A man who can judge for himself


April 09, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

After an earful of he-said, she-said in a long-running rent court case, Baltimore City District Court Judge Emanuel Brown took the simplest route to the truth. Which is to say, he did something that hardly ever happens in American jurisprudence. He got off the bench and found out for himself.

Brown adjourned court and headed for Cherry Hill Homes, a public housing complex that is home to Maria Parker. Parker has been suing the city's housing authority since 2004, claiming that it has failed to make needed repairs to the townhouse she shares with her five children. The housing authority told the judge that the repairs had been made. Parker said they hadn't been.

Here's what Brown, accompanied by lawyers from housing and Legal Aid, found that day back in January: Heat blasting so hot that, even in winter, the air conditioning had to be cranked up; an "extremely" wobbly toilet; burn marks around an electrical socket; and a roach dangling from the ceiling, right above the judge's head.

Back in court the next day, the housing authority had some 'splainin' to do, a recording of the proceedings shows. Housing attorney Jon E. Offley asserted that repairs were made - the toilet was fixed twice - but that the tenant had damaged things again. He also blamed the burn marks on Parker, saying she overloaded the circuit breaker by plugging in a five- or six-socket power strip,

"Is it normal for the circuit breaker to not trip, and then have evidence of smoke or fire?" Brown asked.

"The fact that we only have burn marks, that's a good thing," Offley said.

"Seems to me it should trip before you get to the burn marks," the judge replied.

Brown didn't find the tenant blameless, noting that she has not always given repairmen access to the home. But he ruled in her favor, giving housing 90 days to find her a new place, and threatening to find them in contempt if they failed to do so.

The deadline comes in about two weeks. Housing officials said last week that they hadn't found another unit yet. But they're working on it.

Not now, I'm on the phone

Thank you, Charles Boutin, for putting the SERVICED in the PSC - and for turning one of the state's hottest political issues into something truly HOT! HOT! HOT!

Just to be clear, the former Aberdeen mayor and "family-values-friendly legislator" admits to swapping steamy e-mails with a prostitute but says he never actually kept his date with her. And to be fair, Boutin says he only carried on the e-mail exchange -over his state computer account - in hopes of curing his bladder-cancer-related impotency. (Hey, it's the HMO age. Everything's outpatient.)

That wallflower, Oprah Winfrey

Since when is Oprah Winfrey camera shy?

The talk show queen is appearing in Baltimore tomorrow night at the Meyerhoff, for Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School's scholarship fundraiser.

"[Winfrey] has consented to photography and videography from a designated media area ... only for the first 10 minutes of her presentation, after which all photographers and videographers will be asked to leave," a press release says. "Reporters without cameras are welcome to remain for the entirety of her remarks."

I'm not sure the world needs any more video or stills of Winfrey, but what's with the partial camera ban?

Joan Fishbein Feldman, the school communications director who sent out the release, says she's in the dark. She was just passing along requirements specified by Harpo, Oprah's production company.

Connect the dots...

Gov. Robert Ehrlich had two words for his longtime talk radio pals now that WBAL and The Sun are new best friends: Neville Chamberlain. ... Vanity Fair, in an issue that hits Baltimore newsstands this week, names Mayor Martin O'Malley one of America's greenest mayors. Is that because he's pro-environment or pro-Irish? ... Lt. Gov. Michael Steele had a $1,000-a-plate, $5,000-a-picture fundraiser with Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday at the Washington home of Juleanna Glover-Weiss, a former press secretary to Cheney. It was publicized by - who else? - the Maryland Democratic Party.

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