Although the MSBA Military Law Committee recently held only its fourth committee meeting, it is rapidly advancing. It has quadrupled in size to more than 40 members since its first meeting this past September. To date, the Committee has: proposed a program for the MSBA annual event; sponsored a MICPEL course; joined a collaborative effort to provide training and representation to veterans accessing their benefits, including submission of an ABA grant application; established web-based legal resources on its website; and planned small and large-scale events, including a conference this spring concerning veterans issues.
Looking forward, the Committee remains focused on achieving the three objectives both co-chairs agreed to during their first meeting in the summer: 1) establishing a venue for discussing, exploring and informing MSBA on substantive military law issues; 2) exploring the impact the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) will have on Maryland and how the legal community can assist; and 3) facilitating opportunities to provide legal assistance to veterans, military members and their families. Accordingly, the Committee continues planning educational events and implementing initiatives with its partners. It is currently working reschedule a talk on BRAC issues by Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown, who was recently named to President-elect Obama’s transition team and consequently was unable to address the Committee this fall. The Committee is also working diligently to establish projects supporting veterans, military members and their families.
As part of that effort, the Committee is involved in a number of initiatives. It is establishing a program along with MSBA’s Taxation Section to support attorneys at Fort Meade and Bolling Air Force Base providing tax assistance to military personnel and their families. Working with its partners, the Homeless Persons Representation Project, the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, and the University of Maryland School of Law Schweitzer Fellow and Director of Pro Bono & Public Service Initiatives, the Committee is attempting to develop a state emeritus attorney pro bono program through funding provided by the ABA. The program will provide legal assistance to conduct CLE-compliant trainings and provide free legal representation to low-income veterans trying to access service-related disability and pension benefits. Public awareness pamphlets are being developed in support of this project. The Committee is also supporting efforts under way to assess the need for a Veterans Court in Maryland and is looking into offering one-day and/or semester-long law clinics.
Using ABA’s LAMP and Operation Stand-by projects as a model, the Committee additionally seeks to establish a web-based network of pro bono attorneys willing to provide support to JAG Officers and legal assistance attorneys in a variety of areas, such as housing, consumer protection, and estates and trust, to military service members, their families, and civilians associated with the military. This network will be available to military installations, placed on the Committee’s website and coordinated with local JAG officers. In the future, the Committee hopes to integrate this legal network with professionals working in other disciplines to support attorneys’ efforts. For example, healthcare professionals could be a valuable resource for attorneys providing pro bono assistance to veterans accessing their benefits.
As demonstrated herein, this emergent MSBA Committee is attacking several fronts in its attempt to become a valuable resource for the Association and broader community. Open to all MSBA professionals, a diverse mix of members with ties to the military and those simply interested in supporting military service members, their families and veterans, and learning new areas of law along the way, comprise the Military Law Committee. The Committee provides an opportunity for current and former military members to stay connected and for non-military affiliated members to expand their practice and learn new skills. For more information or to share ideas, partner with the Committee or get involved to support the cause, see the Committee’s website or attend its next meeting, January 14, 2009, beginning at 6:00 p.m. at MSBA headquarters.
Justin Browne and Charles Blomquist are Co-Chairs of the MSBA Military Law Committee. Browne is an associate at Whitney & Bogris LLP in Towson, Maryland. Blomquist is an AssistantState’s Attorney in BaltimoreCity’s Homicide Division.