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Volume 27, Number 2 - Winter 2012

The Advocate

Young Lawyers Section - Maryland State Bar Association

Articles | Notices | Riding the circuit | Reports | About


How To Keep Civil Law, Well . . . Civil

by Amanda M. Schwartzkopf

As a “young” lawyer whose practice involves a fair amount of writing, I have been fortunate enough to learn the importance of keeping the practice of civil law just that . . . civil. One thing that I, and undoubtedly some of my fellow young lawyers, have struggled with is striking the right balance between strong client advocacy and a tone that is appropriate for the court. I am not implying that the two are mutually exclusive; rather, I have found that being overly-zealous may not have the same effect on the judge as it does on the client. 

Along the same lines, I have learned that Maryland Rule 2-431 is not just a procedural hoop that one must jump through before filing that motion to compel. There indeed was a method behind the madness of the authors of the Maryland Rules. In short, a strongly-worded brief or a premature turn to the court for assistance may look satisfyingly aggressive to the client; however, this approach may actually backfire and distract the court, which ultimately (and obviously) is not in the client’s best interest.

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Joyner v. Forsyth County and Legislative Prayer:
Right Problem, Wrong Solutions

by Stephen Ruckman

I. Introduction: The Constitutional Challenge of Honoring Religious Voices in a Government Setting

Legislative prayer – the governmental act of allowing a prayer to be offered before the start of a legislative session – has been a tradition in the United States that predates its founding, Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, 786-88 (1983), and the act’s constitutionality is not in doubt.1  Nonetheless, it is a tradition that frequently creates conflict.  The reason is straightforward: Americans are a diverse people with plural religious voices and we live under a Constitution that protects the ability of all religious voices to be heard.  The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause ensures that no single religious voice will be amplified by government while the Free Exercise Clause ensures that no single religious voice will be muted by government.  So we expect our government bodies to honor multiple religious voices and are rightly troubled when they appear to lift up only one voice.

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The Chapter 11 Disclosure Statement: A Case Study

by Ira C. Wolpert

Section 1125 (a)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code requires that a debtor’s proposed plan of reorganization be accompanied by a disclosure statement that must contain “adequate information” about the debtor’s financial and business affairs to allow creditors and parties in interest to fairly and effectively evaluate the plan.  Specifically, the debtor must disclose information about the history of their financial and business affairs, income and expenses, and the value of their assets, among other things.  Bankruptcy courts have an independent duty to review the adequacy of such statements and confirm that the mandatory provisions of § 1129(a) of the Bankruptcy Code are met by the proposed plan they accompany.  A Bankruptcy court will not approve a disclosure statement if it contains disclaimers, caveats, or inaccuracies or when it describes a fatally-flawed plan incapable of confirmation by the court.

Last Summer, Judge Robert A. Gordon of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland addressed disclosure statements and their adequacy in the matter of Roberts Plumbing and Heating, LLC, et al., Debtors, 2011 WL 2972092 (July 20, 2011) (“Roberts Plumbing”).  Judge Gordon found that the disclosure statements at issue fell well below the required minimum standard and included “outlandish provisions without rational basis;” nonetheless, he allowed the debtors to amend the statements and provided guidance as to the requisite criteria for approval of their plan.

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MSBA YLS Blog Added to the ABA Directory

The MSBA YLS is proud to announce that its new blog, “The Gavel,” has been added to the ABA Journal’s Blawgs Directory. The Gavel is the official blog of the MSBA YLS.

MSBA YLS Member Named Finalist for ABA YLD National Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award

Congratulations to Dolores Dorsainvil, an MSBA YLS member and long-time member of Section Counsel, who has been named as a finalist for the 2011 American Bar Association Young Lawyer Division’s National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award! This award recognizes those with superb reputations as outstanding lawyers, public servants, and bar leaders. Dolores will be recognized at the ABA YLS’s Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, LA, on Saturday, February 4, 2012.

Learn How to Manage your Escrow Account

Attend the MSBA Litigation Section’s seminar on “Escrow Account Management and Pitfalls to Avoid" on February 2, 2012, at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel. Register for the program online.

Learn How to Use Experts in Your Family Law Practice

The BCBA Family Law Committee is presenting “Evening Sessions on How to Use Experts in Your Family Law Practice.”  This is a six-part series, with all sessions taking place from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM in the Jury Assembly Area.

