Top 5: ‘He had a 25-year-old mind in a 91-year-old body’

The Baltimore legal community mourning the loss of a longtime prosecutor and a Baltimore County restaurant winning a round in a battle over its parking lot are among the Top 5 legal affairs stories of the week. The most-read story of the week by far, however, was a federal judge’s ruling striking down Maryland’s handgun permit law. The Top 5 stories are:

1. Maryland handgun permit law found unconstitutional — by Steve Lash

A federal judge in Baltimore has struck down part of Maryland’s handgun permit law as violating the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Judge Benson E. Legg said the law’s demand that applicants show “good and substantial reason” to carry a gun is overly broad and not “reasonably adapted” to the state’s substantial interest in ensuring public safety.

2. Legal community mourns Alex Yankelove — by Ben Mook

In describing the late Alexander Yankelove, friends and colleagues of the man who spent nearly four decades at the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office paint a picture of a tireless worker whose unflagging professionalism influenced generations of young prosecutors — including one who went on to become governor of the state.

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Top 5: ‘There are no easy fixes’

News out of the state appellate courts dominates the most-read legal affairs stories of the week. The Court of Appeals disabarred one lawyer, threw out attorneys’ fees for another and heard an appeal by the former state public defender. The Court of Special Appeals also was asked to vacate its decision overturning much of Jacksonville residents’ $150 million judgment against Exxon Mobil.

Here are the Top 5 stories:

1. Top court disbars Hunt Valley attorney, scolds her counsel — by Ben Mook

In disbarring a Hunt Valley lawyer, the state’s highest court added a written admonishment to the woman and her counsel for an “unprecedented lack of common respect and decency” during the proceedings.

The Court of Appeals last week disbarred Michele L. Payer, a bankruptcy attorney, for numerous violations of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct. Among the more than 80 violations alleged in the Attorney Grievance Commission’s petition were failing to provide competent representation, commingling funds, and providing altered bank records to Bar Counsel during its investigation of complaints filed by two dissatisfied clients.

2. Court of Special Appeals asked to vacate opinion on Exxon Mobil damages — by Danny Jacobs

The Court of Special Appeals should vacate its decision striking down a significant portion of the $150 million in damages awarded to 88 Jacksonville households from Exxon Mobil Corp., according to a motion filed by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

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Top 5: ‘We like big cases’

Jury deliberations in an Anne Arundel County capital murder case and a pioneering change in Maryland corporate law are among the most-read legal affairs stories of the week. The list also includes to titans of the Baltimore legal scene teaming up to take on Facebook and a Court of Appeals ruling on DNA evidence. The Top 5 stories are:

1. Angelos, Murphy file lawsuit against Facebook over privacy violations — by Steve Lash

Two renowned Baltimore plaintiffs’ attorneys have filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook Inc., claiming that the world’s most popular social networking website has violated federal and California laws designed to protect the privacy of consumers.

William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. and Peter G. Angelos allege Facebook has surreptitiously used online tracking technology, or “cookies,” to keep tabs on its registered users’ activities, even when they have logged off of the website. Using this technology, Facebook has been able to see what other websites its members visit, Murphy and Angelos claim in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Northern California at San Jose.

2. Parents’ damages for stillbirth set at $800K — by Steve Lash

A Baltimore jury has awarded $400,000 each to two bereaved parents after finding a Glen Burnie gynecologist liable for the stillbirth of their child.

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Top 5: ‘The idea was very out-of-the-box’

The Court of Appeals delaying the implementation of its counsel at initial bail hearings requirement and the Court of Special Appeals upholding a $3.6 million medical malpractice verdict are among the most-read law stories of the week. Also making the list is a state judge one step closer to the federal bench and a lawsuit over a video shot at the Preakness one step closer to trial. The top 5 stories are:

1. Law firm’s marketing effort takes it to the Baltimore Bridal Show — by Beth Arsenault

Gorgeous gowns, amazing cakes, fabulous florists, luxury limousines: of the 200 or so vendors at the Baltimore Bridal Show, the overwhelming majority were focused on making the couple’s wedding day fantasies a reality.

At one booth, though, the fantasy took a back seat to real-life issues that can make or break a life of wedded bliss. Hodes, Pessin & Katz P.A. — the only law firm in attendance — was on hand with information about such things as prenuptial agreements, credit-history cleanups, estate planning and even vendor contracts.

2. U.S. Senate committee recommends Russell for federal bench — by Steve Lash

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge George L. Russell III took a giant step forward Thursday in his bid for a seat on the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

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Top 5: ‘Let’s give it a shot in Baltimore’

The Court of Special Appeals’ decision to reverse much of a $150 million jury verdict against Exxon Mobil kicks off the list of the most-read law stories of the week. Also making the list is Maryland’s decision to join the national foreclosure settlement and the story of a lawyer-turned-chef. The Top 5 are:

1.  Appeals court slashes damages for Jacksonville Exxon leak — by Danny Jacobs and Steve Lash

A divided Court of Special Appeals has struck down a large part of the $150 million in damages awarded to 88 Jacksonville households in their lawsuits against Exxon Mobil Corp. stemming from a massive 2006 gasoline leak.

