Merry Christmas Costs $18,000

The Onheiser Ground Rent Ejectement Case has come to an end. The Ohneiser family will not lose their home, but they have still been saddled with $18,000 in fees and interest on property taxes. This certainly isn't the best outcome, but the attorney's for the ironically named "Neighbor Saver LCC" who brought the nefarious ejectment suit don't seem to think so.
"Heidi met with her clients who are investors in ground rent, and theydecided to do this as a Christmas gift to the Onheiser family," said John H. Denick, an attorney who has also represented Neighbor Saver and spoke yesterday for Kenny.
Excuse me while I laugh out loud. A Christmas present? This guy could give Scrooge lessons in heartlessness.
"I hope that the Onheisers have a merry Christmas and a happy new year, and that they appreciate that they have the house," Denick said.

The case shows how rapidly fees can increase. Kenny's bill lists legal fees of $1,200 for herself and $3,000 for Denick, who helped to negotiate the settlement.

The bill also includes $12,854.61 that Neighbor Saver said it was owed in property taxes for 2004 and 2005. Under state law, those who buy property tax liens from the city are entitled to charge homeowners 18 percent interest, which can quickly add up. City records show that the Onheiser rowhouse's total tax bill for both years was less than $4,000. The bill submitted by Kenny doesn't say how the property tax amount was computed.
This is nauseating. Mr. Denick and Ms. Kenny should be ashamed of themselves. Councilman James P. Kraft misses the point completely.
"I have to give credit where credit is due," Kraft said yesterday. "Regardless of the problems that Ms. Kenny has elsewhere, she could have fought this. She could have thrown them out that morning, and she didn't. It's nice when you have a situation where people make certain representations and then they do what they say they're going to do."
Ms. Kenny could have done a lot of things. She could have set their house on fire or murdered the Onheisers in their sleep. She could have showered them with $100 bills and sung Christmas carols outside of their home. Its not about what Ms. Kenny and her predatory company didn't do. It is about what they did do. What Ms. Kenny, Mr. Denick and Neighbor Saver did was disturbingly wrong and most likely it should be illegal. Lets hope Frank Conaway can wake them up and force them to feel at least 1% of the suffering they have inflicted on so many homeowners in our State.


Hot Topic of the Day: The Death Penalty

Wonderful news for Maryland: executions in the state have been suspended. I won't go into the decision, mostly because I have very little legal expertise and I am inspired by Stephanie Dray's opinion on the issue. However, if you want a quick legal rundown of the decision, head over to Crablaw.

Mrs. Dray takes the "make the death penalty safe and rare" position, certainly one of the most respectable ones to have in this debate. I agree with Dray on her point that there are some crimes which are so heinous, they should require the death penalty. She mentions John Allen Muhammad, the adult suspect in the DC sniper killings, as an example of such a crime and criminal. Indeed, Mr. Muhammad is a terrible man. He deserves no mercy. Some would say he deserves nothing more than the same death he and Malvo inflicted on their victims. These people may be right, and they are mostly driven by righteous anger.

The problem is, our justice system doesn't run on righteous anger. And though Mr. Muhammad does not deserve our mercy, we would reduce ourselves to his level were we not to give it.

I do not believe, as Dray assumes that many death penalty opponents do, that killing is wrong in every case or instance. Revenge killing by the State IS wrong in every instance, and that is what the death penalty boils down to.

There is no proof that the death penalty is an effective deterrent for violent crime. In fact, States with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without it. It is solely reserved for those who murder in ways that revolt us.

In Maryland (and many other states I would assume) the death penalty has been proven to be applied by juries and prosecutors in a racist manner. Black males (particularly those who murder whites), to this day, are still more likely to be sentenced to death than whites in Maryland.

To argue that the death penalty is some sort of "criminal extermination service" is disturbing to me. If it isn't a deterrent, and it isn't revenge (can I assume state sanctioned revenge killing is wrong?), then it must be some sort societal fix. Killing serial killers as if these men are congenitally diseased when they are simply products of severe abuse in their childhood is insanity. Any argument that assumes there is some sort of genetic code or trigger for criminality is bunk anyway, but death penalty supporters continue to use these arguments to this day.

