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Soaking it up at MSBA

One of my favorite things about being a journalist is that I can become an expert on a different topic each day. At the MSBA annual meeting, however, I can become an expert on a different topic each hour. Here’s what I gleaned from a few seminars Thursday morning.

Even mediators need mediators some time. The Alternative Dispute Resolution Section’s program discussed drafting documents in mediation session, which led to many in attendance throwing out hypotheticals about what a mediator can and cannot say. (I never knew “Is the cost of summer camp included?” could be such a loaded question.) It’s best to continue asking questions of the parties and let them come to their own conclusions.What’s legal information and what’s legal advice (which a mediator cannot give) can be a moving target.

There is no case law yet in Maryland about drafting documents during mediation. State law only allows a licensed Maryland lawyer to draft documents, non-lawyers doing it is apparently fairly commonplace.

Finding a buried airplane might not be as cool as I think. If I were part of the construction crew, that is. The Construction Law Committee discussed a variety of topics, including unforeseen site conditions. Michael W. Skojec, the committee chair, said there is always some indication that there’s something unusual during excavation. The disputes are over how much information was available prior to the discovery and/or if that information was shared.

There are two types of unforeseen conditions: natural (cobbles) and not inherent (the aforementioned airplane). Common law says the contractor bears the risk, with some exceptions, including if whatever is found makes construction physically impossible. Skojec advised the audience that the best course in the event of an unforeseen site condition is for the finder to alert everyone involved in the project immediate so everyone is on notice.

I have a new favorite bat. The O’Malley administration will push again for off-shore wind turbines during next year’s legislative session. But Abigail Hopper, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s energy advis0r, said the administration is willing to compromise so long as the legislation passes.

“We have not wavered from the goal,” she said. “We’re open to finding a better way to achieve that goal.”

Eric R. Glitzenstein, a Washington lawyer who represents wind turbine opponents across the country, said that when it comes to on-shore turbines, a company usually picks a site first and then momentum builds around the site, meaning opponents and wildlife advocates can’t get involved until late in the process.

He also offered a few statistics: 400,000 birds and 200,000 bats are killed annually by the wind turbines. Along the East Coast, 73,000 bats are killed by wind turbines, including the quarter-ounce-sized Indiana bat.

“This is the critter portion of the presentation,” he joked as an image of one of the bats appeared on the screen.

Awwwww.