Col. Rose Forrest Recognized as a Leader in Maryland Legal Community

Col. Rose M. Forrest

As the first female staff judge advocate in the Maryland National Guard, Col. Rose M. Forrest, J.D. ’06, led legal operations for the Guard during a very challenging time: the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guard supported COVID testing and vaccination efforts across the state. She was recognized for her accomplishments when she was named the overall winner for The Daily Record’s 2021 Leadership in Law awards program. 

An Iraq veteran, Forrest has been serving the Army since 1998. In January 2020, she was named the state’s first female staff judge advocate, a role in which she serves as legal adviser to the National Guard’s Adjutant General and manages legal programs for the office of the Staff Judge Advocate.

In a statement released to announce her promotion, Forrest noted that she was the only female member of the JAG Corps when she joined. So when staffing the office, Forrest made a point of keeping diversity in mind — not just diversity of gender and ethnicity, but diversity of thought as well.

“I think if somebody walks in for an interview and their legal philosophy is completely different from mine, I’m probably going to hire them,” Forrest said. “When somebody presents them with a problem, [they are able] to analyze the problem and look at it from different perspectives.”

Earlier this year, she earned a master’s degree in Military and Strategic Leadership from the U.S. Army War College. Forrest previously worked in private practice, focusing on family law, real estate law and birth advocacy. In 2020, she was named first runner-up in the 2020 Ms. Veteran America competition, a fundraiser for homeless women veterans and their children.

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For Portia White, the Fight Against Tobacco Is an Equity Issue

Portia White

Portia White, J.D. ’02, had a hefty resume before joining the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), where she is vice president for strategic partnerships, in 2020. She has also wielded her organizing and advocacy savvy at the AARP, the National Education Association, and the Transport Workers Union of America.

During the run-up to the 2016 election, White was a senior adviser to Sen. Harry Reid, then served as deputy director for public engagement for the Democratic National Convention Committee. Prior to that, she ran her own business consultancy.

She seems to have found a home at CTFK, a natural culmination of her two decades of experience. “I love what I do,” she says. “I’m about caring for people and having a passion to push forward an agenda.”

For now, that means lobbying the Food and Drug Administration to follow through on a promise made this year to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, a regulatory process she predicts will take years. Menthol is a popular flavoring because it softens the harshness of cigarette smoke, White says, but it also causes smokers to inhale more deeply, and it makes quitting more difficult. 

For White and CTFK, this is also an equity issue. Some 85 percent of Black smokers choose menthol cigarettes, she says, and there is ample evidence that the cigarette industry markets directly to Black teenagers, heavily promoting menthol brands such as Salem, Kool and Newport. “They have been targeting various communities with their products. [They’re] really callous about it because of the profits that come back,” she says.

While rates of cigarette smoking have declined since the early 1990s, White says, flavored cigars and e-cigarettes — for which there are a mind-boggling 15,000 unique flavors — are eroding some of that hard-won progress. 

“Despite the reductions in rates of smoking,” she says, “tobacco is still the number one cause of preventable death, killing more Americans than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.”

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Christopher Adams Sees Making Partner as a ‘Step in the Journey’

Christopher W. Adams

Christopher W. Adams, J.D. ’06, this year became a partner at the Washington, D.C. firm of Squire Patton Boggs, where he specializes in intellectual property and technology. He has been at the firm since 2008, first as an associate and then as of counsel. 

While attending Baltimore Law at night, Adams worked for several Northern Virginia federal government IT solutions providers, gaining hands-on experience in all phases of the software development lifecycle. He holds many industry certifications.

In an interview earlier this year with, Adams shared some advice he received from a colleague on how to approach this next phase of his career. “He reminded me that as Nelson Mandela said, ‘After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb,’ and so I should take this as an important step in the journey, but not the destination.” 

His advice to young law firm associates? “Have a positive mindset and be respectful of both your professional colleagues and your administrative support staff; most have been at the firm longer than you, and they have lessons to teach you that will be helpful to your career development.”

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Alumnus and Military Judge Advocate Trained Troops Protecting the U.S. Capitol on Use of Force Rules

Photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers for the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

We’ve all seen the videos of the chaos at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In its aftermath, National Guard troops were called in from multiple states to restore and maintain order. One of those was University of Baltimore School of Law alumnus Army Capt. Julius M. Blattner, J.D. ’12.

Blattner is a brigade judge advocate with the 58th Troop Command in Adelphi, MD. Part of his role in this deployment at the Capitol has been training troops on the rules for the use of force, or RUF. While Guard members regularly receive training in the Maryland RUF, the rules of engagement often change from deployment to deployment, according to the Guard.  

While deployed in Washington, D.C., Maryland troops operated under the RUF set by the District of Columbia’s National Guard. Blattner is one of the military lawyers who were sent to Washington to train the Maryland service members on the new RUF.

“I first learned of the National Guard activation to Washington, D.C. from Governor Hogan’s tweet the afternoon of the (Jan. 6) attack on the Capitol,” Blattner says. “I immediately began to work with other judge advocates … to determine under what authorities the Guard was being activated to D.C.

“We also had to work on a Memorandum of Understanding … outlining the responsibilities and expectations of command and control, and support being provided during the mission. One of our biggest responsibilities as lawyers is to determine what laws apply and how they apply in these domestic operations,” he says.

