MSBA prides itself on being the leading advocate for Maryland’s legal professionals, representing over 42,000 attorneys, judges, and paralegals throughout the state. MSBA’s advocacy efforts take many forms, including influencing the development of laws that could impact the legal profession, advocating for reform, and providing guidance to the General Assembly on practice-related bills.
The Laws Committee’s Role in MSBA’s Advocacy Efforts
The Laws Committee plays a crucial role in MSBA’s efforts to protect and advance the legal profession’s interests in that it is tasked with analyzing proposed legislation, monitoring developments that may impact the legal profession, and providing insight and recommendations to MSBA.
Co-chaired by David Cahn and Kelly Hughes Iverson, with Irnande Altema and Sarah Kahl serving as vice-chairs, the Laws Committee meets weekly during the General Assembly session to review legislation that could impact Maryland’s legal profession. The Laws Committee is made up of attorneys from a wide array of practice areas and demographics, representing various viewpoints. It follows that discussions on bills typically involve an in-depth analysis of the potential benefits and issues that could arise if the legislation passes and ensures that the perspectives offered are diverse rather than one-sided.
During the weekly meetings, the Laws Committee members assess relevant bills to determine whether the MSBA should support them, support them with amendments, oppose them, or monitor them. In some instances, the Laws Committee will recommend that MSBA refrain from taking a position but instead provide a letter of information regarding additional considerations and provide insight into the potential ramifications that could arise should the bill become law.
Throughout the process, the Laws Committee relies on the State Legislative Program, which outlines MSBA’s positions on key legislative issues, such as regulation of the legal profession, the administration of justice, and judicial independence. The Laws Committee also considers input from MSBA practice sections and bill sponsors before making a recommendation.
If the Laws Committee determines that MSBA should take a position on an issue, its recommendations are presented to the Board of Governors for approval. If the Board of Governors adopts the recommendations, no MSBA section can take an opposing position. If the Board of Governors declines to adopt the Laws Committee’s recommendation, any section can take independent action as long as it doesn’t conflict with MSBA’s position.
The entire process must happen quickly, as there is often very little time between a party’s introduction of a bill and hearings on the bill.
Recent Legislation Considered by the Laws Committee
The Laws Committee is examining several key pieces of legislation this year, covering issues such as judicial security, guardianship of disabled persons, renters’ rights, expungement, and public information requests. The Committee also evaluated bills relating to the selection and retention of judges, modification of the statute of limitations for several causes of action, aid in dying, artificial intelligence, and the administration of justice.
Prior Advocacy Successes
MSBA’s advocacy efforts in recent years include supporting the modernization of Maryland’s divorce laws, which resulted in the introduction of new no-fault grounds, reducing the financial burden on families. Furthermore, MSBA sought updates to the Maryland corporation code to better support and retain Maryland business entities, clients, and lawyers. Another key focus has been improving the probation before judgment process to mitigate adverse impacts on immigration matters or professional licenses for Marylanders.
Moreover, the MSBA successfully helped secure millions of dollars in funding for the Access to Counsel in Evictions program in collaboration with A2JC, ensuring access to legal representation for vulnerable populations facing eviction. Additionally, MSBA supported updating the intestacy law to protect the rights of surviving domestic partners.
Notably, the MSBA has also played a crucial role in defeating proposed taxation on legal services, safeguarding the accessibility and affordability of legal assistance.
MSBA actively supports various legislative initiatives that serve the interests of the legal profession and increase access to justice. To learn more about the MSBA’s advocacy efforts or contribute to its work, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.