Baltimore City’s Lawyer Under Siege: Fairly?
- The Baltimore Sun yesterday did an article pretty much ripping apart the Housing Authority of Baltimore and one of its outside lawyers in Towson. Baltimore City’s legal department looks inept and their defense lawyers appear corrupt. This is pretty much a win-win for everyone. But while this is certainly a good piece of investigative journalism (that we rarely see from the Baltimore Sun since its de facto death, announced during Season 4 of “The Wire”), the article creates a tangled web of corruption and incompetence when it really has only one juicy nugget. Clearly, Baltimore City’s primary outside lead paint defense lawyer did something colossally stupid: he got hit with sanctions – a fine – by the court that was intended for him personally that he passed along to the City. Inexcusable. But the accused lawyer claims that he is the one who caught the mistake and amended the bill. If true, that would take a lot of sting out of the story. This claim – that the lawyer caught the mistake before anyone else – is never properly aired in the story; the reporter just cites the denial in the “I don’t believe it but here is what they claim” kinda way without refuting the story. Then the story lobs more facts without context to make this lawyer and his law firm look awful: he charged 15 cents for photocopies (we don’t charge our clients for this but it is a standard practice), he is billing $165 per hour for travel time (a low hourly rate and billing for travel is standard practice for defense lawyers), and the lawyers billed for showing up for a City Council hearing (they apparently actively participated). None of these things raise eyebrows in context. What bugs me most about the article is the notion that Baltimore City would be better served hiring in-house lawyers to defend lead paint cases. Certainly some types of claims – insurance companies successfully rely on in-house lawyers in most car accident cases – are well suited for the in-house model. Maybe Baltimore City’s lead paint defense falls into this category, too. This is a complicated economic question. But this article provides no evidence to support this contention other than the mere fact that these lawyers are billing a rather low rate of $165 an hour. This is no evidence at all.
- A California couple is suing a county sheriff’s office for $10 million, alleging that the sheriff advised them to check on a neighbor who made a 911 call. When the couple arrived at the scene of what turned out to be a double homicide, they were both stabbed.
- Chicago has banned the sale of crib bumper pads, which can cause suffocation. If this is excessive regulation, sign me up for some more.
- Kennerly writes about the Annie Le estate’s wrongful death lawsuit against Yale University, which alleges that a climate of sexual harassment contributed to the graduate student’s murder by a lab tech. The suit also alleges the university was negligent in hiring the tech.
- I’ve seen clients injured by all manner of people, vehicles, and animals–but I’ve never filed suit for a client injured by an airborne turtle.
- A teenager in Massachusetts is threatening to sue over his teacher’s Halloween prank last year, which involved walking into the classroom wearing a mask and holding what looked to be a chainsaw. The student says he was so scared that he ran, fell, and hurt his knee badly.
- Hypertechnicalities get in the way of efforts to try to limit the number of truck accident deaths in this country.