The law firm of Peter Angelos, the incapacitated owner of the Orioles who made his fortune suing companies on behalf of asbestos victims, will go into conservatorship amid a feud that has split his family.
With his son, Louis Angelos, sitting on one side of the courtroom opposite the family members he sued, his brother, John Angelos, the Orioles chairman and CEO, and their mother, Georgia Angelos, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Keith R. Truffer accepted an agreement Thursday that the lawyers had hashed out in the hallway.
Maryland law allows for a conservator to be appointed under certain circumstances, including when an attorney “is incapacitated or has abandoned the practice of law.” The conservator will be an attorney who inventories and reviews the firm’s files, takes control of its accounts and could sell the law practice.
Truffer said he found it “altogether appropriate” that a conservator be named, and thanked the parties for working together on issues that he said are very difficult, personal and painful for the family.
Louis Angelos previously transferred the law firm to himself in a move that Georgia Angelos’ lawyers characterized in a lawsuit as selling it to himself and tantamount to financial elder abuse. Louis Angelos is a lawyer who has been managing the firm in recent years, after his father’s health deteriorated and he stopped practicing law in 2018. Louis Angelos maintains the transfer was necessary because the law requires another attorney to take over the practice of a lawyer who can no longer work.
Truffer’s order invalidates that transfer and states that Louis Angelos shall not “assert any ownership rights” or “hold himself out in any way as the owner” of the firm.
It does not specify when a conservator will be named or who it will be.
Lawyers representing Georgia, 81, and John Angelos, 55, characterized the order as a victory.
“This would be the best possible result for Georgia Angelos,” said Steven D. Silverman, who represents John Angelos.
Doug Gansler, the former Maryland attorney general who represents Georgia Angelos, said it was the best outcome as well for “the law firm, the clients of the law firm, the lawyers of the law firm, the Angelos family and Baltimore City.”
Jeffrey E. Nusinov, who represents Louis Angelos, said his client “will continue to be part of management along with the team of attorneys who worked by his father’s side representing thousands of Marylanders.”
The order settles one of multiple issues that have split the family as it fights over Peter Angelos’ assets. Louis Angelos, 53, sued last summer over what he called his brother’s seizure of control of the Orioles and other holdings, and what he characterized as his mother going along with John Angelos.
Earlier this week, Louis Angelos alleged in an amended complaint that they had “plundered” a $65 million bank account of Peter Angelos, 93.
[ Suit between Angelos’ sons lays bare struggle over Orioles’ future, possible sale ]
Court documents have revealed Georgia Angelos wanted to sell the team. She also has been quoted in the legal filings saying her husband never wanted his law firm to outlast him.
An attorney appointed to represent the incapacitated family patriarch repeated that contention after Thursday’s hearing.
“The law firm is Peter Angelos’ legacy,” Benjamin Rosenberg said. “Everybody acknowledges that, and he never intended for the law firm to continue after he was no longer able to manage it.”
Nusinov disputed that.
“The conservator will finally put to bed the ridiculous statements that have been made that Peter Angelos did not want his law firm to continue,” he said. “Peter Angelos’ devotion to his clients is legendary, and everyone knows his practice was his most treasured of his many accomplishments.”
Peter Angelos began practicing law shortly after graduating from the University of Baltimore in 1961 and went on to win hundreds of millions of dollars in awards and settlements for steelworkers and others harmed by asbestos. He was selected to handle the state’s lawsuit against tobacco companies, which resulted in a $4 billion settlement.
John Angelos declined Tuesday to comment, nodding toward the multiple lawyers representing his mother and him: “These guys covered everything.”
Despite their prominence, the Angelos family generally has kept a low profile and guarded its privacy. The gathering in the courtroom was a rare public appearance for the brothers and their mother since the legal battle began. John and Georgia Angelos sat amid their dozen or so lawyers, at a distance from Louis Angelos, who sat with Nusinov and a second lawyer.
“We draw a crowd, don’t we?” Truffer remarked as he looked out on the courtroom. He acknowledged the members of the Angelos family, and almost immediately the hearing went into recess at Nusinov’s request.
He and Daniel M. Petrocelli, a Los Angeles-based attorney who represents John Angelos, had conferred in the hallway before the hearing. Discussions among multiple lawyers continued during a nearly hourlong recess. The attorneys returned to the courtroom only to head into the judge’s chambers for another half-hour.
Truffer then announced the agreements that had been worked out. In addition to ordering the conservatorship, Truffer agreed to seal part of Louis Angelos’ amended complaint, saying he found a “compelling reason” to keep “sensitive, personal and financial information” private.
However, the case’s entire entry vanished earlier this week from an online docket. A spokesman for the Maryland court system said Wednesday that was because a motion to seal was filed, triggering a shielding of records for up to five days to give the judge time to consider the request.
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An attorney representing The Baltimore Sun, The Baltimore Banner and The Washington Post filed a request Thursday for the case file to be immediately unsealed.
Maryland rules “preclude wholesale sealing. Moreover, the First Amendment also bars the temporary sealing of the entire case file and docket,” lawyer Nathan Siegel wrote.
Siegel argued that even if specific parts are sealed, “all other judicial records are presumed to be open to public access.”
He also objected the absence of information about who requested the closure.
None of the records could be accessed Thursday morning, but they became available in the afternoon at the courthouse and online.
Truffer has scheduled a trial to begin July 10 on the family’s suits.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.