Articles Posted in Law- General

Friday, the Court of Appeals of Maryland issued its opinion in an attorney discipline case. The Court reaffirmed what we all know, which is that commingling personal and client assets in an attorney trust account are likely to get you disbarred. So for my lawyer readers, don’t do that.

The facts are interesting though. It seems that the lawyer was accused of sexually molesting one of his young daughter’s playmates. The opinion doesn’t say so, but it looks like the lawyer was not convicted criminally. So he does something that only a truly innocent or really stupid person would do- he sues the purported victim’s parents for defaming him. In turn, they do something that a really smart person (or a person getting excellent legal advice from Andrew D.

Freeman, Esq.) would do- they counterclaimed for battery on behalf of their daughter. The Baltimore County civil jury agreed with the parents, granting judgment against the lawyer in the amount of $386,350 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages.

Today’s Baltimore Sun reports that Judge Davis has been confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Hopefully, we will see the Senate act to end the shameful delays in judicial appointments.

He’s a good judge. There is no good reason he wasn’t immediately confirmed. Hopefully, the Senate will move quickly to confirm the remaining three nominees to that court, fully staffing it for the first time in a very long time.

Last week, I argued an appeal in a truck accident case. I was in the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which is our state’s intermediate appellate court. My case was fourth in line on the day’s docket. That meant I got to (was forced to) sit through the argument on the cases ahead of mine.

The other arguments ran the gamut from abominable to excellent and featured a range of attorneys from young lawyers to experienced appellate advocates.

One thing I saw some of these other lawyers do was to address the questioning judges by name. For example, “Great question, Judge Hollander.” Actually, my example violates two rules of appellate argument. Never tell a judge they asked a great question. Presumably, they also thought it was a good question, or they would have remained silent.

Today is October 14. Each month the Maryland Board of Physicians posts on its website a report of sanction proceedings against the physicians and other medical professionals it regulates. The sanctions for September, 2009 were just posted today.

This is a big deal. That list of sanction proceedings is pretty much the only way for Marylanders to know if there has been a proceeding against their doctor’s license. Here is a great example to show why this is important, and why the Board of Physicians gives mere lip service to the safety of Maryland patients.

I have a client who was injured in an accident on January 1, 2007. She did what most people would do. She had a visit at the ER, and then followed up for treatment with her regular doctor. She was treated by her primary care doctor from January 20, 2007 to December 12, 2007. The doctor prescribed medications, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. That all sounds great, right? Perfectly appropriate.

Doug Gansler is the Maryland Attorney General. Basically, the state government’s top lawyer. One of the many things the Office of the Attorney General does is represent the state in criminal appeals. Criminal prosecutions at the trial level are handled by the various local state’s attorney’s offices. Once those cases turn into appeals, they are handled by lawyers from the appellate division of the Office of The Attorney General.

law firm staff deserved credit There is an article in today’s Daily Record describing Mr. Gansler’s preparation for an upcoming argument in the United States Supreme Court. The case is called Maryland v. Shatzer, and has something to do with the scope of a criminal defendant’s invocation of the right to counsel. I am not here to write about the substantive legal issues- I only handle personal injury cases, which is the only kind of work we do here at Miller & Zois.

The article is about the extent of the preparation Mr. Gansler is doing to be sure that he is ready for oral argument in our nation’s highest court. One particular thing caught my eye. Gansler offered thanks for the assistance of a lawyer in his office named Brian S. Kleinbord, who is the chief of the attorney general’s criminal appeals division. It turns out that Kleinbord, not Gansler, is actually listed as the attorney of record for the Supreme Court case. The petition for certiorari and the briefs in the Supreme Court list Mr. Kleinbord and two other lawyers as counsel, along with Gansler. The Daily Record quotes Gansler as saying “Kleinbord assisted in writing the brief and preparing for the high court argument, but the attorney general chose the case to be his first argument in the Supreme Court.”

