A Baltimore County judge on Wednesday scheduled a trial for July in the lawsuits over control of the Orioles and other assets of Peter Angelos, even as a lawyer for the team owner’s wife sought more immediate “emergency” action — to take control of his law firm away from the son she battling in court.
At an afternoon hearing, attorney A. Joseph Jay III said the firm, renowned for winning billions of dollars in awards and settlements for victims of asbestos and tobacco, was under threat of having its bank funds frozen. Jay, who represents Angelos’ wife, Georgia, said his client wants to appoint a new manager of the firm. That person would replace the Angelos’ younger son, Louis Angelos, who has been in charge in the several years since the family patriarch has been incapacitated by illness.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Keith Truffer scheduled a hearing for Oct. 27 to address the issue.
The feud within the Orioles family has Georgia Angelos and her older son, John Angelos, the Orioles chairman and CEO, facing off against Louis Angelos, who in June sued the two of them over what he called his brother’s “plotting” to take over his father’s vast fortune.
Georgia Angelos, 80, fired back with a suit against Louis Angelos in August, alleging he had sold the law firm to himself in an act of “financial elder abuse” against his 93-year-old father.
On Wednesday, Truffer listened to lawyers representing the three family members in a more than one-hour status and scheduling conference. And, despite setting aside four weeks starting July 10 for a jury trial, he urged the warring parties to seek mediation, given the intensity of the heated public battle that has erupted within the normally very private family.
“Given the nature of the claims and the fact there are very personal and very emotional aspects of these claims ... it may be beneficial to engage in some significant mediation rather than fire off the rockets, so to speak,” the judge said.
“Let’s try to tone that down a little bit,” he said.
The hearing was the first in-courtroom meeting of the attorneys for the parties, who since June have made numerous court filings, to the point that Truffer, in addition to asking the lawyers to “lower the temperature,” also requested more brevity in their documents.
While the cases also address a potential sale of the Orioles, the more immediate issue is the Angelos law firm. Georgia Angelos has wanted to dissolve or sell the firm, and is seeking to invalidate what her attorney described as the sale of the practice by Louis Angelos, 53, to himself.
Louis Angelos’ attorneys responded to that allegation in a filing on Tuesday, saying he acted to save the practice. With his father incapacitated, the law firm needed to be transferred to a licensed attorney and as the only lawyer among Georgia, John and Louis Angelos, that would be him, the filing argued.
Paul D. Raschke, one of Louis Angelos’ attorneys, said at the hearing that dissolving the firm would be upsetting and harmful to its long-term clients, many of who are “elderly and easily frightened.
“I know because I worked there,” Raschke said.
Truffer himself has a connection to the decades-old law firm, but as an opponent: Before becoming a judge, he was a partner at a Towson-based law firm, Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, and defended asbestos companies in cases, “many of which were filed by the Angelos office,” the judge said.
His experience won’t effect “one iota” his ability to oversee the current lawsuits, Truffer said, and none of the lawyers raised an objection to him hearing their cases.
Truffer said that allowing Georgia Angelos to install her own managing partner at the Angelos law firm could create a perception “that the individual would be beholden to Mrs. Angelos.”
An alternative “would be for the court to appoint an individual to manage the firm” while the litigation is pending, said the judge, who then scheduled the October hearing to deal with the issue.
Scheduling proved challenging at times, with multiple attorneys representing the three family members attending Wednesday’s conference in person or via Zoom.
Louis Angelos’ two attorneys are Baltimore-based partners Raschke and Jeffrey E. Nusinov, a veteran of other high-profile fights over local fortunes who has represented the widow of novelist Tom Clancy and the children of bakery and Harbor East magnate John Paterakis.
Lawyers for John Angelos and Georgia Angelos filled the seats at their table and nearby chairs and benches, and still more could be seen on a video conferencing screen.
Among John Angelos’ in-person representatives were Baltimore-based Steven D. Silverman, known best locally perhaps for shepherding former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore through the federal case that landed her in prison, and Daniel M. Petrocelli of Los Angeles, who won a $33.5 million award in a civil suit against O.J. Simpson for the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. Participating via Zoom was Adam F. Streisand, who has represented sports team owners in other family feuds.
The Morning Sun
The lawsuits have generated much interest among Orioles fans, who have long chewed over rumors of whether the team might be sold or relocated.
Louis Angelos’ suit revealed that Georgia Angelos wanted to sell the Orioles, and intimated that should 55-year-old John Angelos succeed in consolidating his power over the team, he could move it to Tennessee where he and his wife have a home and music management company. But Louis Angelos’ suit also said his brother thwarted efforts for a sale of the Orioles, which had drawn the interest of “one highly credible group of buyers.” Sources have since told The Baltimore Sun that while John Angelos is open to selling part of the team, he would like the family to keep a majority stake in it.
Louis Angelos’ suit drew swift responses via public statements issued by the Orioles, with John Angelos saying the Orioles would never leave Baltimore and Georgia Angelos expressing full faith in her elder son as the head of the team.
The family’s legal turmoil comes at a critical time on both personal and public fronts.
The Orioles, who have not had a winning season since 2016, are in the midst of a surprising bid for a playoff slot as a yearslong rebuild is finally beginning to pay off. The team is approaching the final year of its current lease on Camden Yards and continues negotiations with the Maryland Stadium Authority with much at stake — including up to $600 million in state bonds to upgrade the 30-year park.
Much of the back-and-forth in court documents has dealt with what the family patriarch himself intended — or at least, what family members say he intended — for his assets. How that will be settled remains to be seen.
As Louis Angelos’ filing noted, “Disease has silenced Mr. Angelos.”