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Top 5: ‘[He] spent 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit’

The University of Baltimore School of Law received more funding from the university, while a title attorney received an immediate disbarment from the Court of Appeals. The Top 5 law stories of the week also includes advice on how to argue before the state’s top court, but it’s a lawsuit filed by a man who spent 20 years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit that takes the top spot.

1. Suit seeks $15M for wrongful murder rap — by Steve Lash

James Owens’ attorneys filed the civil-rights lawsuit Wednesday in Baltimore City Circuit Court, where a jury 23 years earlier convicted him of killing Colleen Williar, and where he was sentenced to life in prison.

In 2008, DNA testing of genetic material found on Williar excluded Owens, winning him a new trial. City prosecutors, who had consented to the DNA tests, instead dropped the charges that October.

Owens alleges that the prosecution in 1988 knew its star witness — James A. Thompson — was lying about Owens’ involvement and feared the case against Owens was unraveling. So, the complaint says, prosecutors “fed” Thompson information to fabricate eyewitness testimony, made promises of leniency if he testified as suggested and threatened to prosecute him if he did not.

2. UB Law to get more money from university — by Danielle Ulman

The University of Baltimore looked at the financial data of nine other universities with law schools and determined that its law school needed more money, university President Robert L. Bogomolny said Wednesday.

The money would come from the university’s central fund, tuition, a small increase in the number of new students the university admits and from increased fundraising, Bogomolny said.

3. Court of Appeals orders immediate disbarment — by Steve Lash

A title attorney was disbarred, effective immediately, just hours after the state’s top court heard allegations that he committed fraud in a failed property transaction and took thousands of dollars from a company he partially owned.

Aaron G. Seltzer failed to show up at the Court of Appeals for a hearing Friday morning on the Attorney Grievance Commission’s petition for sanctions. At that hearing, Bar Counsel Glenn M. Grossman — the commission’s chief investigator and prosecutor — asked the court “to entertain the idea that Mr. Seltzer should be disbarred as soon as possible.”

Grossman said Tuesday that he made the request because “the seriousness of the allegations was such that we felt, to protect the public, we were obliged to ask for immediate disbarment.

4. Stained, outdated note led to six-figure surprise for 13 heirs — by Danielle Ulman

One of Elliott S. Newcomb’s clients — Bernard Parker, a former Tuskegee Airman — died in December 2008. Newcomb was named personal representative of Parker’s modest estate.

Wanting to be thorough, Newcomb asked one of Parker’s sons to bring over any financial documents or banking records his father might have had. The son produced an enormous canvas bag full of what Newcomb said must have been a thousand papers, most of them unimportant.

One paper, though, piqued Newcomb’s interest: an uncashed check for $47,797. It was several years old.

5. How to maximize your appeal — by Steve Lash

The adage that a legal case is only as strong as the lawyer arguing it is never more profound than when the case is before the state’s top court.

High on the list of judicial peeves is inattention to the judges’ questions.

“I’ll get to that” is not an acceptable response to a question from the bench, said Court of Appeals Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr.