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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. But I would be lying if I said I fully understood it.

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.

  • Walter Olson at Overlawyered in getting into putting together Maryland most legal-related links
  • The Anne Arundel County chief of police will retire August 1. This was announced just as the state prosecutor was wrapping up his investigation of the police chief for his role in County Executive John Leopold’s alleged abuse of power scandal. The indictment against Leopold alleges that he used his police protection to research on his adversaries and to drive him to sexual liaisons around town.
  • A referendum approaches on same-sex marriage in Maryland.

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.

One thing the Maryland legislature accomplished this year was streamlining Maryland’s probate process for small estates. This new small estate law, SB No. 535, which becomes effective on October 1st. Under this law, it will be much easier for survivors to deal with property left by a person who has died. You now may be able to convey larger amounts of property using this new shortcut, saving precious time and money.

Our lawyers become probate lawyers in wrongful death cases where we need to open up an estate for the decedent.

You can read more about this new law on the Maryland Probate Lawyer Blog put out by McCollum & Associates, LLC.

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.