“When soldiers first arrive in D.C., they are screened to make sure they are lawfully authorized to carry a weapon and are briefed on D.C.’s rules for the use of force by a D.C.-barred attorney. … The general principles of the RUFs are for service members to use the minimum force necessary to accomplish the mission and in self-defense or defense of others. I conduct scenario-based training with soldiers to help them apply the rules in situations they are most likely to face during their mission.

“I also advise commanders on how to incorporate the RUFs into their rehearsals and drills in responding to various situations.”

Blattner joined the Maryland National Guard in 2002 as a mechanic. After graduating from Baltimore Law and passing the Maryland bar exam, Blattner was admitted to the JAG Corps in 2013. Since then, he has been involved as a legal adviser in deployments following the Freddie Gray-related civil unrest in 2015, and more recently during civil unrest in response to the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

As a civilian, Blattner maintains a family law and mediation practice in Towson. 

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Political Wrangling Is All in a Day’s Work for Caylin Young

Caylin Young accepts a Dean's Citation award from law school Dean Ronald Weich in 2016.

In January of this year, Caylin Young, J.D. ’16, became the director of public policy at the ACLU of Maryland. In his role, he collaborates with stakeholders across the state in planning and implementing comprehensive legislative strategy. He provides legislative and strategic guidance and tools including policy analysis, strategies for lobbying, decision-maker targeting, effective coalition building, messaging and public engagement. 

The 2021 Maryland legislative session saw the passage of multiple historic police reform measures, which were a top priority for the ACLU and demanded a great deal of Young’s time and energy.

Young was involved in similar police reform efforts in 2018, while working as public policy counsel at the Maryland ACLU. “[We advocated for] repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, trying to set a statewide use-of-force standard … But there was not enough political capital and political motivation to get that done — even a few years ago, post-Freddie Gray,” he said in an April 2021 Baltimore Law webinar on access to justice.

“However, in the past year and a half … we’ve seen national protests … and that has pushed the politics in a different way. We’ve also seen some different political leadership,” Young said, “and that’s created the atmosphere where a lot of these reforms have been able to come to pass, finally.”

Before rejoining the ACLU, Young served for two years as the legislative director for City Council President Brandon Scott — now mayor of Baltimore — and deputy director of government relations for Mayor Scott. He also served as the 2015–2016 National Chair for the National Black Law Students Association. 

Rounding out his political experience, Young served as a Legal Fellow under U.S. Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), and was a legislative assistant for former Senate President Pro-Tempore Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-45) and Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn (D-45).

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The Coming Wave

As climate change threatens, lawyers drive policy on global migration

By Adam Stone

What if millions of people around the globe were to relocate in order to escape the effects of climate change? The question is more than theoretical.

“These migrations are already occurring. This is something that is happening today,” says Prof. Nienke Grossman, co-director of the Center for International and Comparative Law at Baltimore Law.

Climate migration, as it’s known, brings with it a range of legal implications. From immigration law to environmental law, from public policy to economic development: Attorneys across the board  will have a role to play in shaping the way society responds to this crisis in the making.

Nienke Grossman

Understanding climate migration

It’s widely understood that rising temperatures, worsening weather events, lack of water and loss of arable land — all effects of climate change — will drive future migration patterns.

“Migration and mobility are adaptation strategies in all regions of the world that experience climate variability,” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Moving from one place to another is a fundamental way humans respond to challenging conditions.”

As director for public policy at the Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service, Jill Bussey, J.D. ’03, is already seeing this firsthand. “Climate change is really no longer this threat looming in the distance. It is a destructive force, just as destructive as war, violence and persecution, and it is happening right now,” she says. “We are seeing the effect of climate change throughout the people that we serve, through our refugee resettlement program and through our family and child services programs.”

The New York Times points to Guatemala as a likely example of what the future holds. Declining rainfalls will eventually reduce crop yields by one-third, driving people off the land there. Now multiply this on a global scale: “By 2070, the kind of extremely hot zones, like in the Sahara, that now cover less than 1 percent of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land,” the newspaper reports.

The result will be massive shifts in population — as many as 143 million people on the move in Latin America, East Africa and South Asia alone, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

This will be problematic from a policy point of view, says Prof. Elizabeth Keyes, director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Baltimore Law.

“The people who are most vulnerable to climate change will be the ones who are the least likely to have options available to them,” she says. “They’re not going to be professional people or highly skilled people. It’s going to impact poor, uneducated people, the economically vulnerable. And those are exactly the people that nobody wants.”

Under present law, there’s no such thing as a “climate refugee.” Asylum seekers can claim their status if they’re persecuted for their religious beliefs, or if their political activities put them in jeopardy. “But individuals who leave their home communities due to climate change fall within a gap in international law,” Grossman says.

A lack of solid research hinders efforts to close that gap, says Prof. Sonya Ziaja, who teaches environmental law. While the world has known for decades about the likelihood of climate migration, “there has not been a lot of good data around this. There hasn’t been a lot of good research on it,” she says. “As a result, there are a lot of unknowns about where people are likely to go, under what circumstances.”

We can add to this a general reluctance to tinker with asylum statutes. “Anything that tries to expand the asylum law system is going to potentially weaken it out of existence,” Keyes says. “It is totally under-resourced, it’s a broken part of a broken system, and in general it’s just really unpopular.”

Despite the hurdles, experts say, there is much the legal community can do to lay the groundwork for a coming wave of climate migration.

