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Note: post was originally in 2012.  It has been updated in November, 2018  to discuss a new martial privilege case, Sewell v. State, now pending before the Maryland Court of Appeals with a decision coming any day now.

I never find myself writing about marital privilege. But I do have an interest in modern technology and how it will impact pre-trial discovery and admissibility of evidence. Which takes me to the  4th Circuit opinion U.S. v. Hamilton.

This case involves the bribery conviction of a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who also served part-time as an administrator with the Newport News, Virginia public schools system. Basically, the guy pushed for and got a salary from Old Dominion University in exchange for getting funding for a million dollar program called Center for Teacher Quality and Education Leadership. (FACT: 89% of all “education centers” with titles as goofy and ambiguous as this one are hopelessly corrupt.)email1

Anyway, a key piece of evidence in the takedown of this guy is an email that he writes to his wife about how he is trying to get this salary out of the deal, which he writes from his public school computer. So the question is whether the marital privilege applies because he used his work email account.

For what I think are good reasons, communications between spouses have long been thought to implicate important privacy and confidentiality interests. This has led to a recognition of a marital privilege in both Maryland and federal law that makes communications between spouses presumptively confidential.

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The Supreme Court today Walker v. NCAA (formerly Christie v. NCAA) in a 7-2 decision found unconstitutional a federal law that prohibits sports betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports. This gives states the green light to legalize betting on sports.

Legalized sports gambling in Maryland may not be far away.  We came close to passing a law in the last session in anticipation of this ruling. Delaware and New Jersey may have sports gambling within the next few weeks.

You can read about this on ESPN or Sports Illustrated, too.  But I’m unimpressed with how they have explained the law.  I’m writing here for lawyers who want to understand the details of the ruling without reading the case or the briefs.

I’m passing along the latest information on Maryland transition to e-filing.

emptycourtIn 2014, the Maryland Judiciary launched the Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC) system – a project that modernizes current case management systems and streamlines court processes to make case filings more convenient for litigants. Here are two updates

APRIL 4: New E-filing interface

Donald Trump has the support of a broad swatch of people.   Many of his supporters have the viewpoint that the problem in this country is too many lawsuits.Trump

Trump would not take this position.  He is, by any definition, a celebrity.  Many celebrities have a history of using lawsuit first recourse in settling disputes.

Yesterday, Trump threatened a lawsuit if Ted Cruz does not take a campaign ad down that is predominantly made up of Trump’s own words footage  in a 1999 interview saying he’s “very pro-choice.” Cruz has, with good reason, mocked the viability of such a claim, giving the sound bite that Trump has been bringing frivolous lawsuits his entire adult life.

Trump certainly has filed a number of unbelievable lawsuits.  Here are a few highlights:

  • He sued two brothers for using the Trump name, even though their last name was Trump.  Reportedly, these guys were worth more than ten times what Trump is worth, but somehow they were using the name to piggyback off of his success.  The suit went nowhere.
  • He sued his ex-wife for $25 million for talking about their relationship in spite of a confidentiality agreement.   He might have technically been on the right side of this.  But you get the point.
  • Bill Maher joked that he would pay Trump $5 million if he could prove that his father was not an orangutan. Trump produced his birth certificate and sued for $5 million when Maher did not pay.  This one has a real elementary school vibe to it, doesn’t it?  Trump eventually dropped the case.
  • He sued the Chicago Tribune for $500 million after the paper’s architecture critic, wrote he thought the Chicago’s Sears Tower would remain its world’s tallest building title even though Trump has made a plan to build a taller building on the East River in Manhattan.  Reportedly, Trump did not even hire an architect for the building.  A federal court judge dismissed the case, ruling that you cannot sue someone for their subjective opinions.

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Ted Cruz has made a lot of enemies.  I cannot remember a legitimate candidate for president who seemed to be as personally disliked as Ted Cruz.   This quote in the Washington Post describes how Ted Cruzhe was viewed when he attended Princeton:  “You either didn’t know Ted Cruz, you hated him, or you were David Panton.”  That’s harsh.

What does this have to do with this post?  Nothing, really.  I just thought it was worth pointing out.

Cruz is very proud that he was on the front line in the tort reform battles, a point he will probably make in South Carolina – while I write this post.  He defended appellate challenges to the 2003 Texas law that allows Texas doctors to commit malpractice as often as they please without any limitations.  He was an author of George W. Bush’s “Let’s turn a blind eye to our federalism platitudes and install nationwide tort reform.”

After these accomplishments, Cruz gave being a private lawyer a spin.  Even Cruz’ enemies who will now agree he is a fantastic appellate lawyer.   He did what you would expect him to do in private practice: help big companies fight each other and squash the little guy.  Also a personal injury lawyer, Ted Cruz defended, on appeal, two mammoth plantiffs’ verdicts in New Mexico that involved $110 million in damages between two plaintiffs.   Keep in mind this was after he passionately fought against personal injury victims in Texas and throughout the country.

Why would such a committed tort reformer agree to represent victims?  Cruz made clear that if he was going to get involved the “money had to be right.”

