Last month, I did something scary. I left a perfectly good gig as a shareholder at Ober|Kaler, a large Baltimore-based law firm. I have many good memories from my almost nine years with the firm. The problem is, as I have recounted only somewhat jokingly, that I figured out late in life that I am a hippie – OK, more of an unabashed progressive who still enjoys a monogramed cuff.
Since becoming a lawyer, I have learned (somewhat to my dismay) that I am not a libertarian. Yes, I think marijuana should be legal and yes, I believe that our government has become too invasive in its collection of information for supposed security reasons. But I’m no Rand Paul. There is real value in unionization of workers, raising the minimum wage, gun control, protecting the environment and, if we are being honest, the free market cannot be left unfettered, as that plan results in the exploitation of workers and consumers.
So, after working on some very serious personal injury matters and a large-scale, medical device products liability case, along with doing pro bonowork for immigrant children with the Esperanza Center, it dawned on me that I needed to take the fork in the road and I’m hopeful that it will make all the difference.
As careful readers of The Daily Record may have noted, I am now of counsel to Williams & Santoni LLP in Towson, where I am a full-time plaintiffs’ attorney. It is immensely inspiring to be representing people who have been wronged, sometimes intentionally and sometimes due to another’s carelessness.
The intentional wrongs (scams/ripoffs, trampling of civil rights, violence and abuse) are at once hard to fathom and disappointingly understandable. Our human condition causes us to suffer from frailties and failures of judgment. It drives people to take advantage of others for the sake of money or power.
An example of corporate ethical failure now is unfolding in garages and driveways across the United States. Those of us (yes, I’m a member of this club) who purchased a diesel-powered Volkswagen or Audi since 2009 are confronting the mounting record showing that Volkswagen added a defeat device to its TDI (diesel) engines that modified the emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) during testing so that the engines appear to be compliant with U.S. standards.
Let’s say you and your wife thought you were purchasing a fuel-efficient, clean-burning diesel that was good for your family, your wallet and the environment. You may have fallen prey to a massive (alleged) fraud perpetrated by a large, respected corporation. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a Notice of Violation to Volkswagen detailing the federal agency’s findings that the “defeat devices bypass, defeat, or render inoperative elements of the vehicles’ emission control system that exist to comply with [Clean Air Act] emissions standards.” The emission standards for NOx “aim to protect human health and the environment” because NOx and other gases lead to ozone (smog).
Why should that same couple, who thought they were buying the fuel-efficient, clean-burning diesel to transport their young children, care about ozone? According to the EPA, “breathing ozone can also worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Children are at greatest risk of experiencing negative health impacts from exposure to ozone.”
My son has had breathing-relating issues for years. We have seen seasonal asthma attacks and bouts of bronchitis that have deteriorated into pneumonia. Stay up all night with your toddler trying to get him to use a nebulizer filled with steroids and then see how you feel about airborne pollutants that cause harm to children.
This is not going down easy. The car in my driveway that we were once proud to own is now a searing visual reminder of why I switched up my life to exclusively represent people. We have allowed corporate power to become outsized. We need government regulatory enforcement and private attorneys to act as a check on that power. From here out, I am glad to be among those hoping to restore balance to our system. I intend to use my energies against those who wield their power to the detriment of our society and its most vulnerable members.