Search

Articles Posted in Law- General

twitter-300x198In the last few years, the use of social media has increasingly become an issue in the legal field. We are seeing social media being used as evidence in civil and criminal trials. There have been recent Maryland appellate opinions on how to admit evidence of social media use.

Social media is a good place for juror conduct that completely screws up a trial. In the good ole days, jurors who communicated inappropriately during a trial did so verbally.  Of course, this was hard to trace and prove.  Improper verbal communications could lead to a mistrial.  But it was so hard to make this case from an evidentiary standpoint.   You needed live testimony from witnesses.  With social media, you can just wave the tweets and posts in front of the judge.

There have also been cases involving social media use by jurors. Here in Baltimore, there was an issue in the sensational Sheila Dixon trial about jurors becoming Facebook “friends” with one another. It has now become commonplace for jurors to be instructed that they are not to discuss their jury service on social media during the trial.

Today is my favorite workday of the year.

Obviously, I love being home with my wife and family during the holidays, but I can’t shake my affinity for working the days between Christmas and the New Year. December 26th is the best day of the year to be in the office.

Like many offices, ours is half-empty because a lot of folks have decided to stretch the holidays into a week of family time. My phone will barely ring today because clients, opposing counsel, and insurance adjusters are busy vacationing or just enjoying family time. Other than new case intake (unfortunately, serious injuries don’t take the holidays off) I don’t expect to get many calls today.

Two weeks ago I had a trial scheduled to begin on a Monday.

It was a jury trial that was set for a car accident trial to begin on an agreed date that had been selected 8 months earlier.  My client and his three witnesses — two of them experts — all cleared their schedules to make sure they were available.  I had blocked off the time on my calendar, and so did the two lawyers involved on the defense side.

The Friday before the trial was supposed to start, I received a call from the court’s assignment office.  We wouldn’t be able to begin our trial as scheduled because there was no judge available.  This put us on standby.  That meant that I could be called anytime before 1:30 p.m., and I would have an hour to get to court with my client and my witnesses, ready to begin the trial.  If I wasn’t called by 1:30, I was instructed to call back at 3:30 to see if we would be assigned the next morning.  I called my client and all of his witnesses and let them know of this development.  They were not exactly pleased.

Md-reporterLitigation is a deadline-centric business. There are deadlines for just about everything lawyers must do in a court case. The statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing the complaint. There are deadlines for filing expert witness designations, for the close of discovery, and for filing pleadings, motions and appellate briefs. Nearly everything a trial lawyer does has a deadline imposed by the law, the rules of court, or a by court order.

You know who is in the litigation business but is not constrained by deadlines? Judges.

I think every lawyer has had the experience of filing something and it vanishes into the abyss, only to be heard from again when somebody finally gets around to it.

The Legal Profession Blog has a post linking to a lawyer discipline case from New York where an attorney was suspended for two years after being sanctioned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Even after the two years is up, he can only practice again after the entry of a court order allowing it.

This is a pretty serious sanction. What did he do? Steal from a client? Miss a filing deadline? Get a criminal conviction? Was he a tax cheat? Nope. He got suspended for being a terrible lawyer. The court noted that on multiple occasions he had submitted briefs of “shockingly poor quality.” Things like getting the names of his clients wrong, including irrelevant boilerplate, referencing evidence that was never submitted, and filing the work of a paralegal without reviewing it.

I am so happy to see a court take a stand like this. My practice is 100% litigation, and you would not believe the astonishingly poor quality of some of the written material I see submitted to both trial and appellate courts. I’m not talking about proofreading or citation errors. Everybody makes a mistake sometimes. I mean stuff so appalling that it is clear that no attempt was made to edit or even read it before filing.

If you have been injured in a car or truck accident in Maryland, it is easy to find a lawyer to take your case. Just about every general practice lawyer in the state handles auto accident cases to some extent, and can usually do a good job. But sometimes these lawyers get involved in cases that can’t be settled, and they may not have the experience or resources to take the case to trial.

That’s where we come in. We get involved in a lot of cases as referrals from other lawyers under Rule 1.5 fee-sharing agreements. The referring lawyer can stay as involved in the case as they wish- it can be a straight referral, or they can stay in the case through trial.

The best way for you to find out about what co-counseling with M&Z is like is directly from one of our referring lawyers. Here’s what one of our referring lawyers had to say about a case that we got involved in about 60 days before trial:

A few months ago, I tried a case in Montgomery County Circuit court and got a great verdict. Shortly afterward, I received the defendant’s motion for a new trial. I read the motion, and discussed it with a few of the other lawyers in my office. None of us thought it was a strong motion, and we all believed it was likely to be denied. Until I got a hearing notice in the mail.

Well, I live in Baltimore County, near Towson. I have to be in the car by 7:30 if I hope to be in Rockville by 9 a.m., and I need to make alternative arrangements to get my daughter to daycare since they don’t open early enough to drop her off and still get to Rockville in time.

So the day of the hearing arrives, I make my arrangements, leave early, and drive the 1.5 hours to Rockville. Shortly before 9 a.m., I am sitting in the lobby outside the courtroom when our judge’s law clerk come out and lets me know that our judge was out sick, and the hearing would need to be rescheduled. Bummer, but O.K., everybody gets sick. I have had hearings rescheduled before because I got sick. It’s part of life. So we reschedule the hearing for the following Monday and I drive an hour back to my office.

I’m writing from a hotel in Wicomico County (on Maryland’s Eastern Shore), where I will begin a two-day jury trial tomorrow morning.

Here’s a great tip for staying organized during trials, especially the ones that keep you away from the office for several days. I always bring a set of portable office supplies. I keep them in a black nylon case that fits right inside my laptop bag. Inside I have:

•A travel-sized stapler

One of the odd things about writing a blog is that unless a post happens to generate comments, you don’t really get a lot of feedback. That’s why it is nice to get some occasional recognition like being included in the LexisNexis Top 25 Top 25 Law Blogs. It is very gratifying to see that people are reading and enjoying the blog nationwide!

But it’s not over- voting is open for the #1 Tort Law Blog until December 10. Go over to this link, register and vote. Like just about every (good) trial lawyer I have ever met, I am incredibly competitive, so I want to win this competition! Go vote. Now!

This is all being done by the LexisNexis Litigation Resource Community. I am always in favor of any resource to help lawyers share and use cutting-edge information and trial techniques, and I am happy to be a part of what LexisNexis is doing here.

This blog has been nominated for inclusion in the Lexis-Nexis Litigation Community’s Top 25 Tort Blogs for 2011!

It’s certainly gratifying to see that the blog’s reputation is continuing to grow nationwide. So if you like the blog, sign up and vote!

You can do that here.

Contact Information