar exam?

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.

 

Pit bull task force talk

The General Assembly’s pit bull task force met Thursday for the first time since this summer.

While no concrete decisions were made and only six of the 10 members of the task force attended, the group discussed how to determine whether a dog is at fault in the case of an attack.

As a recap: The task force is supposed to discuss legislation in response to an Court of Appeals decision earlier this year that ruled pit bulls are “inherently dangerous” and landlords and owners are liable in the case of an attack.

In a special session this summer, the General Assembly tried, but failed, to pass legislation dealing with the issue. Both the Senate and House of Delegates agreed that landlords should not be liable in attacks. While the Senate passed a bill making all dog owners liable in the case of a dog bite, the House of Delegates wanted narrower legislation that would limit liability only when a dog is running around “at large.”

In Thursday’s hour-and-a-half meeting, the group discussed the complexities of determining whether a dog bite is intentional and if a dog is at fault if he/she is provoked by a human.

“Is there any state in which it is allowed for a dog to be cross-examined?” Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, questioned during the work session.

Del. Benjamin F. Kramer, D-Montgomery,  said other states have had animal psychologists testify in court.

“We have to look at this from an animal’s perspective,” Kramer said. “From an animal’s perspective, this was provocation.”

Frosh, however, questioned Kramer.

“Do we really want to go down that road?” Frosh said.

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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.”

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.

‘Warrior Lawyer’ launches Facebook attack

Baltimore’s “Warrior Lawyer” is waging battle a little farther south down I-95.

J. Wyndal Gordon, the “Warrior Lawyer,” unleashed an attack on Washington, D.C., Councilman Michael Brown in a post on Facebook this week.

“I never was much into D.C. politics, but I do know a Rat when I smell one,” the post begins.

Gordon is representing Brown’s former campaign manager, Hakim Sutton. Brown fired Sutton after discovering campaign funds were missing. Gordon wrote the post after Brown held a news conference announcing the $114,000 in missing campaign money.

Gordon went on to accuse Brown of “skulduggery and debauchery,” saying Brown failed to properly pay employees and hinted that Brown himself had taken the missing money.

“It is due to his own laziness, arrogance, narcissism and greed that Brown finds himself in the position he’s in today [with little money], — not some false claim of theft as he would have the public to wholesale believe,” Gordon wrote in the post.

Closius: ‘A little strange’ being back at UB Law

Former University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Phillip Closius has returned to campus after he resigned his post as dean amid controversy more than a year ago.

Closius stepped down in July 2011 citing differences with the university’s administration. Closius said at the time that he thought the university was taking too much money from revenue raised by the law school.

Both parties have moved on as the fall semester starts this year. A new law school dean, Ronald Weich, started this summer. Closius took a year of administrative leave and has returned as a professor. He is teaching two sections of Constitutional Law II this semester and Constitutional Law I and sports law next semester.

“I’ve always loved teaching,” Closius said. “When I was dean, I always taught. Coming back to teaching is coming back to the roots of why I got into this.”

After his dramatic exit, Closius admitted it has felt different being back on campus.

“It’s a little strange,” Closius said. “I’m not going to pretend it’s not. I think everyone’s been good. The students have been wonderful, telling me their support for me. A lot of people have been telling me how happy they are that I am back.”

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