  1. January 19, 2012 – Vocational Experts
  2. February 23, 2012 – Business Valuations
  3. March 22, 2012 – Forensic Financial Issues, Tracing, Financial Statements
  4. April 19, 2012 – Appraisers: Real Estate, Pensions
  5. May 17, 2012 – Family Court Services
  6. June 28, 2012 – Parenting Coordinators and Child Development

2011-2012 One Bar|One Community Public Service Projects

Again this year, the Young Lawyer Section is having its One Bar/One Community Public Service Project. You do not be a member of the section to participate.  Give as much time, effort, donations as available.  Below is the list of the projects.  Those with additional flyers have links.

January 28, 2012 Polar Bear Plunge for the Special Olympics
March 24, 2012 BARCS Animal Rescue & Care Shelter, Inc.
April 2012 Friends of Patterson Park Earth Day
May 2012    Harford Habitat for Humanity
May 2012 Extreme Office Makeover

Further, the MSBA YLS has partnered with Be the Match National Bone Marrow Program. Throughout the year, we will schedule a registry drive; however, getting registered is as simple as requesting a kit online.  Thousands of patients with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases depend on the Be the Match Registry to find a match to save their life.  If you cannot make it to any other event for One Bar|One Community Program, please consider being a part of the National Marrow Donor Program. 

If you have any additional questions, please contact Michael W. Siri or Gwendolyn Tate.

Join the MSBA YLS Polar Bear Plunge Team

The MSBA Public Awareness Committee in conjunction with the MSBA Young Lawyers Section – Public Service Committee will sponsor a Lawyers Plunge Team in 2012.  The Polar Bear Plunge, which benefits the Maryland Special Olympics, will be held on January 28, 2012 at Sandy Point State Park.  Below please find the directions and information which will allow MSBA members (or anyone) to sign up to be a participant, volunteer, or donate to the Maryland Young Lawyers Polar Bear Plunge Team.

Be A Plunger: You must first go to the Polar Bear Plunge website.  Then click on the link "Register now."  Read the waiver/agreement and click on "I agree."  You will then have the option to start a team, join a team, or join as an individual.  Click on “Join a Team.”  You will then be asked to select from a list of teams.  Scroll down to “MSBA Young Lawyers” and select continue. You will then need to input your personal information so that you can be registered and start accepting donations.

Too Cold? DONATE:  We ask that donations be made to the fellow plunger, former Young Lawyers’ chair and current Public Awareness Chair’s Jason Hessler’s page.

A single participant needs to raise $1,500.00 to qualify for a parking pass and we will be having some tailgating festivities prior to and after the plunge, which will include some warm food and drinks. 

Be sure to start early on those donations as the funds go to a very worthy cause, the Special Olympics of Maryland.  If you have any questions about the event or have problems with the web site, please do not hesitate to contact Michael W. Siri.

Join the American Constitution Society

Join the newly-created Maryland Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society! Members participate in timely and relevant panels on constitutional issue and enjoy bi-monthly happy hours. For more information on membership of simply attending an event, email us or visit us online.

ACS’s next event, during which we will discuss “Training Women Lawyers About the Judicial Selection Process,” will be held at Semmes, Bowen & Semmes on January 26, 2012 from 5:30-6:30 p.m.  For more information, or to register, visit the website, or email



Baltimore County and Harford Counties
Robert Erdman, Circuit Representative

There are numerous events coming up in Baltimore County over the next few months, including:

  • January 19, 2012 (noon in Grand Jury Room) – Social media in your practice presented by Zest Social Media (Young Lawyers Committee)
  • January 26, 2012 (Martin’s West) – Annual Bar Banquet
  • January 31, 2012 (5:00 PM in Grand Jury Room) – Wrongful Death, Tort Survival Actions (Estates & Trusts Committee)
  • February 7, 2012 (5:00 PM in Grand Jury Room) – Nuts & Bolts: Legal and Ethical Pitfalls of Wrongful Death Actions (Negligence, Insurance and WC Comm.)

Click here for more from the 3rd Circuit...


