Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : January 2007

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Not Without Merit

~Elkridge attorney helps Boy Scouts fulfill Law Merit Badge requirements~

"I don't think there's any organization in the world, certainly not in the United States, that better prepares young men for leadership in this country than the Boy Scouts of America—in teaching leadership skills, in teaching values, in teaching importance of standing up for what's right," said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who also serves as president of the National Eagle Scout Association (www.nesa.org).

From a basketball-player-turned-politician (Bill Bradley) to a movie director (Steven Spielberg) to a wealthy would-be politician renowned for his charts (H. Ross Perot), these men are a part of a fellowship of men who have attained the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest distinction the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) awards its members. Other notable Eagle Scouts include astronauts Neil Armstrong and James Lovell, President Gerald Ford and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

While BSA has influenced many different people since its beginnings in 1910, only about five percent become Eagle Scouts; translated, of the approximately 3 million current scouts, only 150,000 will achieve the Eagle Scout status.

To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, each Boy Scout must meet the organization's established requirements by the age of 18. Among those requirements is the completion of 21 separate merit badges. With 12 merit badges set by the BSA, nine remain to be chosen by the scout. To this end, Kathleen Tabor, a solo practitioner from Elkridge, Maryland, has helped make completing the Law Merit Badge an informative, yet fun, experience for the scouts.

Tabor's involvement as a merit badge counselor over the last several years stems from family interest; she was entering law school at the same time that her youngest son was entering scouting. She felt the need to find some way to become more involved with her son's life.

"It is important to have adults [involved as scout leaders]," Tabor explains, "and this was my way to stay involved."

The Law Merit Badge is constructed with 11 requirements, from discussing what law is to attending courtroom procedures. The merit badge discusses how to become a lawyer as well as alternate careers in the legal profession by having the boys list 15 different careers.

Tabor works with the scouts in groups as it is "easier to work with groups," she notes. She also takes them to the courthouse, with help from the Honorable Diane O. Leasure, who does a "great job," Tabor explains, in giving an overall representation of the going on in the courthouse. Leasure discusses all of the proceedings with the boys, as well as giving them tours of her chambers.

"I am most impressed with how prepared [the scouts] are," says Leasure, noting that the boys are always well prepared and able to ask wonderful questions that other student groups are not always prepared to do. Of Tabor she adds: "Her dedication is incredible."

The group also visits the Howard County Police Department to learn how their procedures are handled. The scouts are walked through the entire building and shown every aspect of the department, from the desk jobs to the patrolmen. "[The police] do a marvelous job," Tabor says. "The boys really get into the fingerprinting."

After each "field trip," the boys are required to write an essay, explaining what they have learned.

"I love working with the boys, to see them, from the beginning to the end," admits Tabor. "It is rewarding to see the looks on their faces. It is worth the time and effort. Being a merit badge counselor reminds me why I went into law."

Requirements for the Law Merit Badge
  1. Define "law." Tell some of its sources. Describe functions it serves.
  2. Discuss two of the following:
    1. The Justinian Code, The Code of Hammurabi, and the Magna Carta.
    2. The development of the jury system.
    3. Two famous trials in history.
  3. Tell what civil law is; criminal law. Tell the main differences between them. Give examples of each.
  4. Ask five people (not more than one from your immediate family) about the role of law enforcement officers in our society. Discuss their answers with them. Go to a law enforcement officer in your neighborhood and ask him about his responsibilities and duties. Report your findings.
  5. Tell what a contract is. Must all contracts be in writing? Explain. Tell about several laws that have been passed to protect the consumer and the seller. Tell about several organizations there are to help them.
  6. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Attend a session of a civil or criminal court. Write 250 words or more on what you saw.
    2. Plan and conduct a mock trial with your troop or school class. After the trial is over, discuss it with the group.
  7. Arrange a visit with a lawyer who works for a business, bank, title company, or government. Find out his or her duties and responsibilities. Report what you learned. If it is impossible for you to arrange such a visit, discuss with your counselor the duties and responsibilities of a lawyer who works for one of the groups listed.
  8. Explain the requirements for becoming a lawyer in your state. Describe how judges are selected in your state.
  9. Make a list of 15 jobs which deal with some aspect of law or legal processes. Tell which you prefer. Why?
  10. Tell where a person can go to obtain the help of a lawyer if they are unable to pay for one. Tell what you can do if you can afford a lawyer but do not know of any in your area.
  11. Discuss with your counselor the importance of TWO of the following areas of law that have recently emerged and are still developing:
    1. Environmental law
    2. Computers and the Internet
    3. Copyright and the Internet
    4. Space travel and satellites orbiting the earth
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Publications : Bar Bulletin: January 2007

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