This Week in Maryland Lawyer

On the cover: With their progressive pilot potentially on the chopping block, the OPD’s Neighborhood Defenders in Park Heights are defending not only their clients but their problem-solving approach. Also, Caryn Tamber talks to University of Maryland law professor Danielle Citron about her research into online gender harassment and the law.

In the news: An EPA official says the agency wants more weapons in its arsenal; Maryland’s top court upholds a sex-abuse conviction based on the testimony of a 6-year-old victim; Mike’s Train House is sued for infringement; and an offshoot of the “driving while black” case will be the subject of a rare Court of Special Appeals en banc hearing.


  • Verdicts & Settlements features the case of an HIV-positive teacher who was fired from his job at a private elementary school in Arnold.

  • Before there was “The Power of Nice” or his success as a sports agent, there was the Modern Bar Review Course. In My First/Business, Ron Shapiro reflects on the lessons learned from his initial foray into commerce.

  • In Opinion/Commentary, Jack L.B. Gohn weighs in on the narrowing difference between blogs and journalism, while Edward J. Levin points out a key requirement under a Maryland deed of trust: naming an individual as the trustee. 


Back in Baltimore after the NAACP convention

benjealous.jpgUB Law student/ NAACP Law Fellow Malcolm P. Ruff returns from the NAACP convention with one last blog post. If you want to hear more, log on to “Real Talk with Ray Baker” tonight (Wednesday) at 8:00 p.m.

After a much-needed break, I am back to report on the biggest event of the NAACP Centennial Convention: President Obama’s speech.

I would love to say I cheered from the front row as my president moved the audience with his best impression of a Baptist preacher’s tenor and his rhetoric of justice and equality. I would love to say I joined the masses in chanting “OBAMA” over and over; that I shared a once-in-a-lifetime handshake and embrace with the man of the century.

Unfortunately, I wound up watching the speech on CNN. At the end of the day, it turns out I really am an intern — and when the hottest ticket in the Big Apple ran out, my ticket and those of my fellow interns were sacrificed to the dignitary gods!

That turn of events seemed initially to be some sort of an unreal curse. Luckily I refused to miss the big picture, and listened intently to President Obama’s words of thanks, praise and encouragement to the NAACP.

For me, his most noteworthy remarks were those acknowledging our country’s progress in eliminating inequality, yet also acknowledging that minorities still get the short end of the stick when it comes to HIV infection, health care, poverty, unemployment and imprisonment — disparities that are vestiges of past discrimination and racial hatred.

To me, the fact that my president has this historical perspective is beyond empowering. Too many people want to wipe clean the stains of our sordid past, especially with the election of our first black president; but I’m sorry folks, it just doesn’t work like that! As President Obama stated, we must be honest with ourselves; while people now generally treat each other with a higher level of tolerance, systemic inequities —byproducts of the past — must be addressed immediately for this country to truly stand tall upon its founding ideals.

The speech was not only historic, but purposeful. Because we have our first black president, many nay-sayers feel that organizations like the NAACP are losing their relevance. But I echo President Obama’s sentiments that the NAACP is needed just as much today as we were in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. And there is a new agenda: not only to find and stomp out discrimination, but also to be a stronger proponent than ever for self-determination and responsibility in the black community.

By the way, I did get a picture with the president: not Barack, but Ben Jealous, the new fearless leader of the NAACP, who was gracious enough to invite me to his reception in midtown Manhattan (that’s us above). For more photos — of (1) Jeffrey Wright, (2) Charles Ogletree, (3) Bobby Scott, (4) Attorney General Eric Holder and (5) Julian Bond with Holder — click on the slideshow below.

– Malcolm P. Ruff

Ruff: Waiting for Obama at the NAACP

naacp2.jpgMalcolm P. Ruff, UB Law student/NAACP Law Fellow, shares his views from the NAACP’s centennial celebration in New York:

Good morning! Today is the big day…the convention hall has been swept, the presidential route has been marked, and the VIP suite is fully stocked with the President’s favorites – everything is ready, but (as I write this) the guest of honor won’t even be here for another 10 hours!

That’s right folks, today is the day that President Barack Obama will be joining the NAACP at its Centennial Convention. As expected, the buzz is electric as convention-goers anticipate the arrival of the first African-American President in US history. My Obama paraphernalia count is at about 150 so far and it’s only 9 a.m.!

This morning on my way into the legal office, I spoke with Reggie Love, President Obama’s body man and my former teammate on the Duke University Varsity Football team. As many of you know, Reggie was a standout basketball and football star at Duke, and now is an integral member of the President’s staff.

As Obama’s right hand man, it is Reggie’s job to be a corporal extension of the President. He is responsible for performing any task that the President might need done; from scheduling meetings, to making phone calls on the President’s behalf, and even being the President’s own personal Dwight Howard when they play pick up (that’s basketball btw).

We talked briefly on Tuesday night when the President was in St. Louis for the All-Star game, and this morning Reggie expressed the President’s excitement about coming to address the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization on its centennial anniversary. It has been a while since I have seen Reggie — since leaving Duke’s campus in 2006 — so I hope I’ll get to see him and interview him tonight!

Meanwhile, I wanted to get reactions from convention attendees about the significance of President Obama coming to the NAACP’s Centennial Convention, so I headed to the exhibit hall to solicit some responses. Much to my surprise, I found Mr. Chris Gardner, self-made millionaire and writer of the Pursuit of Happyness, who was promoting his latest book, Start Where You Are. Mr. Gardner was gracious enough to take a photo with me and my good friend Danielle (that’s us in the photo above), and I had a chance to ask him what he felt about the significance of the President’s visit on such an auspicious occasion. He simply stated that this presidential visit should be a reminder to all people of color that although we have made massive progress, we must recognize that much work is left to be done, but we now have the means and the momentum to accomplish that work.

