March 13, 2013

"Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland" gets an update

When Jim Archibald and I wrote Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland several years ago, our goal was to help every courtroom attorney in Maryland better analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their cases as they prepared initial pleadings in both state and federal courts. We wanted to offer straightforward, yet comprehensive advice, individually tailored to address the specifics of virtually every cause of action in Maryland.

Now, in response to public demand, we’ve brought the book even more up-to-date, with Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland, Fifth Edition, available for purchase, starting this month, through the Maryland State Bar Association. With this Fifth Edition, we not only bring the book current through December 2012 but we’ve also done our best to make the book even more comprehensive, with concise, yet individual treatment of more than 130 causes of action – including citations to over 1,700 cases, 380 sections of the Maryland Code Annotated, and 200 provisions of the Maryland Rules.

One area of extensive revision in Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland, Fifth Edition, is Section 6.19, which focuses on foreclosure proceedings. Our revisions reflect the myriad new rules and regulations created by the Maryland legislature since 2008, in response to the avalanche of foreclosure filings – and the widespread abuses – that have occurred in recent years. As the legislature is likely to continue revising foreclosure laws going forward, practitioners are advised to consult the latest statutory enactments, along with amendments to the Code of Maryland Regulations and Title 14 of the Maryland Rules.

To purchase a copy of Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland, Fifth Edition, click here or contact the Maryland State Bar Association.

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July 25, 2011

The US versus Canada: a friendly competition

It’s the United States versus Canada – but it doesn’t involve hockey or other winter sports. Rather, it’s a friendly competition in the courtroom featuring trial lawyers from the United States representing the plaintiff in a wrongful termination case against a team of Canadian lawyers representing the defense.

The program is called “Trial Practices in Canada and the United States: A Comparison.” It will be held on August 4, as part of the American Bar Association’s annual meeting next month in Toronto, Canada. This particular event is being hosted by the Litigation Institute of Trial Training ( “LITT”), the organization I founded several years ago to help young trial lawyers hone their skills.

In the program, two judges will preside -- one from the United States and one from Canada. A jury will also be rendering a decision. In addition to gaining valuable courtroom exposure, trial lawyers will have the opportunity to learn the courtroom protocols of our neighbor to the North.

Following the “trial,” we will feature a panel discussion about the differences in the trial practices in the two countries. Though in many ways our systems are similar, the differences are fascinating. In Canada, for example, all matters in the federal courts are heard and determined without a jury. Though in some provinces civil jury trials are available, the court can “strike the jury” if it determines that the factual issues are unduly complex. Pretrial discovery is also more limited in Canada. In Ontario, for example, a party is limited to a total of seven hours of deposition regardless of the number of depositions the party undertakes. Also, in Canada, counsel under some circumstances may answer for the witness and non-parties may not be deposed, with limited exceptions.

If you would like to attend the LITT program in Toronto next month, or if you’d like any additional information about the LITT program in general, please contact the ABA.

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June 8, 2011

Hot off the Presses: Anatomy of a Trial

My latest book, Anatomy of a Trial: A Handbook for Young Lawyers, is now available for purchase through the American Bar Association website. The book demonstrates the techniques of effective trial advocacy by drawing on two real-life trials: a white-collar criminal prosecution and a medical negligence case. As a Baltimore trial attorney, I represented parties in both these trials. The book provides an overview of trials and trial strategy, with chapters on voir dire, opening statements, direct and cross examination, closing arguments, and protecting your case in appeal.

The book also features insightful commentary from five distinguished jurists: Hon. Marvin E. Aspen (Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois); Hon. Mark A. Drummond (Circuit Judge, Eighth Judicial Circuit, Illinois); Hon. Marvin J. Garbis (Judge, United States District Court for the District of Maryland; Hon. Paul W. Grimm (Chief Magistrate Judge, United States District Court for the District of Maryland); and Hon. W. Michel Pierson, (Judge, Circuit Court of Maryland for Baltimore City).

