On May 1, 2013, I will attend and observe the court proceedings of the Maryland Court of Appeals in Annapolis. There are four cases on the docket: Attorney Grievance Commission v. Dean Clayton Kremer, AGC v. Jason Kobin, a family law, protective order and malicious prosecution case Joanna Anthony v. Peter Garrity and Ocean City, Maryland Chamber of Commerce Inc. v. Daniel J. Barufaldi. a case involving the reversal of a denial of an award of attorney’s fees in a wage payment and collection case. I will provide a recap of these cases’ arguments shortly after my “busman’s holiday” there.
I have no direct stake in any of the cases, but indirectly all four of the cases might impact me or my clients. All attorney discipline cases are relevant to every conscientious practitioner. I do not know of the allegations or dispositions regarding Messrs. Kremer or Kobin, though they presumably each underwent attorney discipline proceedings before a Circuit Court on delegation from the Maryland Court of Appeals. The family law case addresses among other issues the question of whether a protective order gives “probable cause” as a matter of law to call 911 when the subject of the order is on the street near property from which he is barred. In this context, “probable cause” refers not to the criminal standard for arrest but for the Maryland malicious prosecution element of lack of probable cause. I have litigated malicious prosecution claims only once in my career; the Maryland standard is fairly difficult for the plaintiff to meet in practice.
The Barufaldi case has most interest to my practice at least indirectly. I handle claims under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law routinely including at this moment in several courts. The threat of attorney’s fees to a prevailing plaintiff is in practice an important motivator for the employer to pay the undisputed claim, along with the serious risk of a triple (or, most precisely for the sake of the pedantic Francophone snob, “treble”) damages claim. Arguably one is better off paying any other debt or expense only after paying workers’ wages because very few other debts – even taxes – will explode into a 3x+attorney’s fees nightmare. The issue of what scope a trial court has to deny an attorney’s fee award is directly on point before the Court of Appeals. The worker is represented by Philip Zipin, Esquire of Silver Spring; while his firm more often represents workers, I represented a worker against an associate of his in an unemployment hearing about 2 years ago and respected that associate highly for her professionalism and diligence.
The weather should be nice that day, which means that a walking trip down Rowe Boulevard to Chick and Ruth’s Deli on Main Street will probably be in the cards. Although I have participated in part of an appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, my practice has not involved advocacy before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. I was last before the seven Judges in red robes (unique in the United States, it is said) at my swearing-in in December 1994.