Articles Posted in Maryland Legal News

This is an interesting new case from the Maryland Court of Appeals that underscores the limits of the attorney-client privilege: you can’t use it as a sword and a shield. Here, the defendant in a breach of contract action hung his hat in his defense of a bad faith allegation by citing letters with his lawyers to show he was acting in good faith.

The court held that if you crack that door; you have to open the whole thing. This is a problem for the defendant if another correspondence to his lawyers is referred to by the court as the “stop the bastards email.” You can imagine this had an unhappy ending for the defendant, which it did to the tune of $40 million.

You can read the entire opinion in CR-RSC Tower I, LLC, et al. v. RSC Tower I, LLC, here.

A deeply divided Maryland high court agreed to allow us to vote on congressional redistricting plans.

The plaintiffs are some of the powers to be among Maryland Democrats: Dennis Whitley III (who gets his name on the case), Matthew Thomas, Anne Neal, and Karren Jo Pope-Onwukwe.

Basically, the referendum’s opponents wanted the court to throw out some of the petitions that had been signed to bring this issue to the voters.

For the past several years, the Maryland Judiciary has been developing plans for a comprehensive electronic case management system for the District Court, the Circuit Courts, and the two appellate courts. That system will involve court records being filed, maintained, and accessible in electronic, rather than paper, form. The Judiciary has chosen Tyler Technologies, a leading provider of software solutions for the Court and Justice community, as its partner in this endeavor. The Judiciary and Tyler are in the process of designing how the software will operate in the courts and interface with justice partners, including the attorney community. The Court’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure is now in the preliminary stages of developing Rules to accommodate MDEC. It is anticipated that the system will be installed sequentially by county or groups of counties, starting in Anne Arundel County on or about September 30, 2013.

Five core issues of basic judicial policy and certain possible options regarding those issues have been identified, upon which the Court invites public comment. Comments may present other issues and suggest other options. All comments should be in writing and sent to Sandra F. Haines, Esq., Reporter to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, 2011-D, Commerce Park Drive, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401 on or before September 21, 2012.

The Court will hold a public meeting on October 18, 2012, at 2:00 p.m., to consider the timely written comments. Oral presentations will not be permitted except by invitation of the Court. Decisions reached by the Court will guide the Rules Committee in the further development of Rules necessary to implement MDEC.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals today set the stage for an Election Day referendum on the state’s Dream Act, which would permit qualified undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at Maryland public universities and colleges.

The court ruled that the Dream Act is subject to a statewide vote, rejecting a lawsuit by CASA de Maryland, an immigrant rights group, arguing that the law governs appropriation of state funds and, thus, is constitutionally barred from being put before the voters.

The court moved on this fast: it heard arguments in the case Tuesday and gave its ruling without a written opinion today.

Four new Maryland appellate opinions today. None relate to personal injury claims, but I glanced at all four and figured I would make a blog post out of it.

  • Attorney Grievance Commission v. Butler: A 60-day suspension is in order if a lawyer shows up for trial without a good reason and without adequate communication with his client. In this case, the client got hit with a default judgment. To make matters worse, the lawyer did not tell the client, “Hey, you have a potential, ah, legal malpractice claim against me.” Judges Harrell and Battaglia argued in the dissent that the suspension should be longer. I’m inclined to agree with the dissent.
  • McNeil v. State: This was actually the subject of my moot court project during my first year of law school. I even remember my fictionial client’s name: Darryl Dare. Anyway, the question is whether jury verdicts in a criminal case can be factually inconsistent or illogical. The answer: they can. Juries don’t have to make sense because the verdict may be a compromise, but judges do. This has always been the law of Maryland, but the Court of Appeals muddied the waters a little bit four years ago in Price v. State.

In Koste v. Town of Oxford, Judge Robert A. Zarnoch starts out the Maryland Court of Special Appeals opinion like this:

Which comes first: a law’s enactment or a referendum drive? In this case, we consider the classic chicken/egg casualty riddle in the legislative/political setting. And in the context of petitioning to a referendum of a municipal annexation resolution, we conclude that the Legislature has required enactment to precede petitioning. We turn from the abstract to the concrete.

Honestly, I’m not sure what this means. In the bubble of personal injury cases in which I live, it is amazing to me how many other legal issues there are for judges to get their minds around.

Maryland State Senator Richard Colburn wants to help the University of Baltimore School of Law with a $500,000 grant. Okay. Deal.

Oh, wait. Nothing is really free, is it? Senator Colburn is upset because the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic is doing what law clinics do: fight for causes. Their cause is a lawsuit against a local chicken farm. Colburn represents Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, and Wicomico Counties, so he loves Purdue Chicken and chicken farmers.

Coburn wants to take the Maryland money and give it to the University of Baltimore Law School to assist “farmers in the state with estates and trusts issues, compliance with environmental laws and other matters necessary to preserve family farms.” The measure failed this year. I’m sure it will be back next year.

The Baltimore woman who says she has the winning Maryland Multi-Million (or whatever it is called) lottery held a news conference with her lawyer yesterday.

Her lawyer went after the media:

I cannot say with any certainty that this ticket exists and I would caution anybody, until it’s presented to the lottery commission for processing, that it does exist. We are only preparing in the event that people might challenge what we believe to be a legitimate claim….

A divided Supreme Court took a break from solving our health care woes by rejecting a claim that it is unconstitutional to force everyone to strip down for inspection. A New Jersey man argued that his strip search was unconstitutional after an arrest by a state trooper because of an error in the state’s records that mistakenly said he was wanted on an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine. Even if the warrant had been valid, failure to pay a fine is not a crime in New Jersey.

I am a lawyer, and this is the Internet. So I’m supposed to have an opinion on this. But I really don’t.

The Maryland State Law Library is conducting a 12-question survey on access to legal information and law libraries. The survey is designed to advance the Study Committee’s goals: 1) assessment of the court library system regarding the needs of its users; 2) exploration of ways to enhance statewide access to legal information; and 3) discussion of strategies for ensuring the fiscal sustainability of court libraries.

The Study Committee hopes to provide recommendations in a report to be issued later in 2012. If you wish to know more about this initiative, you can provide your contact information in the box at the end of the survey.

You can take the survey here.