Looking to precedent

Lawyers love precedent, and there are a number of key examples from the past that help to describe possible legal approaches to climate migration.

Grossman points to a case in which a Pacific Islander sued New Zealand for deporting him to his home state, which at the time was threatened by rising seas. He lost the case for technical reasons, “but the court did say that it may be unlawful for governments to send people back to countries where the effects of climate change may expose them to risks which threaten their lives,” Grossman says.

Keyes likewise points to efforts by the United States to make migration available to people from the Marshall Islands in Micronesia, after American nuclear testing contaminated those islands.

Examples like these could help establish legal precedent for action on climate migration. Basic tort law also may provide an avenue.

“The idea of torts is that when you have done damage to somebody else, you should compensate them. You should make them whole,” says Keyes. “When we look at the places where people have to leave because of climate, these are not the neighborhoods and communities and countries that are responsible for climate change.”

Developed nations are heating the globe, making developing places unlivable. By basic tort law, Keyes suggests, the industrial countries have an obligation to address the damage they’ve caused.

Driving policy

Brianna Thomas

Third-year student Brianna Thomas has researched climate impacts in the course of her legal studies. She sees much room for improvement in the current system.

“We need to create protections for people who are fleeing these things. We’re not going to prevent the climate from changing right now, so we’re going to have to move toward adaptation and helping people navigate the life effects that are going to impact them,” says Thomas, who in August completed a prestigious internship with the National Resources Defense Council.

“Being an attorney means being an advocate. It’s about helping people navigate through the most uncertain and most troubling and traumatic things they’ve ever had to go through. In that respect, the legal community can be trying to make these things clearer. We can be talking about climate migration before it becomes a catastrophe or a disaster, rather than dealing with it retroactively.”

Despite the uncertainties — who will move? where? when? — we know enough to start crafting policy today.

“We can assume that most people will go to climates that are better,” says Ziaja. Coastal people will move inland as waters rise; people in hotter climates will move to more temperate zones. “When climate causes politically unstable environments, or a lack of security, or when people’s homes simply become uninhabitable or no longer exist, people are going to move, and we desperately need a framework to address that at multiple levels of government,” she says.

That means there will be legal work to do in the realm of immigration law at the national and international levels. Someone will need to advocate for new classes of visas, for example. Environmental lawyers may also play a role in helping to craft the new rules of the road. “There has to be a policy change, and lawyers can help to drive that,” Ziaja says.

Along those lines, she notes, no single nation need shoulder the burden. Lawyers could help to craft international alliances, where masses of refugees could be dispersed among multiple hosts, much as the European Union has done with Syrian refugees. “There’s no reason one country has to be the answer to this,” she says.

A human right

Lawyers also could help to formulate the guiding principles of climate migration, by framing this as a human rights issue first and foremost. 

“Under international human rights law, people have the right to life,” Grossman says. The mechanisms of life — adequate food, housing, clean water, sanitation — all are imperiled by climate change. That makes climate migration a human rights issue.

“Lawyers can continue to work on broader issues about guaranteeing human rights to all migrants,” she says. “That doesn’t mean we have to let in everyone, but it does mean that when people are here, we have an obligation under international human rights law to treat them in certain ways.”

She pointed to the Biden administration’s recent executive order on climate migration as a good starting point. It called for a report on the implications of climate migration, which Grossman describes as an important first step in driving policy changes. 

“It will be interesting to see how the definition of ‘refugee’ evolves and whether attorneys continue to develop their arguments about who should be included within it,” Grossman says.

Bussey says she has high hopes for that report, which was due to be completed in August 2021.

“We’re hoping the report from this administration will provide more context for our analysis into the current legal climate, the current policy framework,” she says. “What’s already clear is that there are visible gaps in our current legal system. There is a dire need to reform our system and to broaden the grounds for protection.”

Elizabeth Keyes

Start local

Climate migration is to some extent an international issue.

“There are all sorts of mechanisms that talk about a right to leave a country, but there’s no companion right to enter another country,” Keyes says. 

“And yet, when people cannot survive on the land, then they are going to have to go someplace else.”

At the same time, there are ways in which the legal community on the national level, and even the local level, can help to address the situation. And while it’s likely that immigration attorneys and environmental lawyers will be on the front lines of that effort, there’s a role for others as well — especially lawyers who may be engaged in activities related to local economic development, housing, and other issues touching civic policy.

Ziaja lays it out as follows. Climate refugees will have to go somewhere, and it’s likely they will head toward already established communities in places less impacted by drought, severe weather, rising seas, and so on. The catch: People already live in those places.

We’ll therefore need thoughtful public policy to accommodate the newcomers.

“If you are involved in land-use issues, in any kind of city planning, you have a major role to play,” she says. Those who work on housing issues, who litigate against unfair evictions or advocate in favor of policies that make affordable housing more readily available, “all of them can be watching this as a major area of concern,” she says.

In this regard, the entire legal apparatus may at some point touch upon issues related to climate migration. “Professors and judges and legislators all can be talking about this issue, raising awareness even just at the local and regional level,” Ziaja says. “All of that makes a difference.”

Of course, we could just do nothing and wait for the floodgates to open. But that may not be the smartest course of action.

“So here’s the really bad news,” Ziaja says. “For many of us in the United States, within the next century, our families are likely to be climate migrants themselves.”

Climate change won’t just impact less developed nations. America’s coastal cities and southern states will get hit, too, and that will have an immediate local impact.

