MSBA continues to work with local leaders, including the Maryland Judiciary and the Governor’s Office, to raise the concerns of our profession and seek clarification to new Executive Orders, Interpretive Guidance, and Administrative Orders.
Today (3/31) Richard Montgomery, MSBA Legislative Director, spoke with the Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel, Mr. Michael Pedone, Esq., for further clarification about the March 30 Executive Order and the Interpretive Guidances that have been issued by the Office of Legal Counsel since the COVID-19 emergency began. Here are questions and responses based on MSBA’s conversation with Mr. Pedone.
- Are lawyers and law firms still deemed essential per the Executive Order from March 30? Yes.
- Does Interpretive Guidance COVID 19-04 remain in effect regarding lawyers and law firms as essential? MSBA members have expressed concern at the lack of “lawyers and law firms” being included in the list from Homeland Security’s CISA. Yes, the Maryland Interpretive Guidance COVID 19-04 was drafted to specifically include lawyers and law firms in Maryland as essential.
- Are the provisions regarding lawyers and law firms as essential amended or altered in any way by later Interpretive Guidances or the March 30 Executive Order? No, lawyers and law firms remain essential.
- Do non-profit legal entities remain essential and fall under the umbrella of “government facilities sector?” Yes
- Is there any distinction between the different types of legal services provided that would make some “essential” and others “non-essential”? No
- Are lawyers and law firm staff permitted to travel to and from their offices, as essential businesses under Section II(a)(ii) of the March 30 Executive Order? Yes.
- Will the courthouse identification badge be accepted by the authorities as an essential business if a lawyer should be stopped by the police? Yes, this is correct. The Office of Legal Counsel stated that under the Executive Order and Interpretive Guidance, law firms and legal organizations which are essential under the Order may issue credentials to lawyers who are employees, but Essential Employee documentation is not necessary. Office of Legal Counsel has been working closely with law enforcement and shared that it would be highly unlikely that a police officer would pull over a driver or stop an individual on suspicion that they are not an essential employee. Law enforcement will likely use any traffic stop as a teaching moment where an individual would be given a COVID-19 educational flyer.
MSBA also spoke to the Office of Legal Counsel about the possibility of additional remote proceedings during the COVID-19 emergency, beyond notaries, to promote Marylanders’ health and safety. MSBA will continue these discussions with Maryland leadership and provide you with updates as we continue to work on your behalf.