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Baltimore

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on April 6, 2014

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  • “Venue matters.” Enough to double value of med-mal case if filed in Baltimore city rather than suburbs? [Ron Miller] Mark Behrens and Cary Silverman on litigation tourism in Pennsylvania [TortsProf]
  • “Maybe [depositions] are like what some people say about war — vast periods of boredom interrupted by brief moments of terror.” [Steve McConnell, Drug and Device Law, also see Max Kennerly]
  • Centrality of procedure in American legal thinking dates back to Legal Realists and before [Paul McMahon, U.Penn. J. of Int'l Law/SSRN via Mass Tort Prof]
  • Company sues to challenge CPSC’s dissemination of unproven allegations about it in new public database: should judicial proceeding keep its name confidential? [Fair Warning]
  • Thesis of new Jerry Mashaw book: administrative state in U.S. long predated Progressive Era [Law and Liberty: Joseph Postell, Mike Rappaport] Relatedly, hallmark of administrative state said to be “prerogative,” i.e., power to make binding rules without new legislation [Michael Greve]
  • Lorax standing humor: even the Ninth Circuit might not have been able to help [Howard Wasserman, Prawfs]
  • “Formalism and Deference in Administrative Law” [panel at Federalist Society National Lawyers' Convention with Philip Hamburger, Kristin Hickman, Thomas Merrill, and Jide Okechuku Nzelibe, moderated by Jennifer Walker Elrod]

Thanks Ron Miller

by Walter Olson on November 29, 2013

Known to some of our readers through his Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog, and to many others as one of our most valued commenters (bringing the perspective of a seasoned plaintiff’s attorney, a perspective I will confess is sometimes lacking here otherwise), Ron also teaches a course on insurance law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Last week he was kind enough to invite me to stop by and present my own perspective on the role of insurance in tort law. (Nutshell version: the insurance mechanism is exceedingly imperfect, and legal theorists and policy makers often go astray by assuming that it works more smoothly than it does.) Thanks, Ron!

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on November 16, 2013

  • Even if some of its speedcams were illegal, Montgomery County says it doesn’t plan to issue refunds “because drivers admit guilt when they mail in their signed tickets and pay the fines” [WUSA, auto-plays video]
  • Per state’s highest court, “repose statute does not bar the plaintiffs’ wrongful death action because it refers to suits for ‘injury,’ as opposed to ‘death.’” [Alex Stein, Bill of Health] Introduce comparative negligence while also reforming old doctrines like joint/several liability? [Don Gifford and Christopher Robinette via TortsProf]
  • Double-blind photo lineups: “Baltimore Police Take Steps to Avoid Wrongful Convictions” [John Ross, Reason]
  • State shuts down day care center. An overreaction? [Free-Range Kids]
  • Reporter Audrey Hudson worries investigative sources were compromised after her notes were seized in armed Coast Guard raid on husband [Maryland Morning]
  • Baltimore detective convicted of shooting himself to get workers’ comp benefits [WBAL]
  • Santoni’s grocery, southeast Baltimore institution since 1930s, cites city’s beverage bottle tax as reason for closure [Baltimore Sun, auto-plays video]
  • New Maryland laws effective last month include some dubious ideas passed unanimously [Maryland Legislative Watch]

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Speaking in Baltimore Thursday

by Walter Olson on September 16, 2013

I’m speaking in downtown Baltimore this Thursday at 12 noon about my most recent book, Schools for Misrule. I’ve given versions of this talk many times around the country but I think this marks the first time I’ve done so in my own state of Maryland. It’s free and lunch is served, but you’ll need to RSVP to the Federalist Society Baltimore Lawyers’ Chapter. Details here.

