Some area attorneys had a good week, some had a bad week. Five were fired from the Baltimore County Office of the Public Defender, and a former GlaxoSmithKline attorney was acquitted. Those stories and more in this week’s staff-written legal affairs top 5.
1. Office of the Public Defender fires five – by Brendan Kearney
The Baltimore County Public Defender and the four supervising attorneys in the juvenile division of the agency’s Baltimore City office have been fired.
Thelma Triplin, whose leadership of the county office was publicly called into question as part of the firing of former State Public Defender Nancy Forster in August 2009, was terminated Thursday, according to sources within the Office of the Public Defender. Donald E. Zaremba is now acting public defender in Baltimore County.
2. Former GlaxoSmithKline lawyer acquitted of all charges – by Danielle Ulman
A federal judge in Greenbelt has acquitted the former GlaxoSmithKline lawyer accused of lying to the government about off-label marketing of one of the pharmaceutical company’s drugs.
Judge Roger Titus said Tuesday there was not sufficient evidence in the case against former Glaxo Associate General Counsel Lauren Stevens to submit it to the jury.
3. Court of Appeals disbars Baltimore solo practitioner – by Steve Lash
Maryland’s top court has unanimously disbarred a Baltimore plaintiffs’ attorney who settled a car-crash lawsuit without his client’s knowledge or consent and who failed to pay nearly $30,000 owed to a physical therapist from a client escrow fund he managed.
Gary Francis Stern’s secret and unauthorized settlement of a claim involved “deception and self-dealing,” the Court of Appeals said. Misappropriation of client escrow funds “represents the gravest form of professional misconduct,” warranting disbarment, the high court added in its 7-0 decision last week.
4. CJCC gets Baltimore courthouse renovation study – by Brendan Kearney
The latest plan to upgrade Baltimore’s outdated and dysfunctional circuit court buildings calls for extensive renovations to the existing Calvert Street courthouses and the construction of a new criminal courthouse a block away, an undertaking that will cost as much as $600 million.
The feasibility study presented Wednesday at the Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission’s monthly meeting confirmed much of what courthouse regulars already knew: A major overhaul is needed to bring the city’s criminal justice system into the 21st century — and funding such a project is going to be very difficult.
5. Attorneys, notaries on the hot seat over foreclosure filings – by Brendan Kearney
Tough questions about the origin and authenticity of questionable signatures on foreclosure documents continued for a third consecutive day in Baltimore City Circuit Court Monday, this time with employees of Virginia-based Shapiro & Burson LLP taking the stand to answer for the law firm’s lax procedures.
To hear Shapiro & Burson’s representatives tell it, other circuit courts have not conducted such exacting show-cause hearings. Whereas other jurisdictions may have accepted the attorneys’ and notaries’ general explanations and apologies, Judge W. Michel Pierson and the special master he appointed to examine potentially problematic cases, former prosecutor Elizabeth A. Ritter, have been persistent in getting to the bottom of how things were done in thousands of foreclosure cases in recent years.