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Top 5: ‘Poor people will be getting a lot more justice’

Maryland’s top court made big news this week when it ruled that criminal defendants have a right to council at their initial bail hearings. That story and more in this week’s legal affairs top 5.

1. Court: Defendants have right to counsel at initial bail hearings – by Steve Lash

Criminal defendants have a right to counsel when their bail is set, Maryland’s top court unanimously held on Wednesday.

Without finding a constitutional guarantee, the Court of Appeals said the state’s Public Defender Act entitles defendants to have a lawyer present at the initial bail hearing.

2. Lawyers beware: Handle social media information with care – Kimberly Atkins, Lawyers USA

Technological advances continue to make life easier and yet more complicated at the same time.

Take “frictionless” social media — full integration between sites like Facebook and third-party applications and websites so that friends and family know where you are and what you are doing at all times, without a user having to make any status updates.

3. Anne Arundel judge strikes down ground rent law – by Ben Mook

A state law that changed the process for how ground rent holders can evict non-paying homeowners has been ruled unconstitutional by an Anne Arundel County judge.

In 2007, legislators did away with a rule that let ground rent holders take possession of a property through a process known as ejectment if the homeowner failed to pay the rent. In a Dec. 20 opinion, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Paul F. Harris Jr. ruled that that change was unconstitutional.

4. Judge hears case over Maryland funding of black schools – by Steve Lash

A civil rights lawyer battled an attorney for the state in federal court on Tuesday over whether Maryland is still shortchanging its historically black colleges and universities in funding, programs and student recruitment, despite promises the University System of Maryland made to the federal government more than a decade ago.

Michael D. Jones, representing current and former students at historically black institutions, said Maryland “has not eradicated the vestiges” of past racially discriminatory policies and practices that had kept HBI’s behind other schools in the quality of their programs, laboratories, libraries and dormitories.

5. Court of Appeals withdraws decision in condominium case – by Steve Lash

Maryland’s top court has ordered a do-over.

The Court of Appeals last month withdrew a decision it had issued Oct. 25 and in the process reinstated — at least temporarily — a $1 million award to about 25 condominium resale purchasers in Port Deposit.

The court, by withdrawing the decision, also lifted its controversial ruling that property managers and condo associations must disclose at closing what they know about latent, potential property damage — even if they had not been cited for a health or building code violation.