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Top 5: ‘I think it’s outrageous’

Decisions from the Court of Appeals dominate the most-read law stories of the week. The state’s highest court overturned two shooting convictions while upholding a death sentence. It also held the state’s constitution prohibits active judges from being age 70 or older. Here are the Top 5 stories of the week.

1.  Court of Appeals upholds death sentence for Jody Lee Miles – Steve Lash

The standard that Maryland jurors use in deciding whether to impose the death penalty is constitutional, the Court of Appeals held.

The decision comes three years and four months after the top court heard the challenge by Jody Lee Miles, who was sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder and robbery of an Eastern Shore musical theater director.

2. Concerns about new formula for attorneys’ fee awards – by Steve Lash

The Court of Special Appeals’ degree-of-success formula has drawn criticism from civil rights and consumer advocates who say it would discourage private attorneys from taking the cases, which often result in low jury awards.

Defense attorneys have also voiced reservations, saying the formula could force their clients’ private settlement offers to be disclosed.

3. Army Reservist sues city over job lost after return from active duty – by Andy Marso

Andrew Gross, a Columbia resident currently stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., was hired as an assistant state’s attorney in the District Drug Treatment Court in March 2009. He was called to active duty in July of that year and left the office for six months of training.

According to his complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the state’s attorney’s office refused to rehire him upon his return and then filled the position without telling him after it became vacant again.

4. Court: State judges can’t be over 70 – by Steve Lash

The Maryland Constitution clearly prohibits anyone age 70 or older from being an active judge, the state’s top court unanimously held Thursday in dealing perhaps the final blow to former Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Charles G. Bernstein’s bid to return to the bench.

In a federal lawsuit to get his seat back, the septuagenarian has argued that the state constitution does not treat jurists equally because it compels sitting judges to retire but permits appointment or election to the circuit court after age 70.

5. Shooting convictions overturned by Court of Appeals – by Danielle Ulman

Two men who were convicted in a West Baltimore shooting in 2005 are entitled to a new trial due to unfair remarks by the prosecution, the state’s highest court held.

Telling jurors to “say ‘Enough’” ran afoul of a ban on appealing to their own personal safety, the Court of Appeals held, faulting the trial judge for overruling a defense objection when the prosecutor made that remark during the rebuttal portion of closing arguments.