“Canada is likely looking down on us and thinking: How are we going to handle a bunch of people from Arizona moving up here? As far-fetched as that might seem today, it’s something that the Canadian government is certainly concerned about,” Ziaja says. “And it applies equally to this region, to Baltimore. We’re going to need to be ready to handle an influx.”

Lawyers also can help to move the needle by asserting the basic rights of would-be climate migrants.

“The asylum system is overdue for reform, the process itself is broken. In particular, attorneys can advocate for the independence of our judiciary and for due process in immigration hearings,” Bussey says. “Even if they don’t know all of the intricacies of asylum law, lawyers who understand the basic concept of due process can fight for that basic constitutional principle.”

Sonya Ziaja

Domestic Impacts of Climate Change

Lisa Blitstein
Law student Lisa Blitstein has been researching the impact of domestic climate migration — Americans moving inland to escape coastal flooding, as well as those displaced by wildfires and other extreme-weather impacts of climate change. Cities like Buffalo, NY and parts of Michigan are already looking at ways to court these future migrants to bolster their local workforces. Blitstein, due to earn her degree in 2022, says lawyers will have a key role to play as climate change intensifies and such migrations become more common. “Climate impacts already are visibly producing migrants,” she says. “You can see coastal flooding. You can see people displaced by wildfires in California. You can see unprecedented snowfall just this past winter in Texas. That is a consequence of temperature fluctuations coming out of climate change, and it disproportionately impacts people in poverty, people in low-income communities.” That’s where the lawyers come in. “The lawyer as advocate in this situation can help to redirect conversations so that decisions, rather than being made on behalf of people, are really being made by the people,” she says. “It’s a ‘participatory governance’ model, in the realm of public policy, where the lawyers are helping impacted communities to understand political processes so that they can be active actors in the process.” She points to the Baltimore-Washington area, which likely will receive climate migrants in the coming years. “There are already people who live here, obviously. How do we create ample resources for cohabitation? How do we navigate the social impacts that this will produce?” Blitstein says. “Lawyers have a role in helping to create those balances, helping to navigate those conversations.” The legal community is naturally poised to fill that role of trusted advocate. “Something that people may forget is that lawyers are storytellers,” she says. “In this situation, that is essential. Someone needs to make clear in the minds of people what it looks like to be a climate migrant, what it looks like to have to leave your home, leave everything behind. A lawyer has the essential skill of communication that will be needed to make these conversations real and meaningful.”

Take a Closer Look

Join us Tuesday, October 26 at 5 p.m. for a UB Law in Focus webinar on this topic, featuring the three professors quoted in this piece. Register for the event.

Adam Stone is a writer based in Baltimore.

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A Passion for LITIGATION — and for People

By Christianna McCausland

Steve Silverman always knew he wanted to be a lawyer. Sure, his father was an attorney, but that wasn’t what really fired his imagination. As a young boy, Silverman was infatuated with the case of the Boston Strangler.

“I thought it would be exciting to be in front of a jury defending criminal cases,” says Silverman. “Even at age six, my vision of being a lawyer was of a criminal defense attorney.”

Today, Steve Silverman, J.D. ’91, is a managing partner at Silverman Thompson Slutkin White (STSW), the firm he founded in 1994. The firm employs 43 attorneys engaged in a wide range of client work, including personal injury plaintiffs’ work, criminal and civil defense, and corporate litigation. The firm is regularly named to “best places to work” lists, and Silverman boasts an unimpeachable record that includes a more than two-decade stretch of having never lost a jury trial in a criminal matter.

After leaving the University of Richmond with a GPA indicative of Silverman’s fun-loving personality — if not his studiousness — his father told him he was going to in-state law school. 

“UB was a nuts-and-bolts school, which in hindsight was great because it focused on the practical skills that make you a good lawyer,” he recalls. “Law school is where you learn the language of the law. Once you learn it, wherever you learn it, only your personal limitations hold you back.”

Silverman took two pieces of advice when he graduated from law school. One came from his father: Don’t be one of those associates you see burning the midnight oil for the sake of the big firm. The other came from a college friend’s father, a former U.S. attorney general, at a party.

“He told me to focus on the public defender’s office out of law school, and I’d run circles around the competition,” he says.

After graduation, Silverman did just that, becoming an assistant public defender in Baltimore City in the felony narcotics division. Six days after he was sworn in, he was picking a jury. He won that case and the next five. They were tough cases, but he was a competitive guy, a high school athlete who liked a challenge. 

“There’s no difference whether you’re in a courtroom or a wrestling match — you want to win,” he states. Still, when his winning streak ended, it hit hard.

“Being in court was exactly how I imagined it would be when I was a kid,” he says. “What I didn’t realize was how much pressure it would be — someone’s life and liberty are on the line.” 

He went on to try hundreds of jury trials in a few short years. He took on other people’s cases and seized any opportunity to get experience in court. After being in court for about 1,000 consecutive business days, he felt he’d cut his legal baby teeth, had a strong foundation, and was ready to do something on his own. He founded STSW to handle the kinds of cases he wanted, the cases and social issues he found interesting.

“I enjoy the mayhem of life,” he says. “The fun thing about law is there’s always something interesting; you think you’ve seen it all and then you can be flabbergasted by one phone call.”

Steve Silverman goes over cases with firm associates and Baltimore Law alumni Ethan Nochumowitz, J.D. '14, and Ilona Shparaga, J.D. '17.