There is also the desire by death penalty proponents to separate society into "the criminals" and "the rest of us". This is a terrible and false dichotomy. Human beings are all capable of barbarity, of anger, of lust. We are all capable of losing control and we are all able to see the error of our ways and make positive changes in our lives. I believe the number one priority of the justice system must first be protection of the innocent. After that however, its next function must not be revenge, but instead rehabilitation.

I am a progressive, and I trust the government to do many things. I would trust them with my health care. I trust them with my defense, with my education (state schools, k-College).
I suppose that I trust the state to tax me equitably. I guess I trust them to not take corporate money in exchange for votes, but not really.

I certainly don't trust the state when it comes to going to war. In fact, if you want the best reason not to support the death penalty, based purely on the fact that it requires the state to carry it out?

As Governor, George W. Bush signed off on 152 executions. Now I ask you, can we really trust the State to kill people "correctly"?


NAACP Leaving Baltimore

Who can really blame them? To be honest, they are only moving their headquarters to Washington DC, but when you look at recent news, Baltimore and Maryland certainly seem hostile to the goals the NAACP wishes to achieve.

Though Maryland elected Democrats statewide, they did so while subtly snubbing the NAACP and the Black community. Ben Cardin famously skipped the NAACP debate vs Mike Steele (please see UPDATE at the bottom of the post). All reasons aside, Kweisi Mfume's Senate run was largely ignored by the Democratic Machine.

Then today, first I see that Governor-elect O'Malley, despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, as well as his knowledge of the University of Maryland Study which indicts the MD death penalty as racist, will still continue to carry out the death penalty in Maryland as long as the courts approve of lethal injection.

That opinion is completely unacceptable. No Democrat should be able to read the Maryland Study and conclude that the death penalty should be allowed to continue in Maryland. I could care less what the court thinks about lethal injection. The death penalty is madness, no matter the method. Parris Glendenning, for all his faults, understood this clearly when he instituted the moratorium. O'Malley must restore this moratorium on the death penalty.

Governor-Elect O'Malley, perhaps Sheila Dixon as well, need to do something to restore some sense of trust in our justice system, particularly in Baltimore City.

The NAACP, perhaps in their final Baltimore hurrah, have alleged that the Baltimore City police have been engaging in illegal arrests. This is what you get when you adopt the draconian policing policies that made Rudy Guliani famous.
Baltimore lawyers said in court documents that that arrests for "quality of life" crimes are not illegal; that City State's Attorney decision not to prosecute some crimes does not mean those arrests were unlawful; and that using a performance evaluation system for police officers based on the number of arrests is not unlawful.
Does anyone else really believe that every loitering and littering arrest was justified? How about every strip search? I think the NAACP most likely has a solid case. When people are judged by quantity not quality, quality obviously suffers. The evaluation system is one of the most troubling things in the suit. Police are being encouraged to make as many arrests as possible, and innocent people are being unreasonable arrested as a result.

I think it will be important to ask who was pushing these officers to get the high numbers. At what level did the order come from? I have a feeling our Governor-elect getting out of Baltimore just in time. Lets see if this case pulls him back into the quagmire of Baltimore crime and punishment.

So I cannot say I am surprised that the NAACP has begun finalizing plans to move to Washington DC in 2007. I am amazed they haven't left already. And yet:
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond has said the organization wanted to move its headquarters to be closer to Congress, government agencies and the many news media outlets in Washington. He said the NAACP loved everything about Baltimore, except its location.
Chairman Bond, speaking diplomatically, to say the least.

UPDATE: Stephanie Dray has correctly pointed out that it was really Mike Steele who intentionally skipped the statewide NAACP debate, and Ben Cardin who only skipped a smaller NAACP sponsored debate due to scheduling conflicts. Senator-elect Cardin had planned on debating Steele in the statewide debate, which Mr. Steele intentionally bowed out of. Thanks Steph. Sorry for the error.

Furthermore, I have no clue why the NAACP has decided to leave Baltimore. I was only making the point that they have every reason to. Though I respect his opinion, I do not agree with The League that the NAACP is abandoning the city. I do agree that Baltimore is losing a part of what made it special.