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Howard County Circuit Court awards Sanctions against Referendum Litigation Pro Bono Attorneys

[Howard County MD. 27 August 2014]   Citizens Working to Fix Howard County (FixHoCo), were in court today to defend pending motions in Circuit Court. William Erskine of Offit Kurman, representing Normandy Ventures, LP, in the opposition of the Howard County Comprehensive Zoning referendum, requested that referendum volunteers and their pro bono attorneys pay a share of his clients' legal fees and costs. During the sanctions motion hearing, Attorney Erskine amended his sanctions request to not include the individuals in the case, and changed his demand to only apply to their attorneys, stating "these are honest people".

Pro Bono referendum attorneys, Susan Gray, and Allen Dyer, non-partisan candidate for the Board of Education, argued their rights to have filed appeals, and protect their clients' first amendment rights in not having discovery allowed in an election case. Typically, even on an appeal case, you cannot take discovery and add new facts to the record without specific allegations, which were not made in this case. Also, in election law cases, the right to free speech, especially political speech, is protected by the first amendment. [see "sanctions" below right]


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Attorney Allen Dyer writes:

"As an attorney, I will never counsel a client to give up her/his First Amendment rights. We must always respect the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Judge Tisdale needs to review the Supreme Court cases Ms. Gray and I cited in our legal memorandum." Posted 27 August 2014

OPINION: Alan Schneider comments

It would be a further outrage if any money were awarded to Erskine or Karpinski for their wrongful attacks on voters' Referendum rights to put an issue on the ballot for a vote.  In Washington State (I have not researched all states) any intimidation, harassment, and threats to the referendum process is considered a gross misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a year in jail. Wally (Walter) Carson (a democratic Candidate for State Delegate for District 9A, and a strong fighter years ago for Referendum Rights) was the first person to pledge that if elected his first action would be to introduce a bill in Maryland making it a crime to interfere with the referendum process. [Please do what you can to support Wally Carson, and Allen Dyer for School Board -- a vote for only one person instead of several is a stronger vote for Allen Dyer. I am also in need of volunteers for my campaign for County Council-District 5.  Change is needed.
Regards, Alan Schneider

Howard County board is too cozy with developers

As a new participant in Howard County's comprehensive zoning process last year certain things became increasingly evident over time ("Special appeals court strikes down Howard zoning referendum," Aug. 13): Read more online:


During this referendum process, volunteers have been harassed, intimidated, demanded to have video depositions taken of them, without scheduling dates, and even threatened with arrest, when the right to take these depositions was on appeal. Now, Judge Tisdale in the Howard County Circuit Court, has awarded sanctions of $6000 against Attorneys Gray and Dyer, stating that they should have filed a protective order to avoid discovery, instead of appealing his decision to grant it, even though, Judge Tisdale, had just denied the same protective order, with the same circumstances, the same week that Attorney Erskine filed new subpoenas. It is a sad day in Howard County when citizens are not only refused the right to petition local laws, by Board of Elections decisions that stated no reasoning, but the appeal court has upheld this right of the Board of Elections to do this, and now the Circuit Court has even ruled that Pro Bono attorneys fighting to protect the first amendment rights of their clients, are to be sanctioned and pay the developers.

Submitted by Lisa Markovitz

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