The MSBA remains committed to advocating for the legal profession and the interests of tens of thousands of attorneys in Maryland across a variety of practice areas. The MSBA’s advocacy takes many forms, and includes two recent filings of amicus curiae briefs on matters of importance to the profession. The MSBA filed these briefs to protect the foundation of the attorney-client relationship and to prevent limitations on the practice of law.
The Maryland Court of Appeals recently issued a favorable ruling in Nagle & Zaller, P.C. v. Jahmale E. Delegall and favorably cited the MSBA’s amicus brief. The MSBA thanks Jennifer L. Kneeland, Esq. and Marguerite Lee DeVoll, Esq. of Watt, Tieder, Hoffar, & Fitzgerald, LLP, who prepared the brief on behalf of the MSBA, Maryland barred attorneys, and the interests of the profession.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (the “U.S. District Court”), certified a question of law to the Maryland Court of Appeals. The U.S. District Court sought a determination as to whether or not an attorney practicing law in the State of Maryland was subject to the requirements of the Maryland Consumer Loan Law (“MCLL”) when the attorney prepares settlement agreements and other instruments that require payment over time of $25,000 or less, certain types of confessed judgments or other similar financial instruments delivered to consumers. Among other things, the MCLL requires persons subject to the law to register with the Office of Commissioner of Financial Regulation and obtain a license – actions that the Nagle & Zaller, P.C. law firm did not undertake in the facts giving rise to the appeal.
Favorably citing the amicus brief that the MSBA filed, the Maryland Court of Appeals reasoned, “As the Maryland State Bar Association points out in its Amicus Curiae brief, under Delegall’s interpretation, every Maryland lawyer who represents a creditor-client that agrees to settle a claim for $25,000 or less through settlement payments made over time, and drafts a settlement agreement that memorializes such terms, would be required to be licensed under the MCLL. Under such an interpretation, where a law firm drafts such a document without a consumer loan license issued by the Commissioner, the consequence would be that the underlying indebtedness would be void and unenforceable. Surely, the General Assembly did not intend for the MCLL to be applied to these types of transactions.”
The Maryland Court of Appeals decision in Delegall is an important decision for attorneys who practice law in the State of Maryland because it preserves the status quo for those drafting settlement agreements and other instruments that provide for the payment of $25,000 or less over time and clarifies that attorneys do not need to obtain a consumer loan license under the MCLL. The MSBA will continue to advocate on your behalf on issues that have far-reaching implications for the profession.