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Top 5 law stories of the year

A half-million-dollar verdict from January was the most-viewed legal affairs story on The Daily Record’s website in 2011. Readers also flocked to stories about the legal troubles surrounding the Baltimore Grand Prix, personnel changes in the public defender’s office and how the man pictured here beat his speed camera ticket thanks to a typo.

The Top 5 most-viewed legal affairs stories online of 2011 are as follows:

1. Verdict: Merck owes fired employee $555K — Jan. 14

A Baltimore jury has awarded $555,000 to a former Merck & Co. saleswoman who claimed she was fired two years ago in retaliation for reporting her supervisor’s violations of corporate policies.

The panel deliberated about three hours Friday afternoon before finding in favor of Jennifer Scott, a 47-year-old Ellicott City woman who worked at Merck from 1992 to 2008. The jury of five women and three men determined Scott was owed $513,000 in back pay and $42,000 in front pay. Similar to back pay, front pay essentially is the equivalent of future lost earnings.

2. Office of the Public Defender fires five — May 6

The Baltimore County Public Defender and the four supervising attorneys in the juvenile division of the agency’s Baltimore City office have been fired.

Thelma Triplin, whose leadership of the county office was publicly called into question as part of the firing of former State Public Defender Nancy Forster in August 2009, was terminated Thursday, according to sources within the Office of the Public Defender. Donald E. Zaremba is now acting public defender in Baltimore County.

The juvenile division supervisors — David Addison, John Deros, Barbara Kirsch and Leonard Schwartz — were fired Friday morning. David Fishkin, who had led the beleaguered juvenile division of 28 lawyers, was not fired but will be reassigned within the agency, the sources said.

3. Maryland handgun laws ruled outside scope of Second Amendment — Jan. 5

Maryland’s law restricting gun possession outside the home without a permit does not conflict with recent Supreme Court rulings that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms extends to individuals, Maryland’s highest court held Wednesday.

The Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the 2008 conviction of Charles Francis Williams Jr., who bought his handgun legally but was arrested outside his home for violating a state provision on carriage and transport. Williams challenged his conviction based on District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, Supreme Court decisions from 2008 and last year, respectively, that extended Second Amendment rights to individuals and to the states.

4. Speed camera ticket tossed over typo in Maryland law — May 2

James Liskow beat his speed camera ticket literally by a letter in the law.

Liskow found what he argued was essentially a typo in the 5-year-old statute, a position that resulted in his $40 fine being thrown out Monday by the Montgomery County Circuit Court.

How Liskow’s case will affect others who have received speed camera tickets is unclear. A spokeswoman for the Montgomery County police said the ruling only impacts Liskow’s citation.

5. Baltimore Grand Prix sued by its founder — Aug. 15

Steven Wehner, the man responsible for the original idea to bring auto racing to the streets of downtown Baltimore, has filed a nearly $750,000 complaint against the organizers of the Baltimore Grand Prix.

According to the complaint, Baltimore Racing Development LLC was to have paid Wehner $575,000 over five years to purchase his 10.2 percent interest in the organization. But the filing claims that BRD has defaulted on its payments. Attached to the filing is an exhibit of the agreement between BRD and Wehner from May 12, 2010.

The agreement outlines a payment schedule in exchange for the ownership.