Posted On: March 24, 2009

Barney Frank and Justice Antonin Scalia

Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank called Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a "homophobe" in a recent interview with the gay news Web site, according to an Associated Press article today. Specifically, the Democratic lawmaker said, "I wouldn't want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has too many votes on this current court."

I support most of what Barney Frank supports politically and I oppose Justice Scalia on most issues on which reasonable people differ. But this is just a stupid thing to say, right? Democrats cannot play the "You Unfairly Label Me Because You Disagree With Me" card in one breath and the "You Are a Bigot Because You Don't Agree with Me" card with the other.

I hate it when people I otherwise agree with say stupid things.

Posted On: March 23, 2009

Medical Malpractice Lawyers Leaving Whiteford, Taylor & Preston

A group of medical malpractice lawyers from Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP are heading to the ever growing Hodes, Pessin & Katz P.A. in the coming weeks, according to the Maryland Daily Record this morning. At least three lawyers are leaving: Natalie C. Magdeburger and Catherine W. Steiner and of counsel Mairi Pat Maguire. Presumably, their malpractice associates will be coming with them because that is the last of Whiteford's medical malpractice group. One huge client, Johns Hopkins, has already announced it will follow and move its malpractice work to Hodes. GBMC did not comment but you can bet they are following them as well.

The Daily Record laid out the history of the attrition of that one large medical malpractice section:

Over the last two years, Whiteford has lost several other litigation partners. Ward B. Coe III, M. Natalie McSherry, Dana Petersen Moore and Stephen B. Caplis have moved, respectively, to Gallagher, Evelius & Jones LLP, Kramon & Graham P.A., Venable LLP and Setliff & Holland P.C.

The firm has also lost litigation partners James R. Chason, James F. Rosner, Francis X. Leary and Raymond L. Marshall, who formed a boutique civil defense firm bearing their names.

In another recent departure for Whiteford, business and health care lawyer William M. Davidow Jr. moved to Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander LLC last month.

If this were 2006, I might think that Whiteford would not mind seeing these medical malpractice lawyers leave because the billing rates for a lot of their business related clients are so much higher. But now, the malpractice stepchild with their relatively low rates but steady work with clients that pay their bills like clockwork does not look quite so bad.

Whiteford laid off an undisclosed number of full-time administrative employees earlier this year so obviously they are feeling some pain. But Whiteford is a good law firm, I bet they will adjust and be ready to thrive when the market turns around.

Posted On: March 18, 2009

Facebook Mistrial: Social Websites Continue to Create Havoc

A Philadelphia juror’s Facebook post that gave a heads up to his friends about a verdict in a criminal case has caused more consternation among lawyers over whether judges need to clarify jury instructions about online communications.

A juror's Facebook post before the verdict gave his Facebook friends a heads-up that his five months of jury service in a big trial was almost over: "Stay tuned for a big announcement on Monday everyone!"

My opinion: I don't think there is any way to stop this. Jurors know they should not communicate with anyone about the case. A small minority are going to ignore these instructions. It is what it is.

Related Posts

  • Associated Press Article on the Case
  • Jurors and Twitter
  • Posted On: March 18, 2009

    Big Vanilla Sexual Harassment Settlement

    Big Vanilla has agreed to pay $161,000 to settle a lawsuit the government filed against Big Vanilla for sexual harassment, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    According to EEOC’s suit, the Big Vanilla violated federal law by sexually harassing several female employees at Big Vanilla in Pasadena and Arnold, Maryland, the two locations the health club has in Anne Arundel County. The EEOC said four women were subjected to repeated and unwanted sexually offensive remarks and sexual advances and that three of the women were fired in retaliation for their complaints about the discrimination.

    The EEOC also announced that in addition to the money Big Vanilla agreed to pay in the settlement, Big Vanilla Pasadena and Big Vanilla Athletic Club also agree to refrain from engaging in harassment on the basis of sex and from retaliating against employees who complain about it.

    This is no big deal, this is obvious a requirement already imposed by federal law. But Big Vanilla also agreed to monitoring by the EEOC, to train its current and future managers on anti-discrimination laws, and to post notices stating its commitment to maintaining an environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation. In other words, the EEOC is going to babysit Big Vanilla to make sure it does not sexually harass women in the future.

    Related Post:

    Big Vanilla Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

    Posted On: March 16, 2009

    Twitter Mistrial?

    Has it really come to this? Two defendants have appealed a $12.6 million verdict in a commercial litigation case alleging that a juror posted messages on Twitter during the trial that demonstrated he was biased against the defendants.

    According to the motion for new trial, one "tweet" listed the website of the Defendant and read in part: "Oh and nobody buy [defendant] Its bad mojo and they'll probably cease to exist, now that their wallet is $12 million lighter." Another read: "I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else's money." The motion theorizes that was "predisposed toward giving a verdict that would impress his audience."

    This is just plain silly because this all appears to be after the verdict. If he was Twittering during jury selection biased thoughts, that would be a very different motion.

    Posted On: March 16, 2009

    New Executive Director of the NFL Players Association

    Washington lawyer DeMaurice F. Smith, a partner at Patton and Boggs, was voted the executive director of the NFL Players Association last night.

    I think it is interested they picked a lawyer who is not a former NFL player. I thought the big problem with Troy Vincent's candidacy was that he was so young. But Smith is only 45.

    Smith is going to need to be ready to roll from Day 1. This reminds of me President Obama, who was also elected to take over an absolutely mess. The NFL owners voted last year to exercise a reopener clause in their labor agreement, which is likely to lead to a lockout unless cooler heads prevail. I think the NFL owners are really ready for war this time which means the new executive director of the NFL Players Association, who has some big shoes to fill replacing Gene Upshaw, needs to buckle his chinstrap and be ready to start (figuratively) hitting people.

