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After almost six years, the Maryland Court of Appeals shuts down a public interest group’s attempt to block the creation of a dairy farm creamery. The court found that the third party group did not have standing because the easement they sought to enforce did not include them. A long fight for someone who, as it turned out, had no skin in the game.

Here is what happened. Defendants own an organic dairy farm that is located on 199 acres in the Long Green Valley area of Baltimore County. The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) is a statutorily created organization that buys easements on farm owner’s lands, making them promise that they will only use it for farming purposes. Competition to get into the program is fierce, but in 1997, Bellevale sold a MALPF easement to MALPF for $796,500.

In 2007, the defendant proposed to build a 10,000 square foot creamery operation on the land and received approval from the MALPF because it created and stored milk, cheese, and other dairy products. The terms were compliant with MALPF’s statutory and organizational goals. However, another land preservation organization, the Long Green Valley Association (LGVA), took issue with the creamery and filed several complaints and emergency hearings with the Deputy Zoning Commissioner for Baltimore County. All the bureaucratic avenues ultimately declared that the creamery counted as a “farm” and was being created for “farming purposes.” Finally, the LGVA filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Baltimore County.

Judge William D. Quarles Jr. denied a motion for summary judgment filed by an accounting firm in a declaratory judgment action seeking coverage for a malpractice claim.

A claim against Trice, Geary & Myers alleged that the firm recommended that its clients participate in a defined benefit pension plan which caused them to unnecessarily be audited and forced to incur attorneys’ fees and tax debt.

The insurance company, CAMICO Mutual, denied coverage because, well, that is what insurance companies do. CAMICO Mutual says it had no duty to defend the accounting firm because of the underlying allegations related to the insureds’ work as insurance agents and that the policy excluded claims “in connection with or arising out of any act, error or omission by any Insured in his/her capacity as an (insurance) agent or broker.” (Actually, they might have a point here, I hate to say.)

There is a case pending in federal court, Zuffa v. Thomas, that has some interesting copyright infringement implications as well as some interesting “can you file a lawsuit when you are really not sure exactly what your claim is?” issues. Bonus fun: Zuffa, the plaintiff, is the company that owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

UFC apparently has spies that go around and make sure people are not rebroadcasting its fights to large groups. So one of their spies found that the Hotel Charles in southern Maryland was broadcasting the fight to 123 people without purchasing a license to do so.

Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment and they have both been denied. But the judge clearly is concerned that Plaintiff has not yet offered prima facie evidence of copyright infringement. UFC complains that defendants have not responded to discovery so they don’t have the details straight of exactly how they got the fight in the first place. Moreover, they are arguing let’s just put two and two together – there is evidence they played the fight and no evidence that they got it legally so a reasonable jury could only conclude that it infringed on their copyright. I’m inclined to agree with UFC on this premise: if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Stephanie Dawn Thacker, a West Virginia lawyer, 4th Circuit appointment. Soon to be Judge Thacker takes the vacancy created by the death of Judge Blane Michael in March. The surprisingly leftward moving court covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Thacker has been a partner at Charleston law firm, Guthrie & Thomas, for the last six years. Before that, she spent seven years with the U.S. Justice Department and has also served as an assistant federal prosecutor and worked for the state attorney general’s office.

Over that time, she must have impressed the heck out of a lot of people to grab a 4th Circuit seat.

From the Maryland Daily Record:

The Maryland Judiciary announced administrative appointments of three circuit court judges yesterday. Two of them are connected to the upcoming retirement of Judge Diane O. Leasure from Howard County Circuit Court in November. Judge Lenore R. Gelfman will become administrative judge for Howard County. Gelfman has served on the bench since 1996 following seven years as a district court judge.

Anne Arundel County Administrative Judge Nancy L. Davis-Loomis, meanwhile, will become administrative judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, which includes Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard counties. Davis-Loomis has been the top judge in Anne Arundel County since 2007 and has been on the circuit court bench since 2000.

  • Maryland trial judges are near the bottom in a state-by-state salary ranking. Via On the Record. This is a bad thing. I realize the Maryland state budget is a disaster and everything and significant cuts have to be made. But we really need good judges and it is important to do whatever we can to narrow the gap between what judges could make off the bench and what they make on the bench. Clearly, judges will make less than they could in private practice. If they require salaries that approximate their worth in the free market, they will not last as judges (or apply in the first place). The key, however, is to narrow the gap as much as we can to make the position as attractive as possible.
  • Social security disability reform in the works?
  • A Baltimore County auto shop pleads guilty in towing scheme. Seventeen – seventeen!!! – police officers were involved. More from the Baltimore Sun.