‘More charm than bluster’

Much of the early work of the firm was learning by experience and bootstrapping. Silverman’s first real civil case was on behalf of a guard at the courthouse whose son died in a tragic accident. He figured out how to prepare the case and recovered damages for the client. If he ended up in a case where he was out of his depth, he would read a book or take a weekend seminar — and then call the instructor with questions.

“For years, we called ourselves ‘the firm with no adult supervision,’” he quips. “We work hard but we try to be human about our hours. We don’t tolerate jackasses or people who don’t play nice in the sandbox.”

That sort of straight talk is what distinguishes Silverman. Kathleen “KC” Murphy is director of the criminal division in the Office of the Attorney General for Maryland. She’s known Silverman since the ’90s, when she was a law clerk in Baltimore City and he was a public defender. Since that time, they’ve had cases opposite each other, most recently in her role as an assistant attorney general.

“As an attorney, Steve is consistent, he’s a straight shooter who gets to the real issues and cuts to the chase,” she says. “He’s always collegial and a pleasure to work with, even when we disagree,” she continues. “In the courtroom, his style has always been more charm than bluster, and he’s professional and respectful of everyone in the courtroom. He doesn’t need to demean people to be assertive.” 

As dean of The University of Baltimore School of Law from 2007 to 2011, Phillip Closius appreciated Silverman’s keen insight as a member of his advisory council, particularly when Closius was securing funds for the new law school building.

“Steve brings a lot of energy to everything he gets involved with, and he sees the world through a lens of practicality,” says Closius.

Now a professor at the law school, Closius is of counsel at STSW in the area of sports law. He’s closed a case against the National Hockey League related to concussions, and he continues to work on a case against the National Football League on the abuse of prescription drugs. Closius says the humane hours and collegial atmosphere at STSW are real and come from the top down.

“Steve has something I try to talk to my law students about,” says Closius. “It’s good to be a good lawyer, but you need to be personable to appeal to a jury and to get clients. You can relate to Steve as a person, not just as a lawyer.”

In 2016 Silverman founded the Silverman Thompson Slutkin White fellowship for first-year law students at The University of Baltimore. The inaugural recipient, Greg Waterworth, J.D. ’18, says the fellowship was a unique opportunity to work directly with Silverman and other partners.

“A lot of opportunities for law students early on are ‘safe’ or administrative. It’s a coddled experience,” says Waterworth, now a litigation associate at Saul Ewing. “[At STSW] you were treated as a member of a team, so you got over any fear of the unknown and realized that if you don’t know something, you can learn it. I was treated as a colleague, not an intern.”

Ethan Nochumowitz, J.D. ’14, had a position as a law clerk at STSW in 2012 and is now an associate there. He explains that the partners select their associates based not only on their GPA, but also on whether they will fit into the culture of the firm, which Nochumowitz says is very much directed by Steve and very much outside the norm of a typical firm.

“It’s not high-stress. You’ll see Steve skating around on his skateboard in the office, and associates are encouraged to plan events like pool parties and ping pong tournaments,” he says. 

Yet the experience of a young lawyer at STSW is not all fun and games.

“Steve got his start in the public defender’s office, and that shaped his view on shaping young lawyers,” says Nochumowitz. “He was thrown into court, and he believes the best way to become a savvy lawyer is to be thrown into the ring. [The partners] make it a priority that you get substantive experience early on. You’re not sitting in a cubicle doing research.”

A focus on high-profile cases

Much of Silverman’s charisma and talent for cultivating relationships have shifted him away from the courtroom to building the business of the firm, which he enjoys. But he still jumps in when needed for consultations and takes certain high-profile cases. He successfully defended One Mind Ministries cult member Ria Ramkissoon against a first-degree murder charge that alleged she starved her one-year-old son, a case that captured national headlines. Most recently, he represented Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) victims Umar Burley and Brent Mathews, who went to federal prison after drugs — planted by GTTF officers — were found in their vehicle, as well as former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh in her “Healthy Holly” case of fraud and tax evasion.

Silverman says every case is different and requires a unique approach that’s in the best interest of the client. The Pugh case, though, was especially tough. Because of her fragile physical and mental state as well as the insurmountable evidence, Silverman says the only thing to do was “to work out a resolution without taking advantage of the limelight, so she could get through that case and have a meaningful life,” he says.

“That case was a nightmare. I hated every minute of it,” he continues. “I had people knocking on the door of my home at 9 at night, following me out of my office, taking pictures of me in the grocery store — it was non-stop. All professionalism and humanity went out the window.”

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh leaves U.S. District Court in Baltimore with her attorney, Steve Silverman, after pleading guilty Nov. 21, 2019, to federal charges. Photo credit: Steve Ruark/AP

Gregg Bernstein, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder and former Baltimore City State’s Attorney, was counsel for Pugh’s campaign finance committee, and thus spent a lot of time with Silverman working through the myriad issues of winding down the fund. It was a relationship that could have become adversarial. He saw Silverman under the media’s pressure and says he handled it “with a degree of calm and grace.”

What really mattered to Silverman, says Bernstein, was the client.

“Steve is extremely tenacious. He’s passionate about his work and his clients. You saw that in his representation of [Umar] Burley; he really put his heart and soul into that,” he says.

