Law blog roundup

scalesofjusticeimageWelcome to Monday, the 92nd anniversary of the first radio broadcast of a baseball game. Here are some news items to get the week started.

– Turkish court sets the price for a failed coup attempt.

– Online gun sales might provide a show-like loophole.

– Buying someone a drink has landed one Texas man in big trouble.

– Court-martial of accused Fort Hood shooter begins Tuesday — nearly four years after deadly rampage.



Woman acts crazy to avoid jury duty

Remember the time on “30 Rock” when Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, got out of jury duty by dressing up as Princess Leia and pretending she actually thought she was the Star Wars character?

“I really don’t think it’s fair for me to be on a jury since I’m a hologram,” Lemon, in full Leia garb, told the judge on the show.

A Denver woman tried to pull off a similar ploy in real life, except instead of a side-buns hairstyle and intergalactic white dress she donned mismatched reindeer socks, smeared make-up and hair curlers, The Denver Post reports.

Susan Cole, a published author and cosmetologist, spoke in “disjointed” speech to Denver District Court Judge Anne Mansfield during jury selection in June last year.

“I broke out of domestic violence in the military,” Cole told the judge. “And I have a lot of repercussions. One is post-traumatic stress disorder” she told the judge.”

Cole avoided jury duty, but the story didn’t end there. Cole called into a radio program that was talking to listeners about how they avoided jury duty. Cole described her outfit and behavior to the hosts and Mansfield heard it all.

Cole tried to tell Fox31 in Denver that her story to the judge that day was true, but her effort was in vain. After investigators looked into the matter, the Denver District Attorney’s Office charged Cole with perjury and attempting to influence a public servant.

Now, it’s possible Cole could be headed to jail in the not too far, far away future.

Juan Williams: The Interview

Juan Williams told colorful stories about Thurgood Marshall and the importance of pro bono work Tuesday night at Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service’s annual awards reception.

He also addressed what would otherwise have become the elephant in the room.

“I’ve been through some rough water the last few days,” Williams said at the outset of his 20-minute remarks.

Williams was referring, of course, to his highly-publicized dismissal from NPR for comments he made on Fox News Channel and subsequent hiring by the cable network. Williams’ speech, at the University of Maryland School of Law, was scheduled prior to the controversy.

Williams, a journalist and author, said people have been asking him how he’s doing, a question he is not sure how to answer. He imagined Mary Todd Lincoln’s response to being asked “How’s the play?” upon leaving Ford’s Theater.

“It feels like, I’m not even sure what’s going on, what hit me,” he said. “But I know I just got rolled over.”

(My tweets last night about this led to some chatter; being there, I can say he was not comparing the two events but referring to the out-of-body experience he’s having.)

Following the reception at the University of Maryland School of Law, Williams answered reporters’ questions. Below are some of the highlights. I apologize for the video and sound quality, but equipment issues forced me to shoot with my phone. I’ll be back later this week with more about the MVLS event itself.

Dress capris and other little things

I was walking through the clerk’s office in Baltimore County Circuit Court on Monday when I heard music playing softly. I knew some people played the radio at their desks, but this time it sounded like Nelly Furtado was floating above me.

It turned out lite rock was being played through the office intercom system. Rick Arnold, the court’s new clerk, told me an employee suggested turning on the radio and he agreed.

“We can always turn it off,” he said. “Hopefully it makes for a little more pleasant environment for our employees and our customers.”

Arnold also has allowed women to wear open-toed shoes and dress capris in the clerk’s office. Far from being Tim Gunn, Arnold had no idea what dress capris were. (One of my coworkers explained to me that if you take a pair of dress pants and chop off a few inches, you probably have a pair of dress capris.) Rather, he’s operating under the theory that the little things in life can make a big difference, especially during the recent heat wave.

“If it’s going to be hot and we’re swamped, why make employees miserable?” he said.

The courts and the tweets

I’ve come to view the social norms of the courtroom as very similar to a house of worship. You dress up nice, speak in hushed tones and try not to snore during a sermon or closing argument.

I also know you don’t whip out your cell phone in either sanctuary. If you have to call someone or need to have an in-depth conversation, you step out into the hallway as far away from everyone else as possible. It’s both considerate and common sense.

I was thinking about this as I read Andy Green’s criticism of the Baltimore City Circuit Court’s ban on Twitter in the courthouse, prompted by the Dixon trial and verdict. As The Daily Record’s Official Dixon Verdict Tweeter, I guess I’m part of the reason why the ban was enacted.

My tweets, for the record, came from the hallway outside the courtroom. Granted, most of my tweeting was done while we were awaiting a verdict, so I wasn’t leaving the courtroom during any proceeding. But when court was in session, I would try to leave quietly during a break in the action, even if that was simply someone else speaking.

Of course, the nature of the Dixon trial meant there were at least a half-dozen people “quietly” leaving the courtroom at the same time as me. Judge Dennis M. Sweeney solved the problem on at least two occasions by allowing a group of reporters to sit in the back of the courtroom and leave to Tweet and report on his cue. Once we left the courtroom, though, we were not allowed back inside until the proceeding ended.

So while you’re “working” from home today, answer me this: How would you handle Twitter if you were a judge?

Mediator gets the last word

Bob Rhudy, Baltimore lawyer/mediator and erstwhile Daily Record columnist, was interviewed on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Monday for a segment on senior mediation. Better yet, he gets the last word in the online version. Read it here, or listen to “Your health: Mediators help families with tough choices of aging.” (Rhudy’s comments start about 2:55 into the 4:41-minute file).

Rap scrap: Webbie, promoter air legal laundry on 92Q

Baltimore hip-hop promoter Tracye Stafford wants her money — and she’s not afraid to confront her alleged debtor in the court of public opinion as well as in the courts of judges and juries.

Stafford, whose IKON Entertainment allegedly promoted two concerts for Louisiana rappers Webbie and Lil Boosie for which the men did not perform, took advantage of Webbie’s appearance yesterday morning on popular Baltimore radio station 92Q to ask why he stiffed her.

In a lawsuit originally filed in September Baltimore City Circuit Court but since removed to federal court, Stafford has claimed $1 million in damages for the cost of hyping the shows and harm to her reputation.

“You can’t take people’s money and not show, sweetheart,” Stafford said on the show. “That’s not the business we’re in. We both got to make money, not just you.” (A video of the show is posted on YouTube, with Stafford’s call starting about 80 seconds into the post.)

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Webbie, nee Webster Gradney Jr., said while he stole purses as “a little bitty boy…I don’t play with money like that no more.” He also claimed not to even remember meeting Stafford.

When Marc Clarke, host of the station’s Big Phat Morning Show, asked if Webbie would give a free performance to settle the lawsuit — something Stafford said she has offered as a solution to the litigation —Webbie was equivocal.

“I don’t know,” he said. “My price is going up as we speak. I got the #1 song in the country right now.”

“Independent,” which features Lil Boosie and Lil Phat, is currently #2 on’s Hot Rap Tracks.

Attorneys for the rappers and their management company, Trill Entertainment, are now pressing to put the dispute to an arbitrator, not a jury.

BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

Local radio giveaways get exotic

Everyone needs a gimmick… right?

As an avid listener of DC101′s “Elliott in the Morning” show on my way to work, I’m tempted to try to win a spot on their upcoming trip to Dubai, which they announced this morning. The talk show cast will be taking (an unspecified number of) winners along on a 5-day trip to the United Arab Emirates in March for the Desert Rock Festival.

The requirements to go were a bit surprising to me; beyond being over 21 and having a valid passport, your passport “must not have a stamp from Israel” or you could risk being denied admittance to the country. Has anyone out there heard of that happening?

If you’re a nervous flier or uninterested in traveling to the Middle East, you might fare better in WKLC-FM’s Valentine’s Day giveaway: a free divorce.

Charleston, W.Va.’s Rock 105 will be accepting applications through 4p.m. tomorrow from couples who anticipate a “relatively uncomplicated divorce.” (Apparently, if you’re expecting a long, drawn-out legal battle, this isn’t for you). Charleston attorney Rusty Webb will file the chosen case.

Update: The prize includes 10 free hours of legal services… enough to perform a speedy divorce?


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