In The New York Times, Jaros weighs in on Nero’s acquittal

Professor David Jaros

Professor David Jaros

Professor David Jaros is quoted in today’s New York Times in a story about the acquittal on all four charges of Officer Edward Nero.

Nero is among six Baltimore police officers charged in the case of Freddie Gray, 25, who died in police custody last spring a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van, in which he sustained a spinal injury. Gray, who was shackled, was not restrained by a seat belt and apparently slammed headfirst into the back doors of the van when the driver rapidly decelerated.

Nero, who helped arrest Gray after he ran from police, faced four misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office.

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said Nero committed an assault by arresting Gray without justification. The reckless endangerment charge stemmed from Nero’s role in putting Gray into the police van without buckling him in.

Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams ruled on the case after Nero requested a bench trial.

“The state’s theory has been one of recklessness and negligence,” Judge Williams said, according to The New York Times. “There has been no evidence that the defendant intended for a crime to occur.”

The verdict is the first in the case. The trial of Officer William Porter ended in December in a hung jury. He will be retried. The other officers’ trials have been scheduled.

The Times wrote that, in a city whose police department is already being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department over claims of officers’ using excessive force and practicing discriminatory policing, Nero’s trial has brought up questions about when an officer can stop a citizen and what that officer is allowed to do.

Said Jaros: “I would say the trial has engendered a wider conversation about how police operate in poor communities, particularly poor communities of color that raises critical issues about society.”

Learn more about Professor Jaros.

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Commencement speaker Bright wins case at Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled, 7-1, Monday that Georgia prosecutors violated the Constitution when they struck every black prospective juror in a death-penalty case against a black man. Justice Clarence Thomas provided the sole dissent in the case, Foster v. Chatman.

Timothy T. Foster, now 48, was sentenced to death for killing a white woman when he was 18. In notes that came to light decades later, Foster’s lawyers discovered that prosecutors had marked the names of black prospective jurors and struck all of them. An all-white jury imposed the death sentence.

Stephen B. Bright served as a lawyer for Foster. Bright, president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, delivered the law school’s commencement address a week ago. (See earlier post.)

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that the Georgia prosecutors had violated Batson v. Kentucky, a 1986 decision in which the court ruled that race discrimination in jury selection was unconstitutional.

“The focus on race in the prosecution’s file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury,” Roberts wrote.

Read stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Read the opinion here.

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Joint UB-UM legal incubator highlighted in The Daily Record

The Daily Record highlighted the work of Maryland’s new legal incubator in a May 19 article, “New incubator program assists fledgling solo practitioners.”

The incubator was launched in January as a project of the UB School of Law, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Civil Justice Inc. and the Maryland State Bar Association.

According to the story, the “LEAP” incubator — Law Entrepreneurs for Access Program — is among 50 legal incubators in the United States that are registered with the American Bar Association. About 19 percent of U.S. law schools have an associated incubator, Lynette Whitfield, a Rockville solo practitioner who serves as LEAP’s program director, told the newspaper.

Four new attorneys are taking part in the yearlong project. All have agreed to spend half of their billable hours on pro-bono and reduced-fee work for the first six months of the program. After that, they will contribute 25 percent of their billable hours to such work.

Each lawyer receives office space at UB or at Maryland Law, as well as legal training, free web-based practice management software, a reimbursement of up to $500 for malpractice insurance, access to Lexis Advance and a one-year MSBA membership, as well as mentoring from Whitfield and other attorneys.

Maya Zegarra, J.D. ’15, one of the incubator participants, is specializing in immigration law.

She said the incubator concept had intrigued her.

“I started to think, ‘Why not? What better way to open up my own firm than with the support of the bar foundation, the law schools and Civil Justice?”

Continued Zegarra: “This is a way for me to give back to the community, as well [as] doing what I enjoy.”

Read earlier post.

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Epps in the Times: Partisanship is imposed on the high court

Professor Garrett Epps contributed a comment today to The New York Times online, “Partisanship Is Being Imposed Upon the Supreme Court.”

Begins Epps: “The nation’s political dysfunction, like a toxic flood, has fouled the historic courtroom at 1 First Street, NE. But the sludge is not flowing from within the court.”

Epps, the Supreme Court correspondent for The Atlantic and the author, most recently, of American Justice 2014: Nine Clashing Visions on the Supreme Court, said that even with Justice Antonin Scalia’s “acid pen” in the mix, the justices – at least from the vantage point of the press gallery – seemed to get along and enjoy their work.

Since Scalia’s death in February, Epps wrote, he has been touched by the “determined, almost gallant” efforts of the justices to keep doing their jobs, knowing that 4-4 affirmances serve no one well.

“Like a bird with a broken wing, the court hasn’t stopped trying to fly. But it can’t,” he wrote.

The court’s order on Monday in a case involving access to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act had the “pathetic sound of failure,” Epps said: “’Can’t you see Mommy’s not feeling well? You children work it out among yourselves!’”

(The court did not decide if the ACA’s birth-control mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but instead sent the cases — which were consolidated into one, Zubik v. Burwell — back to the federal appeals courts.)

The crisis is likely to last well into next term, he continued: “History may remember it as a moment that, like the 1937 ‘court-packing’ crisis, changes the nature and self-image of the court forever.”

Epps also cautioned the Senate’s Republican leadership not to be too confident that, if the party succeeded in filling the Scalia seat, the court would do the GOP’s bidding:

“[H]owever justices may reach the bench, they often tend to forge a loyalty to the court that transcends that to party.”

Learn more about Professor Epps.

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Baltimore Scholar, incoming 1L is highlighted in The Sun

Incoming 1L Herman Brown, who is graduating this weekend from Morgan State University.

Incoming 1L and 2015 Baltimore Scholar Herman Brown, who is graduating this weekend from Morgan State University.

A May 18 Baltimore Sun story, “The unique roads of Baltimore college graduates,” highlights the experience of Herman Brown, a Morgan State University student who will begin as a 1L at UB in the fall.

Brown is a 2015 Baltimore Scholar in the Fannie Angelos Program for Academic Excellence, a partnership among the UB School of Law, Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the Princeton Review.

The program, which each year accepts eight Baltimore Scholars from the state’s HBCUs, prepares the students to pass the LSAT and to excel once they begin their formal legal education. It also aims to increase diversity in the legal profession.

Brown, 22, will graduate from Morgan this Saturday with a major in political science and a 3.87 GPA, according to The Sun. He served as president of Morgan’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honor society, and also was an intern at the Nimitz Library at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Brown told The Sun that he had been accepted by five law schools — at UB, Howard, American, Rutgers and Villanova — and chose the University of Baltimore School of Law after receiving a full scholarship.

Baltimore Scholars receive a full scholarship to UB if they successfully complete the program, maintain a minimum cumulative 3.50 undergraduate GPA, score 152 or higher on the LSAT and are admitted to the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Brown is already thinking ahead.

“I want to be able to come back to my community and help people that don’t have a voice and advocate for them,” said Brown, who graduated from high school in Salisbury. “It’ll give me a good opportunity to come back to communities like mine and be a model for the youth.”

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Law school to host veterans’ legal assistance conference

The University of Baltimore School of Law and UB’s Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic are among the organizers of the 8th Annual Veterans’ Legal Assistance Conference & Training.

The event will be held June 3 at the John and Frances Angelos Law Center (1401 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201). Registration and breakfast begin at 8 a.m. The daylong event will conclude at 4:45 p.m.

Laura Eskenazi, J.D. ’92, the executive in charge and vice chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will be the keynote speaker. Her talk begins at 12:15 p.m., during lunch.

Click here to read a column about the event in The Daily Record, in which Professor Hugh McClean, director of The Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic, discusses significant changes in the VA’s appeals process that are to take effect at the end of May.

“Everyone agrees that the current system is broken,” McClean told columnist Joe Surkiewicz. “The question is whether the new proposed appellate process that VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald offers takes away any veteran rights.”

Designed for lawyers, law students, veterans, policymakers and other service professionals, the conference will provide a forum for discussion of critical legal issues facing veterans. Concurrent sessions will include panels on total disability and unemployability, Social Security, military discharges and VA character of service determination, child support and a practitioners’ workshop covering pleadings, FOIA requests, VA forms and tips for advocates representing VA claimants.

The conference will also include basic and advanced trainings for lawyers interested in representing veterans in claims for service-connected disability benefits, as well as training for veterans – who do not need to be attorneys — interested in serving as mentors for the Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Docket.

The morning sessions are free for attorneys who agree to a pro bono commitment. The afternoon’s concurrent sessions are free to all attendees. To register, visit probonomd.org. For questions, contact Kiah Pierre at 443-703-3046 or kpierre@probonomd.org.

Click here to see the conference program.

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At commencement, Bright urges graduates to ‘stay engaged’

Commencement speaker Stephen B. Bright (left), president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, talks with Professor John Bessler.

Commencement speaker Stephen B. Bright (left), president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, with Professor John Bessler.

Stephen B. Bright, president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, delivered the commencement address for the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Class of 2016 on Monday. It was the law school’s 89th commencement.

Bright began by congratulating Professor Michele Nethercott, student Towanda Luckett and other student-attorneys in UB’s Innocence Project Clinic, whose work helped free Malcolm Bryant, a Baltimore man who served nearly 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Bryant was released last week after the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against him after DNA evidence showed he was not the killer. (See earlier blog post.)

“I cannot think of a better example of the difference that lawyers can make – and of the desperate need that people have for us,” Bright told the full house at the Lyric.

Of the graduates, 283 earned a J.D. degree, 28 earned an LL.M. in the Law of the United States, and 11 earned an LL.M. in Taxation and/or a Certificate in Estate Planning.

Urging the grads to “stay engaged,” Bright encouraged them to spend time “in the trenches” – in prisons, jails, homeless shelters and courts, among other places.

“We need to be on the front lines,” he said.

Bright also emphasized the simple importance of extending kindness to people who are struggling — of recognizing their “dignity and humanity when nobody else will do it.”

He quoted the 19th-century writer Robert Louis Stevenson: “It is the history of our kindnesses that alone make this world tolerable. If it were not for that, for the effect of kind words, kind looks, kind letters … I should be inclined to think our life a practical jest in the worst possible spirit.”

Bright also urged the graduates not to “price themselves out” of the reach of ordinary people.

“You have a responsibility to make this system work,” he said. “You must be a part of it [and] not let the pursuit of wealth overcome the pursuit of justice.”

Malcolm Bryant with (from left) Professor Michele Nethercott, director of UB's Innocence Project Clinic; Associate Dean Vicki Schultz; and student-attorney Towanda Luckett.

Malcolm Bryant with (from left) Professor Michele Nethercott, director of UB’s Innocence Project Clinic; Associate Dean Vicki Schultz; and student-attorney Towanda Luckett.

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