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May 23, 2011

Advice for brushing up on your cross-examination skills

Which part of a trial is the most important? Lawyers may never agree on an answer to this question, but no lawyer would dispute the significant role cross-examination plays in proving one’s case before a judge or jury. My forthcoming book: Anatomy of a Trial: A Handbook for Young Lawyers, analyses cross-examination as one of several vital phases of a successful trial. Still, a number of excellent books present a full-court press on cross-examination and they should be on any young trial lawyer’s reading list.

One of the most valuable is Cross-Examination Handbook: Persuasion, Strategies, and Techniques, by Ronald H. Clark, George R. Deckle, Sr. and William S Bailey (Wolters Kluwer 2011). This book has it all, and I rank it as one of the best books on cross-examination in recent times. The subject matter is thoroughly covered, and the authors provide wonderful examples -- and checklists. Examples come from some of the most historic trials of the past one hundred years, such as Clarence Darrow’s famous cross of William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Trial of the 1920s, and the cross of Senator Ted Stevens in his own trial three years ago. Chapters include constructing the cross, impeachment, and the ethical and legal boundaries of cross-examination.

Terence F. MacCarthy’s MacCarthy on Cross Examination (ABA 2007) is also a must-read for anyone seeking to improve his or her cross-examination skills. Mr. MacCarthy is the Public Defender Emeritus of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He is a masterful trial lawyer, teacher and writer. According to MacCarthy, a cardinal rule on cross is to control the witness with short statements in question form, all calling for a “yes” answer. Terry MacCarthy has taught scores of lawyers to succeed on cross using his methods.

Another helpful compilation is Steven F. Molo and James R. Figliulo’s Your Witness: Lessons on Cross-Examination and Life from Great Chicago Trial Lawyers (Law Bulletin Publishing Company 2008). This book presents views of fifty esteemed lawyers on the art of cross-examination.

Finally, those lawyers who are truly committed to mastering cross should read The Art of Cross Examination, by Francis Wellman. Originally published in 1905, it is still in print. Wellman presents selections from some of the great cross-examinations of yesteryear, “whose extended experience makes them safe guides to follow.” With experts including Joseph Choate, Charles Russell, Abraham Lincoln and others, the book is a joy to read and a timeless and insightful guide to the fine art of cross-examination.

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May 7, 2011

Litigation Institute for Trial Training: A boot camp for young lawyers

Last month, the ABA’s Litigation and Criminal Justice Sections jointly conducted the fourth annual Litigation Institute for Trial Training program, or LITT -- also known as a boot camp for young lawyers. I created the LITT program to help young lawyers hone their advocacy skills in a one or two-day intensive training session that covers all aspects of trial preparation and proceedings, and courtroom protocol.


Nearly a hundred young lawyers attended this year’s LITT program in Miami Beach, Florida. The one-day program started at 8:00 am and adjourned at 4:45 pm with hardly a break. Box lunches were served as Judge Marvin J. Garbis, of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, presented a lecture on what young lawyers should know when trying cases. The schedule followed with an array of esteemed attorneys and jurists serving as panelists – demonstrating and leadings discussions involving all components of a trial, including case analysis and courtroom conduct, opening statements, cross examination and closing arguments.


The two-day LITT program, which has been conducted in previous years, follows a similar format. But the two-day version also includes workshops at which young lawyers divide into groups of eight to demonstrate opening statements, direct and cross examination; and closing argument. A faculty of three presides over each of five classrooms.

While up to a hundred students may register for the one-day LITT program, registration for the two-day program is limited to forty students. Next year’s program is already in the works. If you are interested in details or for more information about LITT, please contact me at pms@shapirosher.com.

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December 10, 2010

New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

On Monday, December 13, The Honorable Paul W. Grimm and yours truly will be presenting at the Bar Association of Baltimore City. We will be leading a discussion on the "New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Judge Grimm is Chief Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. The location: The Brown Room of the Baltimore Bar Library, 100 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Time: 4 pm until 5:15 pm. For more information, e-mail the Baltimore Bar Association at info@baltimorebar.org.

