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While representing people accused of driving offenses, it is come to our attention that occasionally the records the police rely on while apprehending suspects contain some pretty serious errors that can result in prejudice to the driver.  Here are a few examples.

One of our clients was recently charged with driving on a suspended license. A review of the driving record showed that his license had been suspended for 270 days, but for some unknown reason the suspension remained on his record for more than 270 days.  The MVA should have noted the withdrawal of the suspension on the driving record. However it did not, and when the driver was stopped on the 274th day, the officer charged him, among other charges, with driving while suspended.  This can be a pretty serious charge, if the defendant has previously been found guilty of this offense.  It also creates potential immigration issues.  Upon calling the MVA, they corrected the record, and it can now be proven using a certified copy of that record that he is not guilty of driving while license suspended.

Another client moved to Florida and obtained a Florida driver’s license.  He turned in his Maryland driver’s license.  But the MVA did not record this.  When visiting Maryland, he received a charge of driving in violation of a license restriction because all Marylanders under 21 have an alcohol restriction on their driver’s license.  As a result his license was suspended for one year.  However, as a Florida licensee, he should not have been suspended or charged.  After contacting the MVA, they searched for and confirmed that the Maryland license had indeed been surrendered and removed the suspension.

Last week both houses of the Maryland legislature overrode Governor Hogan’s veto and passed the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2001.

The Act will improve the criminal justice system in Maryland a number of ways:

  1. Set stricter standards for use of force by police;

On this Veteran’s Day we pay tribute to the over 17 million veterans in the US today.  These are men and women who have personally sacrificed to preserve our freedoms, and the great experiment in republican democracy that has survived for over 225 years since the adoption of the US Constitution in 1788.  The genius of the US Constitution is the separation of powers between three branches of government, and between the federal government and the states.  With the addition of the Bill of Rights, we are very fortunate to have a representative government, that respects individual liberties.

Our firm is sensitive to the needs of veterans with links to websites that cater to veterans’ needs.  https://www.lstamm.com/veteran-s-resources.html

In recognition of the sacrifices made by veterans, our firm offers reduced fees to many veterans seeking representation for a traffic or criminal matter.

As you all know by now Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away Friday night on erev (the evening of) Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).  According to Jewish tradition, a person who passes on Rosh Hashanah is considered a “tzadik” – a revered person.  The “Notorious RBG” as she came to be nicknamed is certainly that.

She went to Harvard Law School in an era when women were far from accepted in the legal profession.  After transferring to Columbia Law School she graduated first in her class, yet found few job offers for a woman lawyer.  Yet she never gave up fighting for women’s rights, and the rights of all of us, arguing six cases before the Supreme Court, and famously saying “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

She eventually landed a seat on the United States Supreme Court.  In her 27 years as a justice, was a powerful voice in such opinions as United States v. Virginia (1996)(striking down VMI’s male-only admissions policy); Olmstead v. L.C. (1999)(individuals with mental disabilities have the right to community-based housing); Bullcoming v. New Mexico (2011)(holding that chemists in DUI cases must be produced by the State for cross-examination in DUI cases), and many others.  She also wrote powerful dissents in Bush v. Gore (2000); Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007)(where her dissent led to the Lilly Ledbetter Act – guaranteeing women equal pay) and many others.

On this day 35 years ago, September 4, 1984, I began the practice of law.  I walked into court with my mentor and friend, the late great Alan Goldstein, to watch him litigate motions in a conspiracy to commit murder case.  I had just returned from my honeymoon in Greece the day before.  And while I was in that jet-lagged state, Alan introduced me.

Your honor, I would like to introduce Mr. Leonard Stamm.  You have known him as he clerked across the hall last year.  Now he is my associate.  And he is going to argue today’s motions.
With that, Alan sat down.  And he, and the judge, and the prosecutor looked at me and said “Get up!”  I, of course, was completely unprepared, and shocked.  They all looked at me and again said “Get up” again.  As I slowly started to stand up, they all started laughing.  And with that began my practice of law.

On Thursday, the nation was transfixed as the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.  Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by Ford and a number of other females when they were in high school and college.  All of the complaints say that Kavanaugh was extremely inebriated at the time.  However, when Kavanaugh was asked about his drinking habits he became very defensive and refused to answer the questions, although he did admit to on occasion drinking too much and liking beer.  At all costs, he had to deny his alcoholism, if he suffered from it, because that would lead to questions of whether he drank to the extent of experiencing blackouts, a symptom of heavy drinking, where the person has no memory of their conduct while drunk.  If he experienced blackouts, then his denials would be much less credible.  Although the senators’ questions for the most part avoided touching on his alcoholism, it appears evident that his alcoholism or lack is central to the case.

In drunk driving cases, all clients represented by attorney Leonard Stamm are referred to a program approved by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to determine if the client has a drinking problem and to receive an appropriate level of education and treatment.  A directory of programs nationwide can be found here.

Clients are assessed to determine if they have a drinking problem using a number of psychological screening tests.  The most well known is probably the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test also known as the MAST test.  Clients are give a score based on their answers.  A higher score indicates a likely drinking problem.  Other tests include the Alcohol Use Disorders Test or AUDIT test.

