Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : April 2006

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Coming of Age

~Through Groner Award, MSBA Family Law Section honors progress in field, past, present and future~

Nominations for the Beverly Groner Family Law Award are currently being sought by MSBA's Family Law Section. The award, in its fifth year, is bestowed upon an individual who has served the Maryland legal community through his or her dedication to the practice of family law, exemplifying the highest professional standards during a distinguished career.

The award was conceived during Leslie Billman's tenure as Chair of the Family Law Section Council. "The original intent was to bring recognition to someone who has significantly advanced the development of Family Law in the state of Maryland," explains Billman. "An essential quality is one of distinguished service to the family law community, whether through education, service on the Bench, in the Bar, or even in politics to craft and promote family law causes."

The process of gathering the nominees is quite lengthy and complex. First potential nominees are identified through ballots and resumes submitted by various members of the Family Law Section Council; a subcommittee reviews the nominations and narrows down possible contenders. Finally, once the field has been tightened, the Section Council votes on the nominees in a May meeting.

"All the recipients of this award have contributed extraordinarily to the area of Family Law," notes Billman. "They have given generously of their time, that of their families and often of their law firms to serve family law in some significant positive way. We do not want these extraordinary sacrifices to go unheralded."

The award, which will be presented at the 2006 MSBA Annual Meeting in June, is not presented exclusively to practicing lawyers. The first recipient was Retired Judge Katie O'Ferrell Friedman, a circuit court judge; the following year, Retired Judge John F. Fader, III, characterized as a "Family Law Scholar" by current Family Law Treasurer Cindy Callahan, was presented with the award for his efforts in the drafting of the Maryland family practitioner's bible, the Family Law Handbook; Maryland Senator Sharon Grosfeld was the next recipient for her "legislative efforts for Family bills and laws," according to Callahan; and, last year, Honorable Julia Weatherly took the award for her contributions to, and unbounded energy in, statewide family law activities and programs.

Devised to showcase leaders within Family Law, the honor was named after Beverly Groner, a prominent family law practitioner and a key player in the research and drafting of the Maryland Marital Property Act, which became effective in the early 1980s. The Act radically changed the disposition of marital issues upon divorce and provided the legal structure upon which today's family law cases are resolved.

"The practice of Family Law changed as a result of Beverly Groner's concerted efforts and contributions," says Billman, who cites Groner as a "pioneer" during the coming of age of modern family law in Maryland. Groner passed away in December of 2003, shortly after the inaugural award was conferred on Judge Friedman. Today, Groner's family members remain closely involved in the awarding process.

Whether the Marital Property Act and Alimony Law were the cause or effect of the societal change in the early '80s, the undeniable fact is that Groner's contributions were pivotal to the practice as conducted in the state of Maryland today.

The MSBA Family & Juvenile Law Section is accepting nominations for the 2006 Beverly Groner Family Law Award through April 28, 2006. Send nominations to Beverly Groner Family Law Award Committee, c/o Mary Roby Sanders, Turnbull & Sanders, P.A., 29 W. Susquehanna Avenue, Suite 202, Towson, Maryland 21204, or e-mail Mary@turnbullandsanders.com.
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Publications : Bar Bulletin: April 2006

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