The news: It's been a big week in legal news in Maryland. A jury convicted Walter P. Bishop Jr. in a murder-for-hire scheme that will be the first to be considered under Maryland's new death penalty law. And more big-name witnesses, including Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., testified on behalf of indicted state Sen. Ulysses Currie. But the big news came out of the Court of Appeals, which threw out key elements of state laws dealing with ground rent and lead paint.
Our take: Ultimately, the lead paint judgment has the most far-reaching consequences. It eliminates limits on the liability that landlords face, even if they have done everything the state asks to mitigate the risk of lead poisoning in the units they rent. The current law was the product of a hard-fought compromise in 1994, and the ruling is bound to create a major issue for lawmakers in next year's General Assembly session.
Readers respond: I am a landlord in Baltimore City who owns two properties built before 1950. I have followed the rules by registering the properties, removing any chipping paint, and cleaning them so they passed the lead paint tests. The lead paint experts at the Department of the Environment (DOE) were telling all of us that this is the proper procedure to safeguard tenants and limit our liability. We depended on their expertise in this area. Now the rules are changed in mid-stream? The DOE needs to help out landlords who have played by the rules. Any landlord following the rules should be immune to lead paint liability. If the lawyers want to sue on behlf of their clients, then let them sue someone with deeper pockets, and that would be the DOE - the agency that has steered us all wrong!
--J.H. from Md.