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Angelos and the courting of Angeletti, Part II: The former judge takes the job

Retired Judge Edward T. Angeletti started at the Angelos firm last week, according to his new boss. ‘You found me, I’m here, there’s nothing secret about it,’ Angeletti said yesterday.

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The retired judge whose job offer from asbestos plaintiffs’ lawyer Peter G. Angelos ultimately led to a mini-trial mistrial last July has now joined the Angelos firm. Former Baltimore City Circuit Judge Edward J. Angeletti was not surprised to hear from a reporter yesterday at his new offices.“You found me, I’m here, there’s nothing secret about it,” Angeletti said. He referred calls for further comment to Angelos.“Ed Angeletti joined the firm beginning March 5th and we are pleased to have him here,” Angelos said yesterday. “I’ve known Ed 35 years — longer than 35 years. He’s a lawyer of first-rate integrity and among the finest legal minds in the state.“He will be a great help to us in very important litigation. He has exceptional experience, a fine legal mind and the ability to get very complex litigation matters resolved in an efficient and expeditious manner.” Angelos said he made his latest offer to Angeletti “after he terminated his tour of duty with the court at the beginning of February.”Angeletti, who retired from the active bench in November 1999, stepped down from the bench for good on Jan. 31. He said he spent most of February on vacation in Italy.Angelos said Angeletti is supervising his professional malpractice and serious personal injury unit, which consists of 12 lawyers and their support staffs. The former judge is not involved in any asbestos- or tobacco-related litigation for the firm.Defense disbelief News of Angeletti’s new job didn’t sit well with defense counsel for asbestos defendants, whose memory of the dispute that flared last summer is still fresh.“I think that this is really pretty unbelievable,” said Donald S. Meringer, a lawyer for the Lancaster, Pa.-based asbestos defendant Armstrong Contracting and Supply (ACandS). Meringer moved twice to have Angelos recuse himself after the judge disclosed to counsel that Angelos had offered him a job while the judge was hearing pretrial motions in the asbestos litigation. Angeletti waited until after the defense rested to recuse himself. At the time he said it was “unfair to the parties” to focus the attention on his relationship with Angelos rather than the trials. The late recusal caused a mistrial.“How many months are we away from when all this happened? Six, five, four months has it been?” Meringer mused aloud yesterday.“It’s a real issue to be looked at by the appeals court,” Meringer added. “This subsequent history is not a part of the record but maybe we’ll be able to find a way to make it a part of the record.”Angelos, however, once more downplayed allegations of any impropriety, which he said have been concocted by defense lawyers working with the news media.“I thought [Angeletti] was leaving when we spoke last year,” Angelos said, adding that he withdrew his offer when the judge made it clear to him that he would remain on the bench to help the court reduce the huge backlog of asbestos cases pending.“He has now joined the ranks of private practice, which is of course the prerogative of all retired judges,” Angelos said.Private once moreA 1963 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, Angeletti spent the first three years of his legal career as an assistant state’s attorney for Baltimore City. He was in private practice from 1967 until 1971, when he became a founding member of the Office of the Public Defender of Maryland in Baltimore City. He returned to full-time private practice in 1979, until he was appointed associate judge of the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City in 1981.He became an associate judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City by appointment in 1983. Two years later he was designated judge in charge of the criminal courts, which he remained until 1991. He oversaw the circuit court’s juries from 1991 until he retired in 1999.Following retirement, Angeletti presided over one set of the first five asbestos mini-trial clusters, which began July 10.Trials in the other clusters resulted in damage awards ranging from $15,000 to $5.25 million against ACandS and six other defendants. Subsequent sets were settled before trial.Last month, a confidential global settlement between the Angelos firm and ACandS cleared 6,883 cases from the circuit court’s civil docket — all of ACandS’s remaining cases. However, several thousand cases remain active against asbestos defendant Porter Hayden Co. Inc. alone. Those will be tried in clusters, as were the ACandS cases that began going to trial last August: 150 cases at a time before five judges every three weeks.