Dear MSBA Member:
The summer is now only a distant memory, school and work are moving at full tilt, the elections are over, and soon the holidays will be upon us. To those concerned with the discussion and creation of our state’s laws, it is once again time to gear up for another legislative session. As with most years, especially in this time of economic stagnation, the talk around Annapolis and across the state is about money. The two questions asked most are: “Where will it come from?” and “What will we spend it on?” This year appears to be no exception. I can assure each of you that the MSBA through its Committee on Laws and the Special Committee on Law Reform will monitor any proposed legislation that affects lawyers in any way and, where appropriate, take action to insure that the interests of Maryland lawyers are protected.
The MSBA has identified three areas of legislative concern in the upcoming term. They are interrelated, and, as with prior years, they concern sources of funding.
First, the Legislature will take up the issue of whether to continue funding the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC). As of now, unless the Legislature acts, a sunset provision will cause funding for this important agency to dry up. Since 1995, the Legislature has authorized three increases in filing fees to help with MLSC funding. Whether another increase to the filing fees is warranted is left to further discussion, though I believe the current funding should continue.
Secondly, the Maryland Judiciary’s Access to Justice Commission has recommended the creation of a task force to study civil legal services for the indigent. Access to justice is a promise made to all citizens regardless of their financial means. In our democratic system, we believe in the Rule of Law, and access to our courts and lawyers for everyone is essential in order to insure the preservation of peace and the safety of all through the peaceful resolution of disputes. This task force could develop ideas that provide solutions to the ever growing problem of self representation. The MSBA supports the efforts of the Commission.
Finally, each year for the last 20 years, legislation is proposed to impose a tax on the delivery of legal services by lawyers. To date, every effort has been met by stiff opposition from the MSBA, other professions, and members of the business community. I can assure you that if such legislation is introduced again in the upcoming term, the MSBA will take whatever steps are necessary to insure that no tax is imposed on Maryland lawyers.
If you have any questions concerning general legislative issues, or want to seek additional information on the MSBA legislative program, please don’t hesitate to contact your representative on the Board of Governors or our Legislative Director, Richard Montgomery III. Richard may be reached at (410) 269-6464.
John P. Kudel