Delegate Erek Barron and Senator Chris West, have both proposed bi-partisan legislation that would provide attorneys in good standing expedited security entry in all Maryland courthouses by presenting an MSBA Attorney Security Pass. The bills were responsive to MSBA members and other Maryland attorneys that have identified varied approaches to courthouse security by county, expressed issues with the increased amount of time it takes to pass through security, and the invasiveness of some security measures, including the need to remove shoes, belts, and other clothing items to clear security. House Bill 1009 – Adjudicatory Hearings – Attorney Security Passes for Attorneys in Good Standing was heard on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 in the House Judiciary Committee, with Past President Kathy Howard testifying in SUPPORT on behalf of MSBA.
On HB 1009, Delegate Barron led a panel of supporters that included Kathy Howard of MSBA, John Giannetti of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys Association (MCDAA), Delegate Shoemaker (co-sponsor), and Bruce Plaxen of the Maryland Association for Justice (MAJ). Testifying separately was Debra Saltz, also of MCDAA.
Delegate Barron and Kathy Howard explained the bill and the MSBA amendments, and addressed concerns raised by the Judiciary and the MD Sheriff’s Association. Additionally, Del. Barron and Kathy Howard expressed the Sponsor’s and MSBA’s willingness to continue to work with the Judiciary and Sheriffs to craft solutions tailored to each individual court facility, as appropriate.
Several lawyer members of the Judiciary Committee recalled easy admittance afforded by the Attorney Security Pass in the past, but noted that they had merely adapted when they began to encounter facilities where the cards were no longer honored.
Testifying in opposition to HB 1009 were Chief Judge of the District Court John Morrissey, Judge Laura Ripken, Administrative Judge for the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County, and the Sheriffs of Harford County, Anne Arundel County, and the Deputy Sheriff of Baltimore City. Much of the opposition’s testimony was related to drawing security distinctions between courthouse security considerations and needs with those of the TSA in an airport environment, and the priority admittance granted to Cabinet Secretaries, lobbyists, and others in the legislative complex. The Judiciary stated that not only is the interior of the court facility a driving factor in security protocols, but also the surrounding neighborhood. Opponents (mostly the Sheriffs) also stated there are jurisdictional control differences between circuit courthouses (county control) and District Court facilities (State control), and both the Judiciary and Sheriffs found it inappropriate for the Department of General Services to have regulatory control over any of the facilities contemplated by the bill.
Senate Bill 889, is set to be heard on March 4, 2020 in front of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The MSBA Director of Legislative Relations, Richard Montgomery, along with other prominent members of the MSBA, will be onsite to advocate for the bill.