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Clearly, the new Republican tradition is to pay homage to Ronald Reagan whenever you have a segue to do so – and even when there’s not. Everyone has forgotten Iran-Contra and those Marines in Lebanon.  Instead, we have focused on the fact that he presided over 8 years of relative peace and prosperity.  Most people also agree he made a real contribution to our victory in the Cold War.

At a debate back for the RNC Chairmanship, Grover Norquist asked the candidates, “Who is your favorite Republican president?” Everyreagan one of the six candidates picked Reagan.

Poor Lincoln. Even Democrats look back on Reagan and point out – maybe correctly, I don’t know – that Reagan is not conservative enough to win the Republican nomination in 2016. (Of course, in 2018, the cult of Donald Trump has led to a devaluation of Reagan and his legacy.  But this is likely a very temporary revision.)

The Evidence

You have heard of Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case.   Yep, over 30 years later, that is still a thing.  But before Stella, there as the “the phone booth case.” Reagan raised in it a 1986 speech:

A man was using a public telephone booth to place a call. An alleged drunk driver careened down the street, lost control of her car, and crashed into the phone booth. Now, it’s no surprise that the injured man sued. But you might be startled to hear whom he sued: the
telephone company and associated firms.

All of this is true. People love to make a big deal about someone suing someone as a harbinger for chaos because the lawsuit is so unjust.  But all you need to file a lawsuit is 115 bucks (at least in Maryland).  People file utterly ridiculous lawsuits all of the time.  In this case, the guy was paralyzed and he brought suit and the phone company settled (for like $25,000 in a catastrophic injury case.)

I don’t know why insanity is imputed because some company does not have the guts to take a case to trial.  But everyone jumped on to the idea that there is great meaning to the court’s failure to rule for the defendant on its motion for summary judgment (edit: the trial judge did grant the MSJ but the California Supreme Court flipped the order).   But I guess Reagan was pretty fired up about it in his speech so that is why the legend lives on to this day that Reagan was pro-tort reform.

A Closer Look at Reagan and Tort Reform

I found on my Google +1 a post from someone who worked for Reagan, that looks at what he actually said about tort reform. Apparently, all of his years of public life, Reagan gave only one tort reform speech in his political career in which he specifically said the issue is one for individual states. He never followed up on this speech.

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rottweiler2Maryland made the right call by getting rid of the “one bite rule,” which created an assumption that dog owners know their dogs can bite.  In doing so, they effectively nixed a court ruling that said that Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous and imposed strict liability for owners and landlords.  At the end of the day though, insurance companies are most interested in these sort of decisions, since they’re the ones paying out dog-bite claims.  And although the dog breeds may not be as big an issue for Maryland legislators anymore, your insurance company may still discriminate and charge you more based on the type of dog that you have.

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“There’s two sides to every story. I saw the video. That’s their personal business, and it shouldn’t have affected his career. I don’t agree with domestic violence, but she’s still with him, so obviously it wasn’t that big of a deal. Everyone should just drop it.”

– Random Ravens Fan Last Night

“The case is a perfect symbol of all that’s wrong with the litigation system in this country.”

Lisa Rickard,  President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform and the American Tort Reform Association talking about the infamous lawsuit where an administrative law judge sued for $65 million claiming a dry cleaner had lost his pants

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Tiger Woods "easy" back surgery hurts some tort victims

Tiger Woods “easy” back surgery hurts some tort victims

Tiger Woods announced today that he has undergone successful back surgery and expects to be back playing golf this summer.  Good for him. This is bad news for golf fans who passionately root for or against Tiger.  But it is also bad for personal injury victims who are bringing a back injury claim in front of a jury.  Why?  Because juries get constant evidence from athletes that back injuries and back surgery is not a big deal.  Some will equate Tiger Woods to 58-year-old Mary Smith when she has a discectomy and fusion for a herniated disc after a car accident.

Why Tiger’s Surgery and Expected Recovery Misleads Juries

There are a number of reasons why the comparison is unfair.  First, not all back injuries are created the same.  Tiger had a microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve.  That is light years from, say, a herniated disc suffered by great trauma.  But some jurors view back surgery as back surgery regardless of the severity of the injury. Second, Tiger is a professional athlete who dedicates his life to keeping his body in the best possible shape.  Tiger won’t even share his workout secrets.   He will also get stunning medical care.  The best doctors and ridiculous amounts of medical attention you and I would never see. Finally, Tiger’s getting surgery in the first place is probably something you and I never would have gotten in the first place.  Why?  First, we are not violently swinging a golf club at pretty much the speed of light.   So I can probably still workout and work around the same injury that Tiger needs to get taken care of so he can perform on a world-class level. Continue reading

According to Alexa, this is the most read personal injury lawyer blog in the country.

Do pictures like this drive legal blog traffic?

Do pictures like this drive legal blog traffic?

I really don’t have anything else to say about that except I really do appreciate the people who read this blog, especially those that comment, like on Facebook and Twitter, etc.

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