    You can read the Washington Post article here.

    Posted On: March 11, 2009

    Judge Marvin J. Land

    Marvin J. Land, a former Baltimore County Circuit Court judge and retired lawyer, died at age 72 from cardiovascular disease according to the Baltimore Sun.

    He was appointed to the Baltimore County bench by Governor Mandel in 1971 when he was only in his mid-30s. He left the bench in 1980 and practiced law at Weinberg and Green (now Saul Ewing).

    This judge left the bench when I was in middle school so I never practiced in front of him or even met him. But from reading this Baltimore Sun piece, he sure sounded liked a nice guy. You can't beat nice guy judges.

    Judge Land was born in Baltimore and raised on East Barney Street, where his parents owned a grocery store. He was a 1953 graduate of City College.

    "While attending law school, Marvin worked as a butcher in his family's store," said his wife of 50 years, the former Ina Segal. When his father died, he ran the store while studying law at the University of Baltimore. He graduated in 1958 and earned that year's top score on the state bar exam, The Sun reported.

    Judge Land maintained a private law practice from 1958 until he was appointed as a trial magistrate for the Woodlawn Court by Gov. Spiro T. Agnew in 1967. He held that post until 1971, when appointed him to the Baltimore County District Court.

    Posted On: March 11, 2009

    Exxon Verdict Tomorrow

    The jury has reached a verdict on the Jacksonville Exxon oil spill trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court. Naturally, to keep the drama going, the verdict will not be announced until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

    I'm tempted to try to read the tea leaves and make an uneducated guess based on how long the jury was out. But I'm just going to be wrong. I'll post the verdict tomorrow.

    Posted On: March 10, 2009

    Venable Layoffs

    Venable announced today that it is laying off 16 lawyers, 5 paralegals, and 43 full time staff. The Maryland Daily Record in a brief story, said it will write a comprehensive story on the Venable layoffs tomorrow (here it is). Above the Law reports that Venable will also delay the start of the incoming class of first year associates from September 2009 to January, 2010.

    If you have student loans coming due or you otherwise expect to get a paycheck in September, this has to be incredibly frustrating, particularly for Venable first year associates who likely had their pick of Baltimore law firms. Then again, this economy is also probably hurting the law firm they could have picked over Venable.

    Posted On: March 4, 2009

    Death Penalty Compromise in Maryland Senate

    The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland Senate is nearing a compromise on the death penalty to change the law to only apply the death penalty in murder cases in which there is DNA evidence, a video recording of the defendant committing the crime, or a voluntary, videotaped confession. Governor O'Malley, as I have written before, appears to have moral conviction on this issue, appears willing to accept the compromise.

    I think the compromise is focused on avoiding executing an innocent man and this bill I certainly think helps accomplish this goal. I question the policy of singling out people who confess. Do we really want to put to death people that confess? I don't think killers necessarily act rationally but do we really want to put in incentives to confess? What would a murderer have to lose by just sticking it out at that point? But, practically, I think if this bill passes it will be the end of the death penalty in Maryland.

    Not that anyone cares what my view is because everyone has their own conviction on whether Maryland should have a death penalty. But I'll tell you anyway: I hate the death penalty and I'm glad Maryland is moving away from it and joining the rest of the civilized world.

    Posted On: March 3, 2009

    Medical Malpractice and the Baltimore Sun: My Last Thought

    I've written twice in the last week on The Baltimore Sun's position on the medical malpractice cap and the efforts in the Maryland legislature to return the malpractice cap in Maryland back to that of 2005, before MedChi - in my view - snookered the Maryland General Assembly by creating a crisis when clearly one did not exist.

    The Baltimore Sun - a paper I love and continue to think is underrated - continues to interject its opinion on this issue throughout its paper. My first complaint is that they are focusing their attention on Maryland medical malpractice lawyers instead of weighing the pros and the cons of the issue.

    Yesterday, The Sun continued its assault with an article on a legitimate concern about the availability of doctors in rural areas, a serious problem that rural areas have been dealing with pretty much since the advent of doctors. The story includes this passage:

    Rural doctors are saddled with more than school debt. They must also deal with the same high medical malpractice insurance rates and the lower-than-average reimbursements for services that all doctors in Maryland face.

    Really? The same medical malpractice premiums? Are you sure?

    Southern Maryland News has a similar article about the shortage of rural doctors, profiling the ostensibly tragic story of one rural doctor forced by the “skyrocketing cost of medical malpractice insurance” to abandon her own practice and join a group practice. The reason? Her malpractice premium “recently jumped from $11,000 to $16,000 a year.” For anyone who has spent 6 minutes with a doctor and gotten a $188 bill, it is unfathomable that this additional $13.70 a day was a deal killer. But that is the nature of the medical malpractice cap argument: malpractice lawyers are the root of everything that ails the medical community. (Unless we are talking insurance reimbursements, in which case short changing insurance companies are the root of all evil.)

    Continue reading " Medical Malpractice and the Baltimore Sun: My Last Thought " »

    Posted On: March 3, 2009

    Death Penalty Vote in Maryland Senate

    The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland Senate has voted to vote (I know that sounds strange) on a death penalty repeal bill after Mike Miller employed a rarely used legislative maneuver to consider legislation even after it failed to pass a Senate committee.

    Mike Miller did the right thing. Regardless of where you stand on the death penalty, it deserves a vote as opposed to getting killed in committee. It is also hard not to respect Governor O'Malley on this issue. This is not a political winner for him - the Governor is doing what he thinks is right. Regardless of your position, you cannot ask for more than that.