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Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

March, 2004

 

Court Appoints New Professionalism Commission
~Charged with Oversight of Attorney Civility in Maryland~

By Janet Stidman Eveleth


Last month, the Court of Appeals of Maryland’s newly appointed Commission on Professionalism officially assumed the task of monitoring and overseeing attorney civility in Maryland. This 36-member body’s mission is to “support and encourage members of the Judiciary to exhibit the highest levels of professionalism; support and encourage lawyers to exercise the highest levels of professional integrity in their relationships with their clients, other lawyers, the courts and the public; and fulfill lawyer obligations to improve the law and the legal system.”

On February 19, 2004, Chief Judge Robert M. Bell appointed the Honorable Lynne A. Battaglia Chair of the Court’s Professionalism Commission; Battaglia also chaired the Maryland Judicial Task Force on Professionalism. The broad-based Commission members include judges, representatives from MSBA, both law schools, the Attorney Grievance Commission, the Rules Committee, the Judicial Disabilities Commission, and a designated lawyer from all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland.

The Commission is the result of the Maryland Judicial Task Force on Professionalism’s 18-month probe of attorney civility in the state, launched by the Court in 2002 to assess the current level of professionalism among state lawyers and judges. The Task Force uncovered serious concerns about diminishing respect and unprofessional behavior in today’s law practice and recommended the creation of a commission to “promote professionalism as an important core value in Maryland’s litigation process and its institutions.”

This judicial body is charged with the task of “drawing on the findings of the Professionalism Task Force, identifying the indicia of professionalism and developing standards of professional conduct to be published to the Bench and the Bar throughout the state.” According to the Chief Judge, its goal is to “reconfirm and emphasize professionalism as an important core value in the legal field.”

The Commission’s objective is to advance professionalism through various initiatives. Judicial leadership will remain its priority as the Commission focuses on attorney mentoring, professionalism guidelines and standards, attorney sanctions and discovery disputes based on the task force’s recommendations.

“Drawing on the findings of the Professionalism Task Force, one of the first tasks of the Commission should be to identify acts of professionalism and develop standards of professional conducts,” states Battaglia. “Those standards should be developed into professional guidelines and sanctions that would reflect the expectations [that] lawyers will behave appropriately in the litigation of both criminal and civil actions and in non-litigation contexts.”

“The Commission will integrate attorneys and judges into Maryland’s professionalism movement to ensure the highest degree of professionalism in this state’s legal community, inside and outside of the courtroom,” Battaglia continues. “Its efforts should enhance professionalism and emphasize the importance of ‘community’ among judges and lawyers in Maryland,” a concept that was stressed in the task force report.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March, 2004

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