Bernstein states that he’s gotten to know Silverman personally in the last year, and that a healthy dose of irreverence serves Silverman well. “One of his strongest assets is that he knows how to read a room. If you can’t read the jury, you’re not effective as a trial lawyer, but it’s a talent and an important skill — in and out of the courtroom.”

While he still tries cases, Silverman is focused on building his firm, emulating Edward Bennett Williams, who built his own successful Washington, D.C., firm, Williams & Connolly.

“The business of law is as interesting to me as the practice of law,” Silverman says. “To grow a law firm, you do the right things by people, and tell the truth, and people will call on you for other matters.”

Silverman is extremely personable and easygoing. Yet he says he’s more introvert than extrovert, and he likes dogs more than most people. He’s still an athlete, running three to five miles a day on a trail near his Baltimore County home. He’s played guitar since he was young (he keeps a guitar at the office) and he loves traveling to concerts and sporting events, especially those of the clients his firm represents. All that was squelched by the coronavirus pandemic, so he has spent that time making improvements to his house, spending time with his wife and his dogs, and keeping up with his two adult children. Post-quarantine, he and his wife are collaborating on a redesign of STSW’s downtown office space. 

It will not be conventional. 

Christianna McCausland is a writer based in Baltimore.

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Dean’s Letter – Fall 2021

June 19, 2021 was a happy turning point for our law school. After more than a year of forced separation in the shadow of a deadly global pandemic, we emerged into the sunshine that day to celebrate The University of Baltimore School of Law Class of 2021 and — better late than never — the Class of 2020. A few months earlier, we were uncertain if it would be safe to host an in-person commencement. But lifesaving vaccines caused the virus to recede enough for us to honor our marvelous graduates in person.

The 15-month shutdown was tough on everyone, and it presented unique challenges to law students. Legal education is meant to be an intense, face-to-face undertaking. Some of the best learning takes place in hallway conversations, late-night study groups, or over pizza and beers at Turp’s. Still, we must be grateful for Zoom and other internet platforms that enabled our law school to continue functioning, albeit remotely. We never wavered from our mission to educate the next generation of UB lawyer-leaders.

Technology alone would have been insufficient without other ingredients. Students brought to bear the skills for which our law school has long been known: grit, perseverance, focus and hard work. Faculty and staff members also rose to the occasion, mastering unfamiliar technology almost overnight so they could connect with students, and connect students with each other.  

This fall, we’ll be back in the John and Frances Angelos Law Center, our light-filled, state-of-the-art building at the corner of Charles Street and Mount Royal Avenue. It will be a joyful reunion, but it will not be business as usual. We will take advantage of the lessons of the pandemic, incorporating online elements into the curriculum to maximize valuable classroom time.  

Nor will the subject matter of a post-pandemic UB Law education be business as usual. Just as our platinum status LEED-certified building is designed to respond to the peril of climate change, so the scholarship and learning within the building must take account of this existential threat. In this issue of Baltimore Law, you’ll read how climate change is affecting migration patterns, and therefore immigration law. You’ll be impressed by the UB Law professors and graduates who play a leading role in analyzing and addressing this worldwide phenomenon.  

The post-pandemic world must also grapple with questions of “digital justice.” In this magazine, Professor Michele Gilman sounds the alarm about hidden algorithms that may reinforce bias, and you’ll learn how Professor Colin Starger and colleagues prepare law students to be masters, not servants, of big data.  

Meanwhile, both before and after the pandemic, UB alumni have distinguished themselves in the legal community. In this magazine, we shine a well-deserved spotlight on one successful Baltimore practitioner, Steve Silverman. We’re proud of Steve and other alumni who are putting their Baltimore Law degrees to such good use.  

Finally, you’ll enjoy reading warm tributes to retiring professors Steve GrossmanDon StoneKen Lasson and Barbara Babb from their faculty colleagues. And you’ll learn about the dynamic new faculty members who will carry on the UB Law traditions of classroom excellence and student-focused mentorship.    

Those traditions did not disappear during this strange period of mandatory distancing. Our online classrooms were still excellent, and students continued to benefit from the caring mentorship of faculty and staff. But these special features of our law school will be heightened as we repopulate the building and savor the exhilarating immediacy of face-to-face human interaction.    

Welcome back to the three-dimensional world! 

Ronald Weich

Digital Justice

Big data holds promise and problems for the practice of law

By Christianna McCausland

Say you conduct a search for T-shirts on Google. For weeks after, you will likely see pop-up ads for T-shirts in your social media feeds. We all know, and to some extent accept, that our digital data is gathered, scraped, sold and exchanged. Being pestered and stalked by computerized Big Brother is part of life in the 21st century. But for many people, digital profiling is serious.

“People have a sense that this is creepy or annoying, but the consequences for the upper and middle classes aren’t as dire as they are for those experiencing poverty,” says Michele E. Gilman, Venable Professor of Law and director of the Saul Ewing Civil Advocacy Clinic at the School of Law. “These same algorithms serve as gatekeepers to housing, credit, employment, education and healthcare, and they shape our workplaces.”

Tenant screening is one area where algorithm use is insidious. A tenant could be consistently turned down for housing due to a screening algorithm that contains inaccurate information. More alarming to Gilman is that often the algorithms that impact these decisions operate without transparency. The tenant may have no idea that the screening algorithm is the reason they have been turned down, they may not know the screening was conducted, and they will have little to no recourse against it, even if they did. Often the tenant’s attorney isn’t aware of the algorithms’ existence either, stymying their ability to effectively advocate for the client.

