Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

April, 2004

 

Bar Leaders Gather to Share Views on Legislation

By Janet Stidman Eveleth


On March 5, local and specialty bar association leaders from all corners of Maryland gathered for a “follow-up” Bar Presidents’ Conference at MSBA headquarters. MSBA President Harry S. Johnson assembled these bar leaders to enhance communication between MSBA and local and specialty bar associations and continue the dialogue started last October at the first Bar Presidents’ Conference in Solomons Island. Legislation was the focal point of both of these bar leader symposiums.

One of Johnson’s initiatives as MSBA President this year has been to establish an open dialogue with local and specialty bar associations. “One of the key things that we need to continue working on is methods to better communicate with our members,” states Johnson. “The local and specialty bar presidents are uniquely situated to be able to inform us of our members’ concerns and to take information back to their bars about what the MSBA is doing.”

“The fall Bar President’s Conference is one of our most important bar activities,” continues Johnson. “By having this follow-up meeting, we are now able to facilitate continued communication with these bar leaders. Furthermore, since legislation affects all lawyers, having the meeting focus on the current legislative session helps these bar leaders keep their members better informed of events in Annapolis.”

This was the thrust of MSBA’s second Bar Presidents’ Conference, held last month. “I convened this session to advance our open line of communication and continue our legislative dialogue,” declared Johnson, as he welcomed the bar leaders. “Today, we will talk about legislation and our primary areas of concern. We are trying to share information with you and want you to share it with us. We will continue our dialogue from October, and [we] want feedback from you so we can create ongoing communication opportunities.”

After brief presentations updating the progress of the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office by Executive Director Rachel Wohl and the results of the pro bono reporting forms by Pro Bono Resource Center Executive Director Sharon E. Goldsmith, MSBA Laws Committee Chair Michael J. Baxter offered an overview of MSBA’s legislative process. He outlined the role and composition of MSBA’s Laws Committee which includes broad representation from all facets of Maryland’s Bar.

Harry S. Johnson,
MSBA President

Baxter then explained the work of the Committee, which meets every week during the session, and the organization of MSBA’s legislative program (located on MSBA’s website - www.msba.org). He encouraged input from all local and specialty bar association leaders and members. “I have heard from many members regarding the issues we are addressing, and we find this information very, very helpful.” He encouraged the leaders to communicate with the Committee and “help lobby laws.”

MSBA’s Director of Legislative and Governmental Relations, Richard Montgomery, III, reviewed MSBA’s legislative structure and process of categorizing MSBA’s various legislative proposals, especially those that are deemed to be controversial. Next, he updated the bar leaders on the status of proposed bills before the 2004 Legislative session.

Johnson then initiated a dialogue on the issue of contested judicial elections, which generated a lively discussion from the audience. Representatives from the five counties where contested elections occurred in the March 2 primary offered a great deal of insight into the process. A question and answer session concluded the session.

This conference succeeded in keeping MSBA abreast of these leaders’ views on key legislative issues, and it allowed MSBA to communicate its legislative positions to these key bar leaders. Collectively, Johnson believes “bar leaders are an effective voice in Annapolis and make a difference in our legislative process. MSBA’s legislative agenda has been aided by enlisting these leaders’ support on key legislative proposals of interest to all Maryland lawyers.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: April, 2004

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