Steve Lash//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer//November 20, 2011
//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer
//November 20, 2011
Gov. Martin O’Malley on Friday stood by his right to criticize the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic for continuing litigation against a family-owned chicken farm on the Eastern Shore, despite strong objection from the law school’s dean.
O’Malley ignited the contretemps with a Nov. 14 letter to Dean Phoebe A. Haddon in which he assailed the “costly” litigation as an “ongoing injustice” against farm owners Alan and Kristin Hudson.
In response, Haddon urged O’Malley to back off and let the litigation run its course.
That reply, from the dean of his alma mater, did not move the governor.
“He wrote the letter. He said his peace,” O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said Friday. “The governor has every right to state his opinion on the use of state tax dollars.”
Haddon could not be reached for comment Friday due to a “crazy,” travel-filled day, said Jeff Raymond, a spokesman for the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
O’Malley, in a letter first reported by The Baltimore Sun on Friday, wrote that the state Department of the Environment had fully investigated the litigation’s allegation — that farm activities had polluted the Pocomoke River — and “found no strong evidence” linking bacterial pollution in the waterway to the farm.
“I am not advocating that the government should dictate the clients clinics may represent or the cases they should undertake,” O’Malley wrote. “But it is my strong belief that this case, at this juncture, is a misuse of state resources…. This case, given the facts now discovered, uses the economic weapon of unlimited litigation resources, namely, taxpayer supported state resources — to potentially bankrupt and destroy a family farming operation which has no recourse to similarly unlimited litigation assets.”
In her response, Haddon told O’Malley she was “uneasy” that he would state his opinion on the merits while the case is in litigation.
“Such statements have the potential to become highly prejudicial, undermining the integrity of the judicial process and the independence of the lawyers’ relationship with their clients,” she wrote. “I urge you to let the judicial process resolve this matter.”-