Today, two bills which the MSBA supports as high priority measures advanced to the Floor of the House of Delegates, after having been passed on Friday (3/12/2021) by the House Judiciary Committee.

Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Advance Directives – Electronic Execution (Remote Witnessing)

House Bill 1261 (the Senate version is SB 820) would authorize the execution of wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives by way of electronic execution and remote witnessing of those documents. The bill would provide that a will, a power of attorney, a notarization of a power of attorney, or an advance directive executed in conformance with the provisions of Executive Orders authorizing remote notarization shall be deemed valid under the Act, and applying the Act retroactively (to ensure validity of documents executed under the authority of the Governor’s Executive Order).

Status: This morning, House Bill 1261 passed 2nd Reading (preliminary approval by the House) with amendments developed by the MSBA Sections on Estates & Trusts and Real Property. Later this week, HB 1261 is expected to be scheduled for final House approval.  The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is expected to adopt the MSBA amendments to conform SB 820 to match HB 1261.

Eviction Action – Right to Counsel

House Bill 18,  as introduced would have granted qualified individuals a right to legal representation in eviction proceedings; established the Right to Counsel in Evictions Coordinator in the Office of the Attorney General to organize and direct services and resources to provide covered individuals with legal representation for a judicial or administrative proceeding, would have created the Right to Counsel in Evictions Task Force, established a Right to Counsel Special Fund, and would have provided for the legal representation of income-eligible individuals in certain eviction proceedings.

Status: After having been passed by the House Judiciary Committee (Fri., 3/12) with significant amendments, House Bill 18 advanced to the floor of this House of Delegates this morning, where it was made a “Special Order” (essentially Tabled).   The House Judiciary amendments altered eligibility for representation by narrowing the types of eviction matters for which representation may be provided; removed administration of the program from the Office of the Attorney General, eliminating Right to Counsel Coordinator position, and assigning new responsibilities for securing counsel to the MD Legal Services Corporation (MLSC). The bill, as amended, also alters the composition of the Right to Counsel Task Force, and retains the Right to Counsel Special Fund, but does not provide funding. The Senate version of the bill, SB 154 awaits action in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee later this week.