I am delighted to confirm that one of our own, Bethesda attorney Harry C. Storm, has been named the President-Elect Nominee of the Maryland State Bar Association. Harry is slated to succeed the Hon. Pamila J. Brown, Maryland District Court of Howard County, who will be installed as President this June at the MSBA annual meeting. I wish to extend my sincere congratulations to both Pamila and Harry with whom I have remained friends since our first year of Law School. (Harry and I were in a bar exam study group and yes...we both passed the first time.) Harry's father and brother both served as Maryland State Troopers and Harry served as a summer police officer in Ocean City, Maryland. (We asked him repeatedly if they provided a summer officer more than one bullet for his service revolver!) He went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from the University of Baltimore School of Law and served with distinction as President of the Bar Association of Montgomery County in 2002. Harry is a principal in the Law Firm of Lerch, Early and Brewer where he specializes in commercial litigation and transactional law in the Petroleum industry. I am certain that his wife Kendall and daughters Kathryn and Meredith are very proud.
To be heard you must make the effort to find your voice.
In recent years a number of legislative enactments have caused unintended consequences.
We now live in a time when many Marylanders have planned an exit strategy to leave the state for retirement and estate planning purposes. Until recently, the Maryland State Legislature had not enacted a phase-in plan to achieve Federal Death Tax parity, which will not be achieved until 2019. This vacuum had created a Death Tax penalty for Maryland residents and caused many high income earners to leave the state.
This legislative session will likely include a review of the mission, funding and qualification criteria for the services of the Maryland Public Defenders Office. Our Maryland Public Defenders office has, over the past few years, represented a higher percentage of criminal defendants than ever before. In light of the increased demand and its expanded role after the Richmond decision, members of the legislature have expressed concern to review the guidelines for qualification for their services rather than simply expanding the budget. There has been discussion of greater pay back plans to recoup costs and stricter penalties for misrepresentation of income to act as a disincentive for anyone who is not truly qualified to receive their services for free or at a reduced rate.
This past session, the Maryland Legislature has reduced the burden of proof in a domestic violence petition to "preponderance of the evidence." Many supporters believe that the reduced standard will assist victims in making it easier to obtain an order of protection and encourage those in need to come forward. Others have concerns that it may encourage petitions, which are filed without fee, of dubious merit in light of a separating party's desire to obtain use of the family residence, an order of immediate support and presumption of fitness for the custody of minor children.
As you can see, each change in law carries with it potential for unforeseen and unintended consequences.
Now, more than ever, we should be working with the members of the Maryland Legislature. To have meaningful input we need to anticipate the need for new legislation and take positions, including concerns for unintended consequences of proposed legislation. With fewer house and senate members with law degrees, our assistance may make a positive difference.
To this end we have created Judiciary Liaisons who will serve to identify these important issues. I wish to thank several of our Super Stars who once again have answered the call to serve our Association. The Hon. Patrick Woodward, Dorothy Fait, Thomas Murphy and Luiz Simmons have agreed to serve in the newly created position as legislative liaisons. Each, by background, is uniquely positioned with a broad range of interests and experience. In this role they will meet with the Maryland State Senate and House Judiciary Chairs, members at large, Maryland State Bar Legislative liaisons and members of our practice sections to identify issues and legislation of interest.
Hopefully with the legislative liaisons we will have found our voice.