FEDERAL COURTJudge Stays Case Challenging Lethal InjectionA federal judge in Baltimore has suspended proceedings in a closely watched challenge to Maryland's method of execution until death penalty legislation pending in the General Assembly has been resolved. In ordering the stay last week, U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg granted a request from both sides in the civil lawsuit brought by death row inmate Vernon L. Evans Jr. Attorneys for Evans say the sequence of chemicals used by the state in lethal injection should be ruled unconstitutionally cruel.

The state Court of Appeals effectively imposed a moratorium on executions in December when it found that the lethal injection procedure had been adopted improperly.

State legislators are considering competing proposals on the issue, including one bill that would restore the death penalty and another that would repeal it.

-- Eric RichPRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTYLawyer Can Continue to Represent HornsbyA federal judge in Greenbelt ruled yesterday that no conflict prevents the longtime attorney for former Prince George's County schools chief Andre J. Hornsby from representing Hornsby at his public corruption trial this year. Prosecutors had said Robert C. Bonsib's representation of Hornsby in 2005, during a Board of Education investigation of matters that led to Hornsby's indictment, raised the possibility that Bonsib might be called as a witness at his client's criminal trial.

Judge Peter J. Messitte declined to disqualify Bonsib from the case, which is scheduled for trial in October. Hornsby, who discussed the matter with another lawyer at Messitte's request, remained adamant that he be represented by Bonsib.

-- Eric Rich

SENATEBill to Toughen Vehicle Emission Rules ApprovedThe state Senate voted 38 to 9 yesterday to impose tighter vehicle emissions standards than required by the federal government, with supporters saying the move will help curb pollutants thought to cause global warming. Five Republicans joined all 33 of the chamber's Democrats in voting for the measure. The House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a similar "clean cars" bill last week, and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has pledged to sign the legislation once it reaches his desk.

Opponents said last night that Maryland would lose some of its sovereignty under the legislation, which pegs emissions standards to those of California.

Supporters said that California's standard has been embraced by 10 other states and that it would be impractical for all states to set different standards.

-- John Wagner