Gaudeamus igitur! A warm welcome to the Maryland Bar to Bennett S. Ostroff (UPDATED December 18, 2013)

Bennett S. Ostroff, Esquire is a friend, mentee and has as of today (December 18, 2013) become a professional colleague. Bennett has taken the Lawyers’ Oath and signed the Test Book bearing the signatures of many generations of admitted attorneys in this State.

I take great pleasure in celebrating his triumph, as I still after 19 years recall the ordeal that precedes that triumph.

Bennett has expressed to me his desire to form a law practice in his new Hunt Valley office that will, even more than mine does, support progressive causes and the rights of the weak against the power of the strong, in reflection of his values and life priorities of long standing. I wish him well and believe that, all miserable factors in the economy and profession to the contrary notwithnstanding, he is far likelier to succeed than to fail. Bennett has rather specific personal reasons for entering this difficult profession and a strong personal ethic that will keep his compass pointing North.

Let us therefore rejoice – congratulations to Bennett S. Ostroff, a fine addition to the Bar of Baltimore County and of Maryland.

Miscellany

I put up four posts earlier today, and Twitter decided to spread the one across the Internet that I found the least well-organized of the four. Conclusion: I am a pretty good blogger, not great, and Twitter has pretty good taste, not great.

The Law Office has established an informal business relationship with opposition research and social media consultant Jeff Quinton of the Quinton Report. Jeff has considerable experience with social media relations and political consulting through his prior work in socially conservative causes and is active in reporting on Maryland Republican politics among other topics. While this Law Office is probably, on net, a yard or two left of the 50-yard line in its politics, tone and philosophy, it’s great to have access to someone professional, knowledgeable and diligent like Jeff Quinton for the times when only a little “Luca Brasi” work will get the job done.

Last night I volunteered with Jewish Legal Services in Baltimore. JLS is associated with, well, The Associated and runs a monthly walk-in clinic. It was a pleasure getting to meet other attorneys and to see how this fairly informal clinic does good work. I have commented with some level of caustic sarcasm as some aspects of pro bono legal work but this clinic is run very well and run from the heart. It made my heart smile to receive the expression of gratitude from one older client on a matter that was, legally, not too big a deal but to this client was a very big deal. So no snark and no irony today; this just felt good and I want to do it again.

Last week I enjoyed Leinenkugel’s Berry Wheat at the Leinenkugel’s Beer Garden at Market Place with the Maryland Employment Lawyers Association (the workers’ Bar Association in Maryland.) It was a pleasure to meet colleagues from the MELA; I had not been to an MELA Happy Hour before. Quite a number of the attorneys there were from Legal Aid or other pro bono agencies; pleasant and impressive company.

Field Trip to the Maryland Court of Appeals

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.