Gilman recently completed a fellowship at research organization Data & Society, and she published a guide for poverty lawyers on this topic, Poverty Lawgorithms. She notes that individuals cannot fully protect their data privacy, even if they opt out of things like social media accounts. Data collection is everywhere — in your credit score, in details you dropped into a health app that doesn’t fall under HIPAA protections, and in state and federal records.

“We don’t have a comprehensive data privacy law like our counterparts in the European Union. It’s fractured,” she states. “We rely on notice and consent and privacy policies that you must accept to utilize a service. But notice and consent is a myth because no one reads those notices, understands them, or can negotiate their terms.”

Algorithms are problematic. They automate tasks for greater efficiency, but they are coded by humans and thus prone to bias. They can scrape data from unreliable sources or misinterpret it. Gilman notes that someone who lost their job due to the pandemic, for example, then fell behind in rent and has an eviction claim against them, could have that eviction follow them for years, even though it legally falls under pandemic protections from federal eviction moratorium mandates.

Yet big data is not going away. If anything, society’s reliance on automated decision-making is likely to increase. Algorithms make decision-making quicker, easier and cheaper.  

“We need to raise awareness,” says Gilman. “As lawyers, we need to learn to spot obstacles impacting our clients and, once you know this is happening, create a legal strategy to ameliorate the harm being done.”

Colin Starger
Matthew Stubenberg

Lawyers as informed tech consumers

The law school tackled this issue head-on with the creation of Coding for Lawyers, a course on how to write computer programs, and in creating its Legal Data & Design Clinic (LDDC). While it may seem incongruous to have a coding course in law school, Colin Starger, professor of law, creator of the course and director of the LDDC, says it’s essential for contemporary lawyers to be informed consumers of tech. 

“The idea is to give lawyers and law students a deeper understanding of what can and can’t be automated in law,” says Starger, who this year was promoted to associate dean for academic affairs. “It’s important for lawyers to have digital literacy because technology has changed, and will continue to change, how law is practiced.”

Matthew Stubenberg is an associate director of legal technology at the A2J Lab at Harvard Law School and a Baltimore Law adjunct professor who teaches the Coding for Lawyers course. For his part, Stubenberg advocates for open data if for no other reason than, “the nefarious actors have the data — the good guys should have access too.” He says that while the law school course is not meant to create software developers, it’s important for lawyers to have an understanding of how technology operates. 

“If you work for a car company, you don’t need to know how to build a car, but you should understand the basics,” he states. “Law school is the time to delve into the technology divide, not when you’re an associate at a conference table with your new tech client feeling totally overwhelmed.”

Understanding what can be automated in law is also important for students as they look at career development. Many legal tasks are headed toward automation, which could make certain lawyerly roles obsolete. Conversely, law tech is booming, creating opportunities for lawyers looking for nontraditional career paths. Lawyers who are informed about how technology operates and how it can be shaped can play a critical role in legal technology’s future. 

“People think computers are magic, that if an algorithm says something is right, it is,” says Starger. “That’s not true. If you understand how [algorithms] work, you’ll understand their limitations, what they’re good at, what they’re bad at and the dangers of asking them to do a task they’re not good at. You won’t get fooled by people making tall claims, and you can leverage technology for good.”

This is the double-edged sword of algorithms. Despite their flaws, they also hold the power to fuel tremendous positive change. Starger points out that because computers can quickly and efficiently analyze vast data sets, they are an effective way to spot trends, like the underpinnings of structural racism.

“Using big data and computers, you can analyze a social or legal system so you’re not just dealing in anecdotes,” says Starger. “Evidence-driven reform is largely facilitated by quality data from reliable sources.”

Starger saw this play out in his own work helping to end mass incarceration, which includes helping lead the law school’s Pretrial Justice Clinic. He explains that two myths emerged to solve the issue: provide relief to nonviolent drug offenders and get rid of private prisons.

“But if you look at the data, a very small percentage of the people in jail are nonviolent drug offenders. The largest single percentile of people in state prisons are there for violent offenses. Similarly private prisons, while there’s much to dislike about them, are less than two to maybe five percent of the prison population,” says Starger. 

“That’s important to know because if we’re going to confront this crisis we need to confront our understanding of violence, the sources of it and whether our punitive response makes sense. If you didn’t proceed on data, you would only be addressing the low-hanging fruit of nonviolent drug offenders as a major driver in mass incarceration.”

Using algorithms to correct injustice

Starger explains how data has also scored victories in his law clinic work. The Pretrial Justice Clinic, as part of a coalition, was able to change rules to end unaffordable money bails. In a recent legislative session, the Legal Data & Design Clinic submitted testimony in favor of ending the practice of suspending drivers’ licenses as a punishment for unpaid traffic violations. In both cases, data indicating these rules’ disproportionate impacts on low-income people of color played a key role.

A striking example of data’s ability to move the dial on social justice issues can be found in Stubenberg’s Maryland Expungement website. He built the site in 2015, assuming it would be useful for self-represented users looking to clear their records, but attorneys constitute the bulk of the site’s traffic.  

“The process of expungement is fairly straightforward, but you need to understand eligibility, and there are a lot of forms —it’s a very time-consuming process,” says Stubenberg. “The way the site works is, you type in a case number and a scraper on the back end pulls the information back to the site, runs it through an algorithm to determine if it’s eligible, and then populates all the forms.”

