By Anthony S. Volpe
Special to the Legal
The recent news report that Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley threatened the budget of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law because it filed suit against Perdue Farms Inc. and a chicken farm that supplies Perdue is troubling on all levels. Putting aside all merit considerations regarding the suit, there are no positives in the governor’s actions.
Law schools are charged with educating advocates for all sides of an issue and the decision to use the clinic program to advocate for a particular position should not be influenced by the potential that it could result in a loss of funding for the school. The only lesson that can be learned from such meddling is negative – powerful people or companies can apply pressures to bend and twist events to their advantage regardless of the law.
In addition to the harmful lesson this teaches at the law school, it reinforces the public perception that the law is manipulated by the rich and powerful. There is already too much distrust of the process and a public intervention by the state’s top official in a litigated matter can have no good outcome. The governor’s argument that he intervened to save a family chicken farm is unavailing. While it is commendable that the governor is protecting the welfare of the chicken farmer, the families down stream of the alleged pollution and the many users of the Chesapeake Bay are entitled to the same protection. Since there is an obvious dispute over the accuracy of the pollution charges, the matter is best settled by the courts.
There is no good that can come from politicians mixing in judicial issues, regardless of how pure the heart of the mixer.
Anthony S. Volpe, a shareholder at Volpe & Koenig, has corporate and private practice experience in securing, licensing and enforcing all aspects of intellectual property rights. His patent work includes appeals before the USPTO Board of Patent Appeals and interferences and international trade commission, prosecution of patent applications, rendering opinions regarding patentability and enforcement of patent rights.