There is much more to come today as we await Barack Obama’s arrival. I must admit that I am getting more and more caught up in the anticipation and excitement with every passing hour! Check back in later to get the exclusive scoop on the President’s remarks.

Malcolm P. Ruff

Ruff-ing it: Behind the scenes at the NAACP convention

UB Law student/NAACP Law Fellow Malcolm P. Ruff continues to share his views from the NAACP’s centennial celebration in New York:

mfume.jpgWhile writing my last installment of “The Ruff Report” yesterday, I heard a loud buzz in the hallway.  I ventured out to find Mr. Michael Steele, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and the current RNC Chairman.

Mr. Steele had just finished addressing the convention floor and was doing interviews across the hall.  Fortunately, his assistant needed to use our office to print off a last-minute speech, and so in exchange he promised me that the Chairman would stop by to say hello.

Now to be clear, I am a Democrat and it baffles me how a black man could be a Republican, let alone chair the party, but Mr. Steele attempted to convince us that the Republican Party’s stances on education, the black family unit, and economic stability were in line with the needs and desires of minority citizens.  (Click here for the text of his remarks.) I didn’t even know the Republican Party had a stance on the black family, and after talking to several convention attendees, the consensus was that Mr. Steele failed to identify any real solutions to problems of racial disparities in each one of these areas.

By mid-day I was attending a panel that discussed the positive and negative portrayals of youth of color in various forms of media.  It was amazing to see approximately 300 highly conscious young black faces eager to tackle tough issues. The conversation centered on BET’s negative portrayal of black people, and in my opinion, I have to agree that it has become immensely hard for me to believe that BET has any intent on uplifting or positively affecting the culture of the black community.

The convention hallways are always full of notable public figures from arts & entertainment to politics, to business and of course the legal field.  It has been such a thrill: from rubbing elbows with Congressman John Conyers to fellowshipping with actor Jeffery Wright (Shaft, Cadillac Records, etc.), I have had the greatest experience meeting such accomplished personalities.

But none was more exciting than meeting Kweisi Mfume, who like me is a true son of Baltimore.  I remember being in middle school at Gilman when Mr. Mfume’s autobiography, “No Free Ride,” was released.  I read it from cover to cover, delving into the life of a man who was raised in the same type of lower-income urban area of Baltimore as me.  So when I ran into the former Association President on the restricted media level of the convention, I had to make sure I paid my respects because I truly consider him to be one of my local childhood heroes. (That’s us in the photo above.)

To wind up the night, I headed out to Broadway to see Patti LaBelle in concert at the Nokia Theatre (my boss hooked me up with VIP tickets, my mom is going to kill me!).  Check back in later to hear about the anticipation of President Obama’s arrival on Thursday!

Malcolm P. Ruff

More from the NAACP Centennial

Comments from Malcolm P. Ruff, the UB Law student/NAACP Law Fellow who’s blogging from the annual meeting in New York.

Greetings again from Manhattan and the NAACP Centennial Convention!

p7141054.jpgThe NAACP has incorporated its civil liberties initiatives into every facet of the event (theme: “Bold Dreams, Big Victories”). Sunday and Monday focused on the legal civil rights agenda, featuring two days of Continuing Legal Education seminars. The culminating panel, “Advancing the Civil Rights Agenda” featured one of my legal mentors, Professor Jose F. Anderson of the University of Baltimore School of Law, who presented his work on the autobiography of Charles Hamilton Houston to give historical framework to the new directions in racial justice litigation.

Certainly Monday’s highlight was the luncheon featuring U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who told a packed ballroom the Department of Justice will be aggressive in delivering justice to all Americans and in renewing the department’s focus on protecting civil rights.  In my opinion, Mr. Holder represents the tangible evidence of change that has been promised by President Obama.  The Attorney General seems to be in lock-step with President Obama as he also stressed personal responsibility as a requirement for bolstering the fight for equality.

This morning I met with RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who also addressed the convention (that’s us in the photo above). Check in later for more on his remarks to the plenary floor.

– Malcolm P. Ruff

Ruff reports from the NAACP convention

Malcolm P. Ruff, UB Law student and an NAACP Law Fellow, writes from the organization’s annual meeting:

In 1909, a rumbling that most likely originated in the spirit of moaning Negro Spirituals which bellowed from the brush arbor had grown to a loud unbridled roar.  In that year the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded out of the unbelievable pain and anguish of oppression and racial hatred that existed in our country.  One hundred years later, the nation’s oldest and most widely recognized civil rights organization gathers to celebrate overcoming the many obstacles of the past and the bright gleam of the future…

malcolm-ruff-4336rd.jpgGreetings from New York City and the NAACP’s Centennial Convention!  My name is Malcolm Ruff and I am a rising second-year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law.  This past spring, I was awarded a Summer Law Fellowship with the NAACP National Headquarters Office of the General Counsel.

As an NAACP Law Fellow, I have traveled to New York to meet with some of the most influential African-American people in business, politics, and the law.  We arrived at the convention on Saturday afternoon and immediately got to work doing last-minute preparation for our two-day Continuing Legal Education seminar program.  Each of the six Law Fellows was assigned to moderate two different panels in the 15-panel program; the panelists included attorneys like Cyrus Mehri and Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree to prominent politicians like House Representatives Bobby Scott of Virginia and Al Green of Texas.

This blog will include a sampling of the events and experiences of this momentous centennial occasion.  I was truly amazed on the first night of the convention when Continue reading