The site took a tedious process and greatly expedited it. To date, more than 118,091 expungements have been executed via the site. 

Stubenberg concedes that algorithms have the potential to make problems worse, but he also believes they can make them go away. For example, algorithms are often cited by critics as biased, but Stubenberg believes they have the power to remove bias. Take, for example, judges at sentencing. 

“There’s already a bias in [judges] — or it may not even be theirs because they’re dealing with the information fed to them by the prosecutor, police and defense attorneys,” he says. 

Not only is that bias hard to measure, he explains, it is time-consuming, expensive and often ineffective to correct. 

“But if you have an algorithm and you measure that bias, you can tweak that algorithm until it’s more fair,” he continues. “That creates a more equal playing field than if you’re dealing with one judge or police officer who was just having a bad day.”


Systemic reform is a place where Gilman feels data can play a positive role. She was encouraged by the move in the last Maryland legislative session for non-conviction criminal records to be automatically expunged. Those arrests, even without a conviction, can haunt an individual as they try to gain housing and employment. She would like to see the expansion of eviction expungement so tenant screening companies can’t scrape that data. This sort of large-scale law reform is more effective than tackling cases one at a time. 

“To really solve systemic harm, you need a systemic solution,” says Gilman. “There’s so much we could do around housing records, coerced debt … there are so many areas where we could nip this at the source, rather than trying to fix it after the individual has been harmed.” 

Systemic reform will also need to be holistic, as numerous algorithms might impact a lawyer’s client. A housing lawyer helping in a landlord-tenant case might have a client who is also being harmed by an employment algorithm, or an inaccurate credit score. Big data is taking law outside its traditional siloes. 

Law students today are digital natives. While they don’t need to be software developers to succeed in a technology-driven world, their awareness and intuitive connection with technology can benefit the future of digital justice.

“A lot of lawyers feel they lack the technical expertise to challenge a computer,” says Gilman. “We want people to have a healthy skepticism of computer-generated outcomes and give them to the confidence to do this work.” 

Christianna McCausland is a writer based in Baltimore.

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Don Stone: Law School’s Iron Man with a Heart of Gold Retires

By Fred Brown

Don Stone

Most people know that former Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken is baseball’s Iron Man. But Baltimore has another iron man who is not quite as well-known: my dear friend, University of Baltimore law professor Don Stone, who has retired after 32 years of extraordinary teaching, service and scholarship. More accurately, Don is an iron man with a heart of gold. 

If there was a Hall of Fame for law professors, Don would qualify for several reasons. He has always been an excellent teacher who cares deeply about his students and is in turn loved by them — in Criminal Law, where he would enliven his classes with Ninja Turtles and other props; in the Mental Health Law Clinic (which he created), where he supervised students in the representation of mentally ill patients facing involuntary civil commitment at Sheppard Pratt Hospital; and the Law and Disabilities Seminar (which he also created), where he and his students would discuss and debate important legal issues affecting disabled persons. 

Don has performed an incredible amount of service to the community, in his decades of tireless efforts representing mentally ill patients at Sheppard Pratt (apart from his work in the law clinic), and his work with the Homeless Persons Representation Project and Disability Rights Maryland, among other such activities. As far as “inside service,” Don has done yeoman’s work for the law school, serving as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and playing vital roles on various committees. Don was the first official director of the law clinics, helping to establish the excellent reputation that the clinics have today. 

Don has been an excellent and prolific scholar, who has written over a score of articles on important topics concerning mental health and disability law. Thus, Don has been a “three-tool” star, and these accomplishments have earned him great recognition: several awards for teaching and service, and two endowed chairs.

But Don is much more than a three-tool star, if that weren’t enough. To begin with, there is Don’s incredible work ethic and stamina, beginning with the “streak”: Don taught 32 years at Baltimore Law and never missed a class due to illness or injury; he even hobbled to school to teach his class just one week after knee replacement surgery. By comparison, Cal Ripken, baseball’s so-called Iron Man, went a mere 16 seasons without missing a game. 

Don also served for six years as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, which is the modern-day record for service in this role. And Don has played for 32 years and counting on the law school softball team, a record that will likely stand forever. Adding to Don’s “iron man” status is the fact that he has completed eight full running marathons, several half marathons, and regularly does 30 mile-plus bike rides — and a lot of this was done following surgeries for a torn meniscus (twice) and eventual knee replacement. 

Don’s work ethic and stamina are not his only outstanding virtues. Most importantly, Don epitomizes community building. Whatever he does, it is about bringing people together — students in particular — and creating an environment where individuals are respected and treated with kindness. While serving as associate dean, Don instituted the policy of having no classes from 12 to 1:30 p.m., to provide a free period for students (and faculty), where they could engage in social and other activities. 

More recently, Don both created and served as the faculty coordinator for the University of Baltimore softball tournament, which offers law students an outlet from their studies as well as an opportunity to meet other law students and alumni. Sure, softball was fun for Don, but the key for him was the community it created for the students who participated. Don has done the same in several other ways, such as having his clinic students over for dinner each year, participating for many years in Camp Connect, a summer camp that reunites foster children with their siblings, and delivering meals every Friday to seniors and persons with disabilities through Meals on Wheels.

So, to my dear friend, congratulations on an amazing 32 years at Baltimore Law and your lasting legacy of excellence, work ethic and community building.

Fred Brown is a professor and director of the Graduate Tax program at Baltimore Law.

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