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We all know the little tricks to stuffing the most content into the allotted number of pages of your appellate brief (currently 50 for the Court of Appeals and 35 for the Court of Special Appeals) – decreasing the line spacing, decreasing the margins, decreasing the kerning, decreasing the height of the text, etc. Well, you’re not fooling anybody: As noted by the Maryland Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure in its 187th Report, “Appellate judges, in Maryland and elsewhere, are regrettably familiar with those tactics and legitimately complain about them.” The Committee has finally had enough, and is urging the Court of Appeals to amend the Maryland Rules to combat the problem.
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As the appellant in the Maryland appellate courts, when should you file your brief? Currently, it’s within 40 days after the clerk notifies you that the court has filed the record. Sounds easy enough, except the current Maryland Rules don’t actually require the clerk to send such a notice. In fixing that little problem, however, the Rules Committee is considering working in a smidge more time for practitioners to get their briefs in.
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Maryland attorneys are eminently familiar with the State’s Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA), which imposes a limitation on liability for the local government entity of $200,000 for each individual claim ($500,000 aggregate for claims that arise from the same occurrence). This limitation on liability operates to strictly limit damages recoverable from the local government entity regardless of the extent of harm experienced by the plaintiff. And now, with today’s Court of Appeals’ decision in Espina v. Jackson (No. 35, Sept. Term 2014), that damages cap applies even in the face of egregious constitutional violations because such “constitutional torts” fall within the LGTCA’s “tortious acts or omissions” terminology.
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Silverman|Thompson|Slutkin|White real estate litigation attorneys succeeded in obtaining summary judgment on behalf of the private owner of a project-based Section 8 housing project in a breach of lease action pending in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The case involved a determination of whether projects funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development may proceed with eviction upon a showing that drug-related criminal activity had occurred. Maryland law previously required that, after adducing evidence that a tenant had breached their lease by engaging in drug-related criminal activity, the landlord also prove that the breach was material, substantial and warranted eviction, thereby allowing a judge or jury to countermand the landlord’s decision to evict. The ruling by the Honorable Laurence P. Fletcher-Hill, which has wide implications for all federally-funded housing projects, held that Maryland law is preempted by federal law to the extent it would permit a judge or jury to review a HUD-assisted landlord’s decision to proceed with the eviction of a tenant who has committed drug-related criminal activity. As a result, if a federally-assisted landlord can prove by undisputed fact that a tenant has engaged in drug-related criminal activity in or near the leased premises, the landlord has established grounds for eviction as a matter of law and is entitled to terminate the lease.
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Civil litigators know that the impending bankruptcy of an opponent is bad news for any lawsuit that’s ongoing or in the works: Bankruptcy operates as an automatic stay of any state-court litigation against the debtor until the bankruptcy gets resolved. Oddly, however, the precise effect of such a stay was an open question in Maryland up until last month. With Kochhar v. Bansal, Md. Ct. Spec. App., Sept. Term 2014, No. 435 (Feb. 27, 2015), the state now joins the majority of other jurisdictions in deeming any and all proceedings and filings after a bankruptcy stay as void, and not merely voidable.
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Toward the end of last year, I attended a discovery conference in D.C. Throughout the panel discussions of the proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and various electronic discovery resources, I found myself thinking about the practical application to my current cases and future client representation. In other words, I was wondering how it applied to my legal practice and my clients.
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Like many Eastern states, historically Maryland has not been a large producer of oil and gas. But that could change in the not so distant future. In the West, proponents of “fracking” are anxiously eying the new Hogan government to see what it will do while offshore, the Department of the Interior has announced that it will publish for public comment a draft proposed Five-Year Program for oil and gas leasing in the Mid-Atlantic. Development in either or both sectors could have a large impact on Maryland’s economy.
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Over the law few months, we have been getting calls every week from Internet subscribers who think they’re about to lose their homes, their entire life savings, or in one particular instance, their freedom (one woman was terribly afraid that she and her husband were going to be sent to prison).

It has been over a year since we last addressed the Malibu Media issue in our post Malibu Media Makes Marylanders Miserable, but the onslaught of copyright infringement cases filed by Malibu Media in the mid-Atlantic has not slowed. At last count, Malibu Media had filed over two thousand alleged copyright infringement cases in the United States, with over 355 cases right here in STSW’s home state of Maryland. The semi-boilerplate “Complaint” that Malibu Media files with the Court in these cases is usually a frightening, lengthy, confusing document that seeks hundreds of thousands in dollars in supposed damages from the Internet subscriber, who is the “Defendant.” Each Malibu Media Complaint has an “Exhibit A” attached that lists sexually graphic video titles, and Malibu Media alleges the Defendant unlawfully downloaded and watched these sexually graphic videos with lewd titles.

If you are reading this, I am not sure where you work or with whom you live, but in my experience, explaining this to your boss or your partner usually doesn’t go over so well…that is until you and those who need to know understand who “copyright trolls” are and what “copyright trolls” do. This NBC Washington news story may help you and your boss or partner understand what has happened to you.

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Courts across the country haven’t taken too kindly to insurers using technicalities or blaming their insureds to deny coverage and Maryland is no exception. Legislatures’ displeasure with insurers’ knack for finding devils in details sharpens where insurers deny coverage even though the insured’s mistakes caused no real problems. The Maryland General Assembly has therefore encoded (and the state courts have adopted) the so-called “prejudice rule” – an insurer can’t deny coverage without showing it was actually prejudiced by whatever the insured supposedly didn’t do.
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