Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : December 2006

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  SECTION SPOTLIGHT  

Government for the People

MSBA Section of
State & Local Government

No. of Members
 
332

Founded
  March 1981

Officers
Chair:
  Ernest A. Crofoot
Vice-Chair:
  Karen Louise Henry
Secretary/Treasurer:
  William R. Varga

MICPEL Programs
  State & Local Government Institute
 

In August 2006, with the gubernatorial election still months away and the minds of voters even further from a decision on potential candidates, MSBA's State & Local Government Law Section took a proactive approach by holding an open debate for the four Maryland Attorney General hopefuls. Two months and seventeen days before the 2006 election, Republican Scott Rolle and Democrats Doug Gansler, Stewart Sims and Tom Perez entered the University of Baltimore School of Law prepared to offer their plans as the next Attorney General to the awaiting public.

Though the title "debate" was used, the event was configured by the Section as more of a forum, allowing for free-flowing dialogue between the candidates, as opposed to a statement/rebuttal system.

Often referred to as "the People's Lawyer," the position of Attorney General is, according to Gansler, "akin to who you hire for your [personal] lawyer." With that in mind, Section Chair Ernest Crofoot and his committed members organized the event, which drew six news outlets, many area attorneys and a slew of University of Baltimore law professors and students.

"The debate was orderly and intelligent," notes Crofoot. "I was quite pleased the candidates responded very positively. [It] was the first one of its kind in ages."

"Since the MSBA makes a great effort to remain nonpartisan on political issues and campaigns, it was very constructive to have the MSBA Section on State and Local Government take the initiative to arrange a debate of all the candidates for the Office of Maryland Attorney General," notes MSBA Executive Director Paul V. Carlin. "I, like the other estimated 200 attendees, appreciated the opportunity to see the candidates side by side and hear their proposed legal solutions to Maryland's concerns."

Though the event was designed to be informative rather than proclaiming a "winner", Gansler eventually won the post in the November election. In retrospect, Gansler himself regards the August debate as a valuable lesson, noting that the open-dialogue format, in which every participant's views and ideas were presented in a clear and conscious fashion, helped him forge a new respect for his opponents while expanding his own beliefs.

But voters and candidates were not the only ones to benefit from the high-profile event. "Not only was [the event] well-attended, but it garnered a lot of respect for the State Bar and our Section," says Crofoot.

For the last quarter-century, the Section has maintained a relatively low profile within MSBA, though its dealings have had an irrefutably strong impact on the law community, as its members have devoted a majority of their professional careers to serving the public and each other through the Section. Currently, the Section is preparing the framework for a service honor to be awarded to a member that assists in advancing the state and local government components. Furthermore, these devoted public employees allow themselves the opportunity to better represent the community at large through the Section's State and Local Government Institute, an event cosponsored by MICPEL, which is conducted every 18 months. The daylong session discusses a variety of current issues and processes that compose the daedal state and local government system.

"There are a number of peculiarities in the state and local government," remarks Crofoot. "[The Section looks] to further the education and commentary of ideas by practitioners in Maryland. A lot of [the members] do these jobs because we enjoy them. You feel like you're doing something worthwhile."

Seldom basking in the limelight of the legal landscape, MSBA's State & Local Government Law Section remains driven to aid and support our state's public service employees.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: December 2006

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