The court left intact about $60 million in property damage claims, reversing the award to just one household.

However, a majority of the nine judges found the jury instruction on emotional distress damages was faulty and ordered a new trial on that count in Baltimore County Circuit Court for most plaintiffs.

2. Bid-rigging lawyer disbarred — by Daily Record Staff

Nearly two years after he pleaded guilty to a federal bid-rigging charge for colluding at tax-lien auctions, Harvey M. Nusbaum was disbarred Tuesday by the Court of Appeals.

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Top 5: ‘I think we have a crisis in front of us’

The latest developments stemming from the Court of Appeals’ counsel-at-bail ruling were both among the most-read legal stories of the week. Days after a House Judiciary Committee appeared poised to undo the Court of Appeals’ decision, the top court said it would delay putting it into effect for another two weeks. The Top 5 also includes a judge’s pending retirement and a state-approved settlement of an Eastern Shore sex-abuse lawsuit.

1. Judge Eyler to step down a little early — by Steve Lash

Court of Special Appeals Judge James R. Eyler will step down May 1, about 2½ months before the Maryland Constitution would compel his retirement at age 70.

“My intention has been to go into private mediation,” Eyler said last week in explaining his decision to retire early from the bench. “The sooner that occurs, the better. That is why I’m not waiting until July 13.”

Eyler, who has served on the intermediate appellate court since Jan. 9, 1996, said he would remain available after May 1 to hear cases by special assignment.

2. Mom with latex allergy wins in Court of Appeals — by Steve Lash

A private nursery school violated a Howard County statute by refusing to accommodate a mother’s request to stop using latex gloves when changing diapers, Maryland’s highest court has held.

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Top 5: ‘It’s a massive undertaking’

A battle over homeowner’s insurance and funding for the public defender’s office top the list of most-read legal affairs stories of the week. Also on the list are two more Court of Appeals decisions and news of a so-called “patent troll” coming to federal court in Baltimore. The Top 5 stories are:

1. AG loses fight against Allstate — by Steve Lash

Maryland’s top court Wednesday upheld Allstate Insurance Co.’s decision to stop offering new homeowners’ policies in Southern Maryland, the Lower Eastern Shore and parts of Anne Arundel County due to the company’s potential for catastrophic financial losses if a hurricane hits that region.

In its 6-1 decision, the Court of Appeals said Allstate reasonably decided in 2006 not to issue new policies after concluding that a Category 4 hurricane — involving winds over 130 mph — would cause more than $237 million in property damage were it to make landfall in Worcester County.

2. Budget boost won’t cover lawyers at bail — by Steve Lash

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed $1.1 million boost to the public defender’s budget next fiscal year is welcome, but falls short of the money the agency will need to comply with the decision that it must represent indigent defendants at initial bail hearings, said Maryland Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe.

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Top 5: ‘The petition having been improvidently granted’

The Court of Appeals deciding over a weekend not to rule on a case it heard and Gregg Bernstein looking back on his first year as Baltimore City’s top prosecutor are among the most-read legal affairs stories of the week. The list also includes a Maryland man having his case heard by the Supreme Court and a longtime aide to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown heading back to the private sector. The Top 5 stories are:

1. Maryland man’s lawsuit lands in Supreme Court — by Kimberly Atkins (Lawyers USA)

Daniel Coleman is one in five million.

That’s how many state workers across the country would be affected if the Supreme Court decides Coleman can sue his former employer for violating the self-care provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Coleman, who worked in Maryland’s Administrative Office of the Courts, claims he was fired in 2007 for seeking 10 days of FMLA leave to deal with complications of diabetes.

2. Lt. Gov. Brown’s chief of staff leaves for DLA Piper — by Ben Mook

After five years on the staff of Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the last three as chief of staff, Earl Adams Jr. has taken a position with DLA Piper US LLP in Baltimore.

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Top 5 law stories of the year

A half-million-dollar verdict from January was the most-viewed legal affairs story on The Daily Record’s website in 2011. Readers also flocked to stories about the legal troubles surrounding the Baltimore Grand Prix, personnel changes in the public defender’s office and how the man pictured here beat his speed camera ticket thanks to a typo.

The Top 5 most-viewed legal affairs stories online of 2011 are as follows:

1. Verdict: Merck owes fired employee $555K — Jan. 14

A Baltimore jury has awarded $555,000 to a former Merck & Co. saleswoman who claimed she was fired two years ago in retaliation for reporting her supervisor’s violations of corporate policies.

The panel deliberated about three hours Friday afternoon before finding in favor of Jennifer Scott, a 47-year-old Ellicott City woman who worked at Merck from 1992 to 2008. The jury of five women and three men determined Scott was owed $513,000 in back pay and $42,000 in front pay. Similar to back pay, front pay essentially is the equivalent of future lost earnings.

2. Office of the Public Defender fires five — May 6

The Baltimore County Public Defender and the four supervising attorneys in the juvenile division of the agency’s Baltimore City office have been fired.

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