Anne Arundel, Carroll, and Howard Counties

Brian Furlong, Sarah D. Cline, and Danie Ridgway, Circuit Representatives

The Carroll County Bar Association will be hosting its quarterly Bar Association meeting on March 5, 2012 at the Courthouse Annex in Courtroom #8 at 5:00 p.m.  Dinner will follow this meeting at a local restaurant to be determined.  The Pro Bono Committee, chaired by Fred Hecker, held a successful Carroll County Homeless Resource Day on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at Winters Mill High School. 

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Montgomery and Frederick Counties

Gretchen Slater, Andrew Schwartz, and Caryn Siegel Wetmore, Circuit Representatives

Montgomery County

The Bar Association of Montgomery County’s “New Practitioner’s Section” had an amazing 2011 year and is looking forward to the same in 2012. 

The Section has many exciting programs coming up.  On January 24, 2012 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., the Section will participate in a community service project in conjunction with the Community Outreach Committee at MANNA in Rockville, Maryland, an organization which provides food to people in need. 

Click here for more from the 6th circuit - Montgomery County...

Frederick County

The Bar Association of Frederick County’s Young Lawyers Section (“BAFC YLS”) has had a busy winter!  Several new faces have joined the Young Lawyers’ Section and are stepping up to make 2012 a great and busy year.  In 2012, BAFC YLS will resume its Lunch with the Judges Series. We will also sponsor our first “speed networking” event—an event focused on giving attorneys in Frederick the opportunity to meet attorneys they might not otherwise get a chance to meet.  2012 promises to be an exciting and eventful year for the BAFC YLS, so stay tuned!  

Click here for more from the 6th circuit - Frederick County...


Calvert, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, and Charles Counties

Renée Hood, Lisa Hall Johnson, and Monise Stephenson, Circuit Representatives

The Prince George’s County Bar Association provides an updated list of continuance Judges and Chamber assignments at, under the members section.  In related news, the bar association’s current “Find a Lawyer” list expired on December 31, 2011. Any attorney that wants to continue to be listed or wants to sign up for the first time needs to download the application at

You should be receiving your LRS dues/membership applications shortly, as current memberships will expire at the end of February 2012.

Click here for more from the 7th Circuit...


Baltimore City
Laurie M. Wasserman, Circuit Representative

On December 8th, Baltimore Association of Baltimore City's Young Lawyers’ Division (YLD) held its 77th Annual Holiday Party.  More than 150 lawyers, judges and guests attended this magnificent event at the Penthouse Suite at Silo Point, which featured live music from an acoustic guitarist and a Silent Auction.  Proceeds from the Silent Auction were used to help fund the December 13, 2011 Young Lawyers' Division’s Holiday Party for Homeless Children. 

Click here for more from the 8th Circuit...



Co-Chairs: Renée Hood, Niki McCormally, and Patrick McCormally

Maryland celebrated the 2011 National Pro Bono Celebration during the last full week of October.  During this specially designated week, October 23-29, Maryland hosted over thirty events statewide, including six (6) events recognizing pro bono attorneys and other pro bono supporters; five (5) educational events for pro bono attorneys, which were offered for free or a reduced cost in exchange for a pro bono commitment; and at least nineteen (19) client service events. Many of the service events were one-day free legal advice clinics imposing a minor impact on an attorney’s schedule but a large impact on the lives of Maryland’s disadvantaged citizens. 

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Legislative Liaison: Sandra Popp

The Maryland General Assembly convened its 430th Session on January 11, 2012. The Maryland General Assembly website is a great resource. If you are looking for general information, have an interest in reviewing specific legislation, or would like to listen to a House or Senate proceeding or a committee hearing,  please visit If you have any specific questions about the Maryland General Assembly, please feel free to contact me at


Co-Chairs: Regine Francois and Moges Abebe

The YLS’ Storybook Project, inherited from the 2009-2010 Leadership Academy Fellows, is in its second year under the MSBA YLS banner.  The project involves volunteers recording fathers at Jessup Correctional Institution(JCI)  reading books for their children and mailing the books, along with accompanying audio recordings, to the children. The mission of the project is to foster healthy bonds between incarcerated fathers and their children and engender a love of reading.

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storybook photos

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The Maryland State Bar Association, Inc.
520 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Phone: 410.685.7878  Fax: 410.685.1016

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