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June 2004
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August 2004

New Website for DC Courts

There is a new website for DC Courts --

What's there? Nothing to blow your socks off ... some civil forms ... chambers assignments and telephone numbers of Judges of the Superior Court ... Court of Appeals opinions ... basically the same material that used to be on the D.C. Bar website.

It's a good design, but they have a ways to go yet in terms of providing the scope of useful content found on other court sites. Why not provide important Superior Court opinions, or Judge's biographies, for example? When a new Judge is appointed, there is a press release and photo that runs in the Washington Daily Reporter -- the same press release and photo should go on the website as a matter of course. (Note that the Judges' bios, without photos, are available for now on the Daily Washington Law Reporter website.)

I hope that the Court is not deliberately limiting its website in order to protect the Daily Washington Law Reporter., which for the most part charges for its content. The excellent websites of the Maryland Judiciary have not driven the Maryland Daily Record out of business, but the Daily Record does provide a lot of analysis and reporting and does not simply reprint judicial opinions.

WMATA Held Not Immune From Suit Under Sec. 504 of Rehabilitation Act

In Barbour v. WMATA, NO. 03-7044 (D.C. Cir. July 9, 2004), the Court held that WMATA is not protected by sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court under Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for discrimination based on disability. The Court held that WMATA has waived its immunity to such suits by taking federal transportation funds.

The opinion, and Judge Sentelle's dissent, delve into Constitutional issues involving the 11th Amendment and the Spending Clause.

"[T]he litigatory equivalent of road rage."

In Campbell v. Lake Hallowell Homeowner's Association, an owner of a townhouse got to feuding with his homeowners' association.

It's easy to understand how this can happen, as in this area a townhouse can be quite expensive, and the bundle of property rights that comes with a townhouse is missing a few sticks. It's hard to accept that some faceless committee of the Homeowners' Association can dictate where you park, what sort of play equipment your kids can have, or even what color you can paint your front door. But they can, and townhouse owners should be aware that if they fight the Homeowners' Association on some trivial issue, the Association might well recover its attorneys fees, and that can be real money. So don't do what the plaintiff in this case did.

Here, the Homeowners' Association told the plaintiff that because he was a resident, he could not park his car in the visitors' overflow lot. (After much litigation, this turned out not to be quite true -- in fact, he could park there, as long as he moved his vehicle once a week. So it is fair to say that the Association's erroneous application of its own rules was partly to blame for poisoning the relationship.)

So the plaintiff began parking his car in front of his townhouse. But this was a fire lane, and the Association ordered him in writing to "park your car on your property." The plaintiff then began to park his car on his townhouse lawn. At around that time the plaintiff also put up a portable basketball hoop for his kids, again on his front lawn. The Association told the plaintiff to remove both his car and the basketball hoop from his front lawn. When the plaintiff did not do so, a variety of administrative and legal actions were commenced by both sides. The Association got an injunction, after which the plaintiff began parking his vehicle in his backyard.

The Court of Special Appeals aptly summed up the ensuing legal proceedings like this:

"Their quarrel, which began over a basketball hoop and a parking space, has resulted in at least four separate actions, with an intimation of more to come. At a loss as to why so little has generated so much conflict, we can only surmise that we are in the middle of what may be the litigatory equivalent of road rage. The number of actions, the sheer ferocity with which they have been pursued, and the inconsequential nature of what has been sought offer us little hope that we are wrong in this assessment."

Continue reading ""[T]he litigatory equivalent of road rage."" »