Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Keith R. Truffer was installed as the 125th President of the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) on June 16, 2018, at the close of the MSBA Legal Summit & Annual Meeting. Truffer will lead the roughly 24,000-member Association for the next 12 months.
Truffer, a Baltimore native, opened his 20-minute address by describing his own professional journey, from the University of Baltimore School of Law to his more than three decades with the Towson law firm of Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, LLP and, ultimately, his January 2016 appointment to the Baltimore County Circuit Court bench, before moving on to his priorities for the Association in the coming bar year.
“As you know by this time, the MSBA is undergoing a period of extraordinary change,” said Truffer. “During the upcoming year, we want to build upon and accelerate the great strides we have initiated to secure the near and long-term health of the Association.”
Instrumental to that health is a thorough review of MSBA’s governance policies, some of which, he noted, date back to the Association’s founding in 1896. To address this need, Truffer announced the appointment of a brand-new Policy Review Committee, which will “undertake a comprehensive review of the MSBA’s policies and practices, conduct research into and a comparison with the best practices in our industry and, ultimately, recommend such changes to our bylaws as are necessary to implement these best practices.”
“In this way,” he continued, “we can create a structure which best positions MSBA to meet the new challenges we face and take advantage of the new opportunities presented.”
Looking ahead, Truffer voiced a need to also “be mindful of those challenges and opportunities which are on and beyond the horizon.”
“We need to establish long-term priorities to guide our policies from year to year,” he added. “We must make ourselves more anticipatory, and less reactive.” To this end, he announced plans to create “a Strategic Vision Committee with a long-term focus and a broad vision to plot a course for the MSBA over the next five to 10 years.”
“This Committee will define the MSBA’s continuing role in shaping our profession while we serve our members and our community,” he said.
Having laid that groundwork, Truffer turned to the subject of lawyer assistance, an issue “which, if nothing else, will have a lasting impact as a result from my service as President.” Citing a pair of recent “groundbreaking” studies that found the legal profession to be roughly three times more susceptible to stress-related alcohol and substance abuse, Truffer emphasized the need for destigmatization of this disease, and the expansion of resources available to those afflicted by it.
Using as a basis an August 2017 report issued by the American Bar Association’s National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, Truffer noted that he has already initiated dialogue with various “stakeholders” throughout Maryland, including the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program, the Maryland Judiciary, the Office of Bar Counsel, the Judicial Disabilities Commission, both of the state’s law schools, and professional liability insurers.
“Each of these groups has a profound interest in combating the mental health issues of depression and alcohol and drug abuse which afflict many of Maryland’s lawyers, judges, and law students,” he said. “It is my goal for the MSBA over the next year, in partnership with these stakeholders, to develop for Maryland a coordinated effort, consistent with the recommendations of the ABA’s National Task Force to acknowledge the problems of alcohol addiction and substance abuse and to promote awareness thereof; to expand the availability of treatment for these conditions; to destigmatize and encourage those who need treatment; and to emphasize the confidentiality of that treatment.”
“To meet this challenge is both an act of humanity to those lawyers who need our help and critically necessary to meet our responsibilities to our community and to our profession,” he summarized.
Truffer concluded by noting that MSBA has already “had to make many difficult choices as to its future course. In considering those decisions, there are voices among us who insist on looking backward, clutching on to what we have been, rather than looking to what we can be.”
“With a full understanding of our noble history and a deep appreciation for the contributions and sacrifices of so many who have made the MSBA the premier organization that it is, let me eliminate any ambiguity,” declared MSBA’s new President. “I stand with those who look forward – those who see change as an opportunity, rather than a peril.”
Members also elected MSBA Officers for the 2018-2019 Bar Year, including: Dana O. Williams, MSBA President-Elect; Hon. Mark F. Scurti, MSBA Treasurer; and Deborah L. Potter, MSBA Secretary.