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November 22, 2010

Access to Justice Initiatives: Steps in the Right Direction

All Americans have the right to an attorney when charged with a crime. But what about the right to an attorney when confronted with complex legal issues that are civil in nature, a situation more and more families face in these turbulent economic times? Last Friday, the Department of Justice addressed this very real concern. According to the Legal Times, the DOJ announced three initiatives to give American military veterans, lower-income families, and those facing foreclosure on their homes better access to legal advice and representation. This is welcome news to those of us who believe all Americans should have access to legal counsel and advice, regardless of their ability to pay.

The announcement was made by Laurence Tribe, the highly regarded Harvard Law professor who has led the DOJ’s “Access to Justice Initiative” since February, but who is stepping down next month to return to his Harvard post. According to Tribe, the initiatives include a toll-free number to an ABA referral service to help resolve the most complex complaints about wages and benefits, such as workers being denied family medical leave or overtime pay. In most instances, these private-sector attorneys will work on contingency-fee bases. A second initiative involves an interactive web site that, among other things, connects veterans and their families with lawyers near them to help with the litany of legal issues veterans face, including foreclosure, consumer fraud and employment issues. The final initiative focuses in promoting foreclosure mediation programs to keep struggling families from losing their homes.

As Tribe said at his news conference, he knows these steps aren’t going to transform the national landscape. While that may be true, the longest journey begins with a small step forward.

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August 25, 2010

Lawyers: Read up on your Shakespeare

Thanks to the oft-cited and oft-interpreted “Kill all the lawyers” line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 2, many have debated Shakespeare’s feelings about attorneys. And scholars have long deliberated Shakespeare’s familiarity with the laws of his day. Yet no one doubts the Bard’s grasp of human nature.

In a clever article entitled, “What Can Lawyers Learn from ‘Othello,’” Texas attorney Michael Maslanka focuses on this particular Shakespearean tragedy to offer trial lawyers what he calls a “cautionary tale” about the pitfalls of human behavior that often play out among attorneys, clients and witnesses. Among other pointers, Maslanka warns lawyers not to accept everything a client says as true and to beware of agendas that might not be what they seem. Wise advise.

The article also underscores the villain Iago’s skill in playing to his audience, suggesting that lawyers can learn from his tactics: “Iago-like lawyers probe others for core ethical beliefs,” writes Maslanka, “and then adroitly flip the switches to trigger action in conformity therewith.”

Indeed, when you argue a case, your audience – whether judge, jury or arbitrator -- ultimately decides whether your client wins or loses. It is a mistake to think of your audience as a passive receptacle for your line of reasoning. Rather, think of your audience as an active participant who may interpret things differently from the way you intend. For example, you may think of “home” as a quiet cottage with a white picket fence. Your audience may think of “home” as a cramped city apartment. Don’t let yourself forget that we all come to the courtroom with different perspectives and it is your audience’s perspective that ultimately counts.

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July 28, 2010

Wanted: Law Firm Mentors

Kudos to Steven Harper on an excellent post on his Belly of the Beast blog in which he calls attention to the growing mentoring gap in many large law firms today. Harper cites Peggy Noonan’s recent Wall Street Journal column in which she laments the lack of adult supervision of America’s young professionals and politicians who rise through the ranks seemingly bereft of the wisdom of elder statesmen in their professions.

In his July 26 post, Harper adds to Noonan’s always-keen observations with his own prescient spin on the legal profession. Harper writes that “the phenomenon flows directly from the dominant MBA- mentality that forces firm leaders and everyone else to focus on short-term metrics” like billable hours and profits per partner. He goes on to say the focus on such metrics leaves little room for the personalized mentoring that “turns good young lawyers into better older ones.”

As Harper suggests, this does seem to be the new norm, but despite the bleak-sounding picture, all is not lost. Young lawyers can still get the mentoring they need – they just have to be more enterprising than did previous generations of lawyers. Basically, they have to be self-starters: focusing on areas of law that most interest them, borrowing legal books and reading them, asking for help whenever they need it, and finding their own mentor rather than waiting for one to step forward.

Young lawyers should also pursue with gusto the many educational opportunities available through the American Bar Association, state bar associations, CLE International and a host of other organizations. For example, the Litigation Institute for Trial Training, which I started in conjunction with the ABA’s Section on Litigation, holds an annual intensive two-day trial training experience in Chicago every July with a group of outstanding trial lawyers and jurists from around the country. This is just one of a myriad of educational opportunities waiting to be explored.

There will always be partners in law firms who say – either in words or in body language – that they are too busy to mentor a young lawyer, but there are just as many happy to guide associates who show enthusiasm for their profession and who strive to hone their legal skills. My advice to those just starting out: be your own advocate.

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May 27, 2010

Why Maryland Needs Mandatory CLE

Below follows an article co-authored by Hon. Lynne A. Battaglia of the Maryland Court of Appeals and yours truly. It appears in the current Maryland Litigator.

Butcher: “The first thing we do let’s kill all the lawyers” (King Henry VI, Part II) (Act IV, Scene 2).

Why were those like Dick the Butcher, a follower of the anarchist Jack Cage, “head of an army of rebel and demagogue pandering to the ignorant,” when seeking to overthrow the government, planning to strike first at the lawyers? Lawyers throughout history and today are the centrifugal force of a free society under the rule of law.

The legal profession has always been, for the most part, self-governing, particularly in this Country and in the State of Maryland. Self-governing or self-regulation has succeeded because the profession has imposed on itself the very highest standards. As leaders, lawyers impose these highest standards upon themselves, not for the purpose of maintaining self-regulation, which, no doubt, is coveted, but because we have professional responsibilities to ourselves, our clients, the courts and the community. Surely Shakespeare, through Jack the Butcher, knew that for rebellion to succeed, striking first at lawyers might bring down the rule of law and the free society so dependent on that rule.

A free society depends on its lawyers for protection. Lawyers are the palladium of liberty.

It is equally unhealthy for the profession, as it is for society, if the public loses confidence in the high quality of members of the legal profession. Lack of confidence erodes our ethos and our role as leaders. Thus the highest standards must be maintained and self-imposed. This has been so and should continue to be so.

To be professionals requires excellence in expertise and knowledge in order to foster trustworthiness and to enhance the role of the lawyer as a fiduciary - one who seeks to serve another, rather than him or herself. The foundation of excellent lawyering and serving the community rests upon continued education and intellectual growth for self-improvement, to better represent clients, and serve those who depend upon us. More so than ever before is the law growing at a dramatic pace.

Continue reading "Why Maryland Needs Mandatory CLE" »

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January 4, 2010

2010 Litigation Institute for Trial Training

Save the date! The ABA Litigation Section has scheduled the next annual Litigation Institute for Trial Training (LITT) for July 9-10 at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. You can register on the ABA website starting in February. I and my colleagues at the ABA created LITT to offer a small group of attorneys an intensive, two-day training experience with outstanding trial lawyers and jurists from around the country. Limited to just 40 participants, LITT 2010 will likely fill up quickly. The faculty this year will include, among many other fine people:

The Honorable Marvin E. Aspen
Kim J. Askew (K&L Gates, Dallas)
James J. Brosnahan, (Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco)
Jo-Ellan Dimitrius (Dimitrius and Associates, Pasadena, California)
The Honorable Mark A. Drummond
Steven Susman (Susman Godfrey, Houston)
Lorna G. Schofield (Debevoise & Plimpton, New York)
Robert L. Rothman (Arnall, Golden Gregory, Atlanta)
Terence MacCarthy (Federal Defender Program, Chicago)

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the program.

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July 17, 2009

ABA Boot Camp Training Program


On July 9th and 10th the Litigation Section of the ABA presented its annual two-day trial "boot camp" training program in Chicago. The program was sold out, with forty participants. Young attorneys should consider signing up early for next year's program, scheduled for July 8-9, 2010, in Chicago. Click here for the full agenda of the 2009 program, which should be similiar to next year's.

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May 21, 2009

Building Your Practice

In light of the economic downturn, I have been posting ongoing suggestions on building your legal practice. If it's the middle of the day, and you're reading this, you might be one of the many lawyers out there with too little to do. In that situation, the last thing you want is to get demoralized and question your abilities. You need to stay engaged however you can. The good news is, now you may have the time for all that non-billable work you've been putting off for months, if not years.

There are thousands of ways to attract business, but the best of way is to be a top-notch attorney in every matter that crosses your desk, no matter how trivial it may be. You never know what might lead to something else. I would say that being a good lawyer entails many things that not all lawyers do--staying up-to-date with developments in your practice and communicating about them with your client base. That communication can take the form of articles you publish, newsletters, white papers, bar association events, seminars, and even casual conversations with acquaintances. If you are clearly passionate about what you do, you will be involved in all sorts of ways, and that involvement will, over time, lead to clients. But be patient. It won't happen overnight. Don't expect it to. Enjoy the non-billable work; think of it as part of your vocation, not a chore, and the enthusiasm will bring results.

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October 28, 2008

The Anatomy of a Trial

November 10 marks the launch of my newest book, Anatomy of a Trial. Here is a sample from the introduction, which describes why I wrote the book and why it may be of interest.

…..

In 2004, a University of Wisconsin law professor named Marc Galanter published a revealing report entitled The Vanishing Trial. It documented what so many litigators have witnessed year after year, decade after decade: a drastic decline in cases going to trial.

To give you a sense of how extreme this trend has become, consider these statistics from Galanter’s paper: In 1962, 11.5 percent of all civil dispositions filed in U.S. district courts went to trial; by 2002 that figure had dropped to 1.8 percent. The decline has been steady and steep, and as a result, a whole generation of litigators is moving up in the profession with little or no practical experience trying cases in a courtroom.

The causes of this phenomenon are for another book. This volume has been designed for young trial lawyers eager to gain an appreciation of how to handle real problems encountered during jury trials. Theories about trial advocacy abound and can be read about in numerous books. But as any experienced litigator knows, theory is often complicated, and sometimes compromised, by the realities of an actual trial.

For illustrative purposes, this book considers the key phases of jury trials (opening statements, direct and cross-examination, closing arguments and voir dire) in the light of a particular case: United States of America v. David Rosen. I chose this case in part because of the subjects it involved – campaign finance, national politics, and Hollywood fundraising, among others – but primarily because the trial was rigorous and challenging.

The case arose out of a lavish fundraising event held in Los Angeles during the Democratic National Convention in August 2000. Billed as “A Tribute to William Jefferson Clinton,” the event involved a dinner and concert that included performances by Cher and Diana Ross, among others; a parade of celebrities attended, contributing tens of thousands of dollars to a joint fundraising committee established in part to support Hillary Clinton’s bid for the U.S. Senate. The ensuing indictment focused on the role a young fundraiser played in organizing the event and whether he caused false reports about its costs to be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). David Rosen, the defendant, was the Clinton campaign staff person who, at the age of 33, went to Los Angeles to coordinate and oversee the gala on behalf of the joint fundraising committee. The entire event was put together in a few weeks.

The violation of law alleged by the government was based on highly complex and arcane rules established by the FEC. Under those rules, the joint committee could legally allow the company, Stan Lee Media, to pay for an unlimited amount of the costs of the event, but whatever amount was paid had to be reported, by the joint committee on its public disclosure reports to the FEC, as an in-kind contribution. Such an in-kind contribution also had to be accounted for by the joint committee in a complicated way that involved transferring funds from the account from which the Clinton campaign would obtain its share of the event’s proceeds.

Continue reading "The Anatomy of a Trial" »

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September 30, 2008

Mandatory Continuing Legal Education

My colleague, Paul Bekman, and I have sent this letter to Judge Wilner, Chairperson, Standing Committee on Rules of Practice & Procedure, and I thought I would share it with my readers...

We, members in good standing of the Maryland Bar, respectfully request that the Standing Committee on Rules once again consider recommending to the Court of Appeals mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) for members of the Maryland Bar.

The challenges confronting the practice of law and our legal system today are more formidable than ever before. The law grows ever more complex, nourished by new statutes, new rules, new opinions by our distinguished courts, and new threats from forces that strain our traditional understanding of the rule of law and individual rights and liberties.

To meet the challenges of modern law practice, lawyers more so than ever before must be competent. The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar defines competency as basic skills, knowledge of the law and legal institutions, and the ability and skill to apply oneself to the task accepted with reasonable proficiency.

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August 1, 2008

Litigation Institute for Trial Training 2008

I recently returned from the Litigation Institute for Trial Training, or LITT, as it is affectionately known. Outside of trying cases, I cannot imagine a better way to hone your litigation skills in such a short period of time.

LITT is an annual, two-day trial training boot camp hosted by the ABA Litigation Section at the DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. The year’s gathering (July 10 and 11, 2008) featured some of the top trial lawyers and judges in the United States. Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for Illinois and prosecutor in the Libby case, explained the art of opening statement. Judge Marvin Aspen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois worked with participants on direct and cross-examination. Steve Susman of Susman Godfrey and Professor Stephen A. Saltzburg of George Washington University Law School presented on closing argument. Also among the faculty were: Chicago federal public defender Terrance MacCarthy, who lectured on cross; jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who talked about mock trials and jury consultants; James J. Brosnahan of Morrison & Foerster, who presented on great trials and great trial lawyers; and Ed Waller of Fowler White Boggs Banker in Tampa, Florida, who offered thoughts on ethics and civility. No aspect of trial practice was left untouched. Yours truly spoke about “twelve secrets of persuasion.”

The program alternated between lectures, demonstrations, and opportunities to perform before peers and faculty. Participants were also exposed to faculty critiques and went home with a video of their own performances for further study.

As expected, we had a full house, with forty young trial lawyers registered. If you are interested in participating next July, contact me ASAP and I will put you on the list. Though it seems we are running out of space quickly, in the case of timely responses, I should be able to guarantee a slot for LITT 2009.

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June 27, 2008

Karen H. Rothenberg

Much news this week from Karen H. Rothenberg, Dean of the University of Maryland School of Law. On Wednesday she offered an excellent op-ed on the importance of law schools' attending to the ethical aspects of the legal profession. And yesterday came word that she will be stepping down as dean and returning to the faculty at the end of next school year.

The law school will miss her leadership. Over the years she has steered the school with the same moral sensibility that is on display in the op-ed, in which she announces that:

Thanks to a $1.6 million investment from the Fetzer Institute, the UM School of Law has recently launched a pioneering initiative that will emphasize ethics, moral formation and leadership development for lawyers.

This is an excellent initiative. In 2003 I attended a meeting of the 4th Circuit Judicial Conference at which several law school deans, including Dean Rothenberg, discussed the future of legal education in the country. Afterwards, I wrote an article for The Daily Record entitled "A Challenge to Law Schools" that addressed this very topic.

Continue reading "Karen H. Rothenberg" »

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June 16, 2008

Maryland Discovery Problems & Solutions

Maryland Discovery Problems & Solutions is a new book co-authored by Chief Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm, Charles Fax (of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver) and yours truly. We and others offered an unusual seminar based on the book at the Maryland State Bar Association's annual meeting in Ocean City last week. The Daily Record ran this preview of the event.

If you think you know discovery rules inside and out, note Judge Grimm's comment in the article:

Issues Grimm said he sees all too frequently include “non-particularized or generalized boilerplate objections” to discovery requests, which give the judge little insight when ruling on the subsequent motion to compel; lawyers stating facts in motions without supporting them with a citation to any affidavit or document; and lawyers who fail to realize that litigation proceeds in an “adversarial system but in discovery you have to cooperate” and compromise.

For those who want to brush up on MD discovery rules, you're not too late for two upcoming MICPEL programs on the same topic, offered on June 17 and July 16. Details available here.

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May 14, 2008

International Conference on Jury Trials and Art Theft

Art theft and jury trials were the topics of a conference in Bilbao, Spain hosted last week by the UIA (Union Internationale des Avocats) and the ABA Litigation and Criminal Law Sections. If you’ve the time to attend such international gatherings, I recommend them. In learning about the legal systems in other countries, you come away with a better understanding of your own. You also get to meet attorneys you otherwise wouldn’t.

The night of May 9, the Bilbao Bar Association hosted attendees to a welcoming reception that featured a live choir performance of Basque folk music. Early the next day, the program began with a comparative overview of the common law and the civil law procedures in Europe and predominately Spain. Later, Professor Mar Gjimeno-Bulnes Associate Professor at the University of Burgos explained salient distinctions between the Spanish and U.S. jury trial systems. (In Spain jury trials are limited to criminal cases, and the verdict must be decided by majority. Significantly, Spanish juries must state the basis of and provide a rationale for the verdict.)

For the American perspective, U.S. District Court Judges Marvin Aspen and Marvin Garbis gave an overview of our criminal and civil justice systems. Professor Stephen Landsman of DePaul University College of Law eloquently summarized the key attributes of U.S. jury trial procedure and provided historical context.

In the afternoon, under the leadership of Professor Stephen A. Saltzburg of George Washington University School of Law, a group of American lawyers presented segments of a criminal trial. Yours truly presented an opening statement. Ann Swern, Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York, conducted direct examination, and Janet Levine of Los Angeles, California conducted cross examination of a witness. Wayne McKenzie, Vera Foundation, Brooklyn, New York, demonstrated a closing argument.

Another highlight of the afternoon was an explanation of the Spanish jury system by Gustavo Lopez-Munoz Ylarraz, founder of the Spanish Association for Trial by Jury.

That evening, we gathered for dinner in the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, one of the most stunning buildings I’ve even seen. (Follow the link for a vista and virtual tours.) The cuisine here wasn’t short of stunning either.

On Saturday, the program shifted to the mystery of stolen art, featuring Andrea Pizzi, President of UIA Art Law Commission from Belogna, Italy; Claudia Von Selle of Berlin, Germany, who discussed ancient art taken by one country from another and art taken in war time; Howard Spiegler of New York; Luis Li of San Francisco; and Richard A. Altmann of New York.

Noah Charney also spoke. Charney, a distinguished author now residing in Slovenia, wrote the exciting novel “The Art Thief” and formed the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, the first think tank/consultancy group on contemporary issues in art crime. He talked about the history of art theft, the nature and extent of art theft in its many forms as well as ways to prevent the crime.

The program concluded with an invitation by the Spanish Bar Association to develop further programs and discussions, hopefully next year in Barcelona.

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May 6, 2008

Art Theft and Jury Trials in Spain and the U.S.

Art theft and jury trials will be the subjects of a unique two-day program in Bilbao, Spain later this week. Organized by the ABA and the Union Internationale des Avocats, the event will first offer participants a comparative overview of the jury trial systems in the U.S. and Spain. The second day features a rich program on art theft, including a look at infamous art heists and related litigation. I'm fortunate to be attending as a speaker and look forward to reporting back on what's said. You can read about the event here: Download file.


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April 25, 2008

Maryland Trial Attorneys Find Camaraderie in Inns of Court

Last week the J. Dudley Diggs American Inn of Court in Baltimore had its last meeting of the season. While it's on my mind, I thought I would recommend the Inns of Court to anyone looking for a place to meet and learn from other lawyers and judges. Trial attorneys in Maryland and across America have benefited for decades from these unique institutions.

In this state we have five Inns of Court, one each in Baltimore, Annapolis, Howard County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County. Most familiar with Baltimore's Inn, I can shed some light on its activities. But first some background:

We have the English to thank for these groups. Shrouded in the mystery of medieval times, the English Inns of Court today serve as they have since at least the 14th century, as small, local universities of law. The four Inns "across the pond" are, in fact, central to professional life; they have exclusive right to admit the degree of Barrister at Law, which enables one to practice as a courtroom advocate.

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