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Two Court of Appeals Judges Indicate Support for Permitting Attorneys to “Specialize” in Fields

By Michael Wein

Two judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals, in a little-recognized and short concurring and dissenting opinion, have indicated they may be open to attorneys using the word “specialty” or similar words when describing their professional qualifications, including in advertising. In the case of Attorney Grievance Comm’n  v. Zhang, Judges McDonald and Adkins noted their disagreement with Judge Watts’ majority opinion on two issues: They felt that the attorney’s actions justified not a disbarment but an indefinite suspension, and, more interestingly for the purposes of this piece, that an attorney’s use of the words “specialty,” “specializing,” or similar iterations in describing his or her practice should not be considered a potentially sanctionable offense under Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct (“MLRPC”) 7.4(a).

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Maryland Court of Appeals Ends Unusual Certiorari Procedure

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

With no fanfare, the Court of Appeals of Maryland has ended an internal practice that was unusual among state high courts. At the May meeting of the MSBA Litigation Section Council, Court of Appeals Judge (and Section Chair) Glenn Harrell informed the council that the Court of Appeals has, effective immediately, disbanded its Bypass Committee.

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Juror #4 and Me: A Tale of Trial on Remand

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

On Friday, February 28, I finally had a chance to talk with my lovely wife, Meredith, about what had been on her mind for past 1½ weeks. From February 20 through 28, Meredith wasn’t just a mother, an R.N., and a graduate student. She was also Juror #4, in front of Judge M. Brooke Murdock of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Read More…

New 2014 Appeal Rules that You May Not Find in Your Hardcopy Rules Book

By Michael Wein

I’m sure there are some Maryland attorneys who, like me, look forward to receiving a hardcopy of the two-volume Maryland Rules from Lexis annually around Christmas. The hardcopy is supposed to catalogue the most updated Rules. Unfortunately, it appears that the new Rules from the late November 2013 Court of Appeals meeting, which took effect on January 1, 2014, were omitted. Therefore as a courtesy, I am reiterating that readers, before filing their certiorari, merits, or amici briefs, should review the actual Rules that took effect on January 1. Read More…

Maryland General Assembly Abrogates Court of Appeals Decision Imposing Strict Liability on Pit Bull Owners and Their Landlords

Yesterday, Governor O’Malley signed SB247, officially abrogating the 4-to-3 decision in Tracey v. Solesky, 427 Md. 627 (2012), which imposed strict tort liability on pit bull owners, and on their landlords, for injuries caused by pit bulls. Read More…

The Most Important Part of an Appellant’s Fourth Circuit Brief (Is Not What You Think It Is)

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Inconspicuously placed at the conclusion of Fourth Circuit Local Rule 34(a) is a provision that “parties may include in their briefs at the conclusion of the argument a statement setting forth the reasons why, in their opinion, oral argument should be heard.” Forget the word “may.” The Local Rule 34(a) statement is, I submit, the most important part of an appellant’s brief. Read More…

Government Practice—A Different Perspective

By Karen Federman Henry

[Editor’s note: We’re happy to present the first post by the newest member of our editorial board.]

As an attorney representing a local government, I enjoy a unique opportunity to delve into a wide array of legal issues. The work itself can range from litigation to administrative hearings to legislative drafting to advising public officials, agencies, and departments as they seek to achieve goals that enhance the interests of the community. While the individual tasks and topics presented may not differ from those seen in private practice, the nature of the client has an impact on the manner of giving advice and providing representation. Read More…

Supreme Court Abrogates Fourth Circuit Rule on Time to Appeal Contractual Attorney’s Fee Award

By Steve Klepper

Until this morning, the following rule prevailed in the Fourth Circuit:

[A] claim for legal costs based on a contractual provision that is not limited to expenses incurred during the underlying litigation is an element of damages to be proved at trial under the substantive law governing the action, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2), 58(c), and that a judgment that leaves open such a claim is not final and appealable.

Carolina Power & Light Co. v. Dynegy Marketing & Trade, 415 F.3d 354 (2005)

No more. This morning, the Supreme Court cited Carolina Power as standing on one side of a circuit split, and the Court unanimously went the other way: “Whether [a] claim for attorney’s fees is based on a statute, a contract, or both, the pendency of a ruling on an award for fees and costs does not prevent, as a general rule, the merits judgment from becoming final for purposes of appeal.” Ray Haluch Gravel Co. v. Central Pension Fund, __ U.S. __ (Jan. 15, 2014).

Anyone litigating contract actions in the Fourth Circuit should take note. Decisions from the Third, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuits also were cited on the losing side of the circuit split.

The 4th Circuit Bids Farewell to the Separate Statement of Facts

By Jonathan Biran

The Fourth Circuit recently gave notice of its amendment to Local Rule 28(f) in order to conform to amendments to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28. The amendments to the federal rule eliminate the Statement of Facts as a separate section of a federal appellate brief. Of course, the Fourth Circuit isn’t doing away with a recitation of the facts, it is just following the new federal rule, under which the Statement of the Case and the Statement of Facts are now consolidated into one section of the brief that is to provide a “concise statement of the case setting out the facts relevant to the issues submitted for review, describing the relevant procedural history, and identifying the rulings presented for review, with appropriate references to the record.” Given these changes to Fed. R. App. P. 28, the Fourth Circuit is amending its Local Rule 28(f) to eliminate the reference to the Statement of Facts and to describe the factual statement to be included by counsel in the statement of the case. Specifically, the local rule now requires that the Statement of the Case “include a narrative statement of all of the facts necessary for the Court to reach the conclusion which the brief desires, with references to the specific pages in the appendix that support each of the facts stated.”

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Certified Questions to the Court of Appeals Now Online

By Michael Wein

Certified questions are an irregular part of Court of Appeals practice (averaging about 3-5 per year), usually from a Maryland Federal District Court judge or a Fourth Circuit panel asking the Maryland Court of Appeals to opine on an unsettled (but dispositive) issue of Maryland law. Theoretically any jurisdiction, state or federal, in the United States could certify a question for the Court of Appeals to decide under the Maryland Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, found at sections 12-601 to 12-613 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article. Before the recent web revamp about three months ago, unless you were a litigant in the case, it was difficult to know just from checking the judiciary web site, what, if any, certified questions were being considered in the Court of Appeals. Usually the first notice was when the case appeared on the online oral argument schedule. Read More…