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Top 5: ‘I believe in Paul Schurick’

The owners of a former Owings Mills restaurant alleged their landlord increased the rent as it attracted more black customers. A state audit faulted the clerk’s office in Baltimore City Circuit Court for not being able to verify nearly $35 million collected in civil fees. But the top law story of the week was the indictment of two men connected with last year’s gubernatorial election. The Top Five:

1. Former Ehrlich aide indicted with Henson for Election-day robocalls – By Steve Lash

A Baltimore grand jury indicted Paul E. Schurick, formerly the communications director and a campaign aide to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., for helping to coordinate Election Day telephone calls that were allegedly intended to suppress Democratic voter turnout during Ehrlich’s unsuccessful run to reclaim the post last year.

The grand jury also indicted Julius Henson, a campaign consultant who allegedly coordinated the automated calls to 112,544 registered Democrats in Baltimore city and Prince George’s County telling them to “relax” because the Democrats had “been successful.”

2. Lawsuit filed by former restaurant owners alleges racism by landlord – By Steve Lash

The former owners of a defunct Owings Mills bar and grill have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against David S. Brown Enterprises Ltd., claiming the Baltimore-area landlord drove them out of business as more blacks frequented the restaurant.

Cibo Bar & Grill’s former proprietors said Brown Enterprises increased the rent and began charging maintenance and attorney’s fees as the restaurant’s clientele changed.

3. Audit faults Baltimore City Circuit Court clerk’s office for outstanding fees – By Steve Lash

A state audit has found “significant” accounting deficiencies in the Baltimore City Circuit Court clerk’s office, including a failure to collect nearly $8 million in outstanding criminal fees and to verify that more than $34.3 million in civil fees had been paid.

The Office of Legislative Audits urged Frank M. Conaway — the court’s clerk and a declared Democratic candidate for Baltimore mayor — to improve his office’s accounting procedures.

4. Jury awards $11.8M to Westminster man – By Brendan Kearney

A Carroll County jury awarded more than $11.8 million to a Westminster man whose car was rear-ended by a repeat drunk driver in August 2007 and who developed a painful and debilitating nerve condition that has largely confined him to a wheelchair.

After a week-and-a-half of trial before retired Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence R. Daniels, members of the jury panel cried Friday afternoon as they delivered their eight-figure verdict for Michael Wayne Harris and his wife, Connie, according to their lead attorney Robert J. Weltchek.

5. Third trial ordered in murder of three children – By Brendan Kearney

Two Mexican immigrants serving life sentences for the triple murder of their young relatives are entitled to a third trial because the Baltimore judge who presided over the second one did not disclose several notes from the jury to their defense attorneys, a split Court of Appeals held.

In a 4-3 decision, the high court decided the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the judge’s failure to tell attorneys for Policarpio Espinoza Perez and Adan Espinoza Canela about five substantive notes did not influence the verdict.