The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Hermann reports about a criminal case in Baltimore City that raises questions about juror disclosure and impartiality.

Apparently, this particular case ended in a mistrial because one juror was holding out for an acquittal. After the mistrial was declared, prosecutors learned that the holdout juror was employed as a lawyer by the Office of the Public Defender.

The prosecutors are mad because this juror merely listed her occupation as “attorney.” They think she had some sort of obligation to disclose who she worked for during the jury selection process.

I think it is normal for professionals in any field to become accustomed to the processes and procedures we deal with every day. I think that phenomenon is particularly pronounced in the legal field. Most people have extremely limited experience with the workings of the court system in general, and with civil litigation in particular. The average citizen’s legal experience is most likely limited to serving jury duty, or appearing as a defendant in traffic court.

For example, I have often had clients seem surprised that I am usually quite friendly with the attorney representing the defendant in their personal injury case. To me, most of these lawyers are colleagues, law school classmates, or simply fellow professionals that I have gotten to know across the aisle at trials. They seem to believe that adversarial equates to hostile. This issue often arises in clients’ frustration with the pace (extremely slow) of litigation. People also seem to believe that the insurance company or defense attorney has a particular axe to grind against them, where I see that as business as usual.

This is an overly long intro to a blog that I have found to be great reading. There is an emergency department doctor who was sued for medical malpractice and is blogging about the course of his own trial (after the fact).

I recently blogged about whether there is value to the client in being first to file a lawsuit. I was talking specifically about the litigation that has already commenced as a result of the recent DC Metro train crash.

A few points have been raised by other folks that I think are interesting. First- apparently there is a very remote likelihood of settlement in any case involving WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority). Because of this, many attorneys with experience in litigating against WMATA think filing suit quickly is the best way to make a recovery for the client without delay.

I get that, kind of. It sounds like litigating against MAIF. There’s no point in negotiating, so many think it is best to just file.

Unless you live somewhere there is no tv, radio, or internet (which makes you seeing this unlikely), you know there was a big train crash on the Washington, D.C. Metro last week.

This was a bad accident that involving several deaths and many more injuries. Whenever something like this happens, I think it is expected that there will eventually be litigation. The litigation about this accident has already started. Train accident: June 22, 2009, at 5:02 p.m. First lawsuit filed: June 24, 2009. Two days later. The legal system generally moves like global climate change- slowly and inexorably. A lawsuit being filed two days after the injury is very, very fast.

filing lawsuit valueMaryland has a three-year statute of limitations. This means that an injury lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the injury or it is forever barred. In this case, the victim is fifteen. Under Maryland’s SOL, his lawsuit would need to be filed within three years of his eighteenth birthday.

The Baltimore Sun has recently reported an incident that took place in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The whole thing arose in the context of a criminal proceeding being held before the Hon. Alfred Nance. It appears that a woman was causing a disruption in Judge Nance’s courtroom. She was calling out “I love you” and blowing kisses to her brother, a criminal defendant. This offended Judge Nance, who is known for strictly regulating the behavior (including attire) of those who appear in his court. Apparently, Judge Nance held the woman in contempt of court on the spot and sentenced her to ten days in the Baltimore City Detention Center. Luckily, a public defender who was in the courtroom intervened on the woman’s behalf and Judge Nance reversed his ruling.

The news articles make a big deal of the fact that Judge Nance has had judicial discipline issues in the past. I agree that the ten days was probably excessive punishment. The detention center, particularly in the summer time, is a miserable cesspool. But I don’t have a problem generally with judges insisting upon the proper respect and decorum while court is in session. Yelling out and waving is not acceptable in court or in any other formal setting. Even elementary school children know that if they want to talk, they need to sit quietly and raise their hands.

I have only briefly appeared before Judge Nance, and I have never seen him do anything I though was improper. Some of the commentators in the various news pieces have claimed that attorneys are reluctant to report improper conduct by judges because of fear of retaliation. I think one part of the news coverage tells the most important part of the story: