April 07, 2009

Squandering funds on garden, theater

A few days after reading that Baltimore is scaling back its the Police Athletic League program ("Police withdraw from PAL centers, relationships with kids," March 29), I read that the city is considering putting more money into the Senator Theatre ("Senator scramble," April 2) and will plant a vegetable garden to help feed the homeless ("One-upping D.C.: Baltimore will plant bigger plot, feed the poor," April 2).

The Senator has repeatedly proved itself to be a financial black hole. And I imagine the city certainly could buy produce at retail prices for Our Daily Bread for less than it will cost the city to have its employees tend to this garden.

The fact that Mayor Sheila Dixon's vegetable garden will be twice the size of the one at the White House seems to be a response to President Barack Obama's perceived slights to Ms. Dixon (which were in response to her legal problems).

But is saving a perpetually mismanaged, anachronistic business or growing overpriced produce really more important than keeping kids off the streets?

Robert S. Abramson, Baltimore

No need to reward illegal immigrants

I have nothing against illegal aliens; indeed, in their place, I would likely do just what they are doing, if I could.

But as state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has stated, letting illegal aliens keep their driver's licenses would reward criminal conduct ("A final week's dense docket," April 6).

This is not the kind of principle I associate with a democratic government based on the rule of law.

Robert Fireovid, Greenbelt

Court isn't hiding legal reasoning

The citizens of Maryland should not be misled into thinking that the Court of Special Appeals hides opinions or silently or secretly decides cases ("Keeping it quiet," March 22).

Every opinion, whether "reported" (approved by a majority of the 13 judges on the court) or "unreported" (approved by a majority of a three-judge panel for the court) is a public document accessible to all. Unlike most intermediate appellate courts, which issue very brief "memorandum opinions," the Court of Special Appeals issues full opinions that present in-depth factual and legal analysis. Reported or unreported, the opinions explain why the case is being affirmed or reversed on appeal. Every party to a case is sent a copy of the opinion. As long as lawyers and clients are communicating, there is no reason a party to a case on appeal would not learn about the outcome and the reasoning that underpins it.

Reported opinions shape and clarify the law and therefore can be used by lawyers in arguing future cases. The Maryland Constitution authorizes the judges of the Court of Special Appeals to decide which opinions merit reporting as a result of their legal significance.

If all cases were reported, lawyers would not know which ones the court views as legally significant, and why, and would waste time and their clients' money plowing through avalanches of paper.

Also, because reported opinions are published in full online, privacy is an issue.

Opinions often contain highly personal information (for example, medical and mental health diagnoses and treatment, counseling experiences and salaries and other private financial facts). Should children in custody cases that are not legally significant have to live forever with embarrassing personal facts about their parents, and them, just a Google search away?

Online access to an opinion at the click of a mouse is only warranted when the greater legal purpose of reporting an opinion outweighs the privacy drawbacks of doing so.

Deborah S. Eyler, Annapolis

The writer is an associate judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

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