The Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) recognized the 2023 Legislative Session with its fourth annual MSBA Day (previously known as “Lobby Day”) on January 24, 2023. The MSBA was excited to welcome members to participate in MSBA Day in person for the first time since 2020.
One of the highlights of the day was Senator Chris West, a member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and MSBA member, discussing what bills he is introducing in the 2023 Legislative Session with Former Senator Bobby Zirkin.
Senator West noted that Maryland has a “hodgepodge” of criminal statutes; some carry penalties that align with the severity of the offense while others do not. With an eye toward rectifying this issue, Senator West is introducing a bill to conduct a study of all Maryland criminal statutes. He thinks it is important to evaluate the criminal statutes and their penalties as a whole before addressing the issue of expungement.
A second issue Senator West wants to address is contested judicial elections, an MSBA legislative priority. While he believes “in the long term, the best way to go would be for the Circuit Court judges to appoint the Orphans Court judges,” he thinks that solution is currently too radical. His bill proposes a modification to the manner in which Maryland conducts Orphans Court judge elections. Namely, all candidates are all listed on both the Republican and Democratic primary without regard to their political affiliation, in alphabetical order. Constituents would vote, and if the same parties win both primaries, then there is no need for a general election. If different parties win each primary, they will be placed on the ballot for the general election without regard to party affiliation.
Senator West offered insight on other matters the General Assembly will consider during the 2023 Legislative Session as well. There are close to 50 issues that must be resolved before recreational marijuana becomes legal in July 2023, Senator West explained, which he believes will be assigned to the Finance Committee. He anticipates that only some of the issues will be resolved during the remainder of the Legislative Session. In terms of juvenile justice, Senator West thinks that there has to be a better solution than putting juvenile offenders in jail, and noted an increase in efforts to “give them the proper counseling, mental health treatment, whatever is necessary, because they’re only children.”
Senator West commented on House Bill 1, a bill that seeks to modify the statute of limitations for civil claims seeking damages for child sex abuse, as well. In sum, he believes the changes sought are unconstitutional. He explained that the bill would effectively remove the statute of limitations for such claims, but statute of limitations are necessary to promote fair trials. Senator West thinks the current statute of limitations, which allows victims to file civil suits up until their 20 years after they reach the age of majority, provides adequate time for them to seek relief. He also noted that the bill exposes parties that buy businesses or organizations that are later sued to liability for other people’s actions.
You can learn more about MSBA Day and the MSBA’s advocacy efforts by visiting our website.