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on August 8, 2013

  • Error-plagued speed camera program even more error-plagued than had been realized [Fox Baltimore]
  • Del. Joseph Vallario, Jr. [D-Prince George's] chairs House Judiciary panel while practicing criminal defense law, but as conflicts of interest go we’ve heard worse [Washington Post]
  • Theme of recent dramshop, contributory-negligence rulings by Maryland Court of Appeals is restraint [Michael Schearer, more; my WaPo letter on the alcohol-serving case; for a view different from mine, Donald Gifford]
  • Pleading guilty in massive Baltimore jail scandal, Tavon White says “many other” guards involved in misconduct, 13 have been indicted [City Paper, Baltimore Sun/CorrectionsOne, AP/HuffPo]
  • One view from the other side on unpopular “rain tax” on impervious surfaces [Tom Coale, HoCo Rising]
  • “Alas, The Maryland Court of Appeals Has Reversed Ford v. Dixon” [on "every fiber, every breath" asbestos theory; David Oliver]
  • What is it with Maryland and surveillance, anyway? State police zealously collect license plate-cam data [J.D. Tuccille]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on June 25, 2013

Last month 13 guards and 12 others were indicted on charges of letting a gang effectively take over management of the Baltimore City Detention Center; according to the indictment, corrupt guards allegedly smuggled in drugs, cellphones and other contraband and had sex with the gang leader, several becoming pregnant by him. Since then the public and press has been asking what went wrong. A Washington Post editorial suggests one place they might look:

The absurd situation described in the indictment took root at least partly because of a “bill of rights” for corrections officers, backed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and enacted by the Maryland legislature in 2010 at the behest of the guards union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. This bill of rights grants extraordinary protections to guards, including shielding them from threats of prosecution, transfer, dismissal or even disciplinary action during questioning for suspected wrongdoing.

While Gov. O’Malley has sought to minimize the relevance of the 2010 law, the Post notes that FBI recordings suggest that a guard who was deemed “dirty” was transferred to another facility, rather than fired — transfers-instead-of-firing being a less than optimal way of dealing with public employee corruption, but one typical of systems with strong tenure entrenchment. AFSCME, which boasted at the time of its “relentless lobbying” on behalf of the law, is now doing damage control. More: “those protections left officers at the jail without fear of sanctions for allegedly smuggling contraband or having relationships with inmates, the FBI said in an affidavit.” [Baltimore Sun] Union-allied lawmakers defend the measure [AP]

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“The Orioles’ team doctor, William H. Goldiner, tended to orange-clad ballplayers at the same time as he diagnosed thousands of blue-collar workers with asbestos-related illnesses whose cases were taken up by prominent lawyer and team owner Peter G. Angelos.” [Baltimore Sun, earlier]

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“A Circuit Court judge has ruled that Baltimore County’s contract with its speed camera vendor is illegal, because it pays the company a cut of each citation issued…. Maryland law says that ‘if a contractor operates a speed camera system on behalf of a local jurisdiction, the contractor’s fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid.’ But several jurisdictions, including Baltimore County and Baltimore City, pay their vendors a cut of each ticket, arguing that the jurisdiction, not the company, operates the cameras.” Judge Susan Souder ruled that Xerox State and Local Solutions, which currently “receives about $19 from every $40 ticket,” is indeed involved in the operation of the cameras. Del. Michael Smigiel, an Eastern Shore Republican, has introduced a bill to repeal the camera program: “We specifically said we’re not going to allow this to happen, and it happened,” he said. [Baltimore Sun, auto-plays video]

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Labor and employment roundup

by Walter Olson on February 28, 2013

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Banking and finance roundup

by Walter Olson on January 14, 2013

  • But not before extracting $8.5 B: “Finding Little Evidence Of Foreclosure Fraud, Feds Give Up” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes; Kevin Funnell] Can Baltimore distinguish vindication from extortion? [Funnell]
  • Dear grandstanders in Congress and press: by law AIG’s board had to consider request to join bailout suit [Bainbridge, John Carney]
  • “Plaintiff Lawyers in Citigroup Case Seek Big Markup For Outside Attorneys” [Daniel Fisher, more, ABA Journal]
  • “Everyone knows” CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) lending was too small in volume to be a major factor in bubble. Is everyone right? [NBER paper, SSRN via Cowen, Tuccille]
  • Beware the CFPB’s Civil Investigative Demand (CID) power [Funnell, more]
  • “Investor class action system needs review – judge” [Nate Raymond, Reuters]
  • “Are the New Wave Say-on-Pay Lawsuits ‘Gaining Steam’?” [Kevin LaCroix]

Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on December 14, 2012

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“Formstone is to Baltimore what Communism was to Czechoslovakia.” Although virtually no one installs the simulated-stone exterior cladding any more, and it doesn’t seem to raise any safety concern, Charm City authorities are still proposing to ban it, which has touched off a wave of protests and a Baltimore Sun editorial objecting to the ban. [Sun reporting, editorial]

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“In answers to interrogatories, [the mesothelioma-diagnosed] plaintiff identified Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder as the sole source of her asbestos exposure.” [Ron Miller]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on October 14, 2012

  • Md. Access to Justice Commission pushes controversial Civil Gideon, lopsided fee shift rules [report]
  • Montgomery County voters will decide on extending police collective bargaining [WaPo]
  • “Baltimore: The city that sues the banks” [Fortune]
  • “New Pit Bull Dog Bite Law in Maryland? Not So Fast” [Ron Miller, earlier] “Landlords Held Responsible For Pit Bull Injuries; Tenants Face Eviction and Legal Battle” [CBS Baltimore]
  • Maryland pays far higher fees to investment managers for its pension fund than most states do. How’d that happen? And should states rely on index investments instead? [Governing]
  • Legislature not final word? State’s high court mulls ditching contributory for comparative fault [WaPo]
  • Business appalled at Montgomery County Council bill requiring 90 day severance to service contractors’ employees [Washington Examiner, Gazette]

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A little while back, Mayor Bloomberg’s crew in New York City floated a trial balloon about restricting liquor sales, pursuant to the now-familiar “public health” rationale. After meeting with instant public outrage in that entertainment-intensive city, the idea was quickly scrapped. Perhaps it is sheer coincidence that scholars at the mayorally endowed Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University are now helping to promote proposed measures in Baltimore cracking down on liquor stores, which Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has now endorsed. One initiative would close approximately 100 of the city’s liquor stores; another would ban stores with a substantial liquor business (20 percent or more of sales) from selling any item to minors, such as milk or batteries. Among stores targeted by the city for uncompensated closure is one that was voted “Best Wine Store” by City Paper readers a few years ago: “Health and planning officials are targeting stores that they say are in mostly poor neighborhoods and are a public health nuisance because they have been linked to violent crimes. … But at least four of the five stores in north Baltimore are longtime businesses, whose owners say they are in relatively crime-free communities and get along with their residential neighbors,” notes the Sun. More advocacy for the bans here (columnist Dan Rodricks suggests owners transform some of the shuttered stores into “bakeries or small restaurants”) and here (“Park Heights Renaissance” group).

Maryland blogger Tom Coale (HoCoRising) responds:

As I’ve said many times before, these laws that appear facially valid and high-minded almost always end up with unintended consequences. In this case, I can certainly foresee a 15 year old being prohibited from buying his family food while his two parents are at work, and having no where else to make this small part of their family unit work. There are some exemptions to address this, but I can’t see this Council considering every circumstance across Baltimore. If you don’t want kids at liquor stores, work on building the business community and rehabilitating neighborhoods.

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  • Failure to accommodate employee’s religious belief forbidding hair-cutting results in $27K payout by Taco Bell operator [EEOC, North Carolina]
  • There’s a reason they call it Government Motors: nonunion GM assembly workers get shaft [Fountain]
  • Mayor Bloomberg refreshingly sane on “living wage,” though not alas rent control [Heather Mac Donald, Secular Right]
  • “The cost of labor isn’t the main problem, it’s the rigidities,” says French CEO [Bloomberg]
  • Maryland governor signs bill softening “workplace fraud” law that bedevils firms that use independent contractors [H.B. 1364, earlier]
  • Watch out for ghastly, mislabeled “Paycheck Fairness Act,” they’re trying to bring it back [Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Examiner, earlier]
  • “The most infuriating part of this is that it takes five years of litigation to fire a badly behaved police officer” [Josh Barro, Masnick/TechDirt, on cop's harassment of skateboarder; Baltimore Sun (police union calls officer's firing "outrageous.")]

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