I was born in 1955, ten years after the end of the Holocaust.  Growing up, I was fascinated and terrified by thoughts of it.  What would it have been like to have lived through that period?  What would it have felt like?  I am Jewish.  Would I have survived?  Would I have ended in a death camp, as a slave laborer, hiding in a cellar, or fought in the Resistance?  How would other people who were not Jewish have treated me or my family?  How could normal people let such a thing happen?  Could it happen anywhere else?  Were Germans different than other people or is any group of people capable of perpetrating such horrors? “Never again!” proclaimed the survivors.

In recent posts on Facebook, I have coined the term my “Never again radar.”  It is going off now.  The usual response to comparisons with Nazism and Hitler is that such comparisons are basically an admission of the weakness of the argument.  The misuse of such comparisons runs the risk of trivializing the comparisons, and of not being taken seriously when the comparison is justified.  With Trump however, I believe the comparison is justified for the reasons I argue below.

As I have thought about this blog for a while, I visualized about five similarities.  But then when I started to list them, it became apparent that five was too limited.  My first written list of ten grew quickly to eighteen.  Here is the list, I offer brief descriptions of each below: persistent lying; alternative facts; attacks on the press; promotion of bigotry and racism; loss of civility and respect for government officials; gaslighting opponents; hypocrisy; attacks on judges; nationalism and demanding obedience to the flag; demanding loyalty; mass rallies with exhortations to radicalism; encouragement of violence against opponents; advocating jail for political opponents; support for autocrats and attacks on democratic leaders; Nazi dog whistles; Nazi support; studying Hitler’s speeches, and attacks on the rule of law.  There is some overlap here.  I don’t claim this is an exclusive list, and I have deliberately left out some other equally odious character traits of Trump’s that do not necessarily justify invoking the Nazi comparison, such as his misogynistic treatment of women, nepotism, narcissism, corruption, theft, or the Russia investigation.  And my brief overview can’t possibly do justice to the myriad of ways Trump has attacked our country.

Many people will remember the nurse in Utah who refused to draw blood in a DUI case under directions from a police officer and was arrested.  She subsequently settled a lawsuit for $500,000 and the officer was fired.  As a result the Utah legislature tried to fix the problem.

In Anne Arundel County doctors and nurses have also refused to follow illegal directions from police officers.  In response, bills were introduced in the Maryland Senate and Maryland House of Delegates to try to fix the problem. The bill would require qualified medical persons to withdraw blood where the driver did not consent to a test after an officer developed reasonable grounds (defined as reasonable articulable suspicion) to believe a person was driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs and there was an accident resulting in a fatality or life threatening injury.

The problem is that the Supreme Court has held in two cases, Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552, 185 L. Ed. 2d 696 (2013) and Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016), that before police may direct a qualified medical person to withdraw blood the officer must have probable cause and a warrant, unless an exception to the warrant requirement such as exigent circumstances or consent exists.  However, not every case involving a fatal or life threatening injury will involve exigent circumstances.

This week, my friend, Brian Karem, editor of the Montgomery Sentinel and writer for Playboy, after months of abuse of the media by Trump, finally fought back. Calling out the President’s lies are not “fake news.”  The press is not the “enemy of the people.”

President Trump, by calling the news media “the enemy of the people” and calling facts “fake news” is attacking all of us. Thursday and Friday he attacked Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.  Today he released a wrestling video, showing him punching and wrestling a person with a CNN logo on his head.  He calls CNN FNN – fake national news.

There is a reason that freedom of the press is enshrined in the First Amendment. The Founders set up an elaborate system of checks and balances that is being tested as never before, at least during our lifetimes.  With a Congress unwilling to restrain the executive, willing to steal Supreme Court seats, an executive that repeatedly lies, insults, and bullies his opponents, an independent counsel that could be fired as soon as Trump thinks he can get a way with it, and a president that is unwilling or unable to defend the country against a Russian cyber attack, the media is our last line of defense.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that the injunctions against enforcement of Trump’s travel ban, that had been upheld by the Fourth and Ninth Circuits would be upheld in part and reversed in part.  Trump claimed this was a victory, but a careful reading of the majority opinion reveals otherwise.  The plaintiffs in the cases argued for a stay because the travel ban would cause irreparable injury to them and by implication, persons who were similarly situated.  The parties who claimed irreparable injury were parties who had family members, friends, and students coming to the US.  Foreign nationals who had no connection with anyone in this country did not bring the lawsuit, and have no constitutional right to come to this country.  In a sense the Supreme Court basically said that anyone that claimed irreparable injury and those similarly situated (“who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”) could not be barred from entering the country.  To the extent that the lower court’s injunctions covered parties not involved in the lawsuit, in essence, they were overbroad.  Essentially all of the plaintiffs prevailed in the Supreme Court as to their interests.  Trump prevailed against foreign nationals who were not active in the litigation.  In other words, Trump lost to no one initially, and then prevailed over them.  Everyone who sued Trump won at the injunction stage.

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