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President's Message
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This is a great country but,
fortunately for you, it is not perfect.
There is much to be done..

--Justice Thurgood Marshall

One of the privileges of serving as bar president is an invitation to address the successful bar applicants at their admission ceremony in the Court of Appeals.  I did so last December.  It was a gratifying experience to stand before the earnest and nervous faces of dozens of newly-minted attorneys and to offer a few words of encouragement and advice.

Attempting to impart a meaningful message in five minute is a challenge.  My effort to do so began by reviewing the language of the attorney’s oath.  Not having had the opportunity to attend a bar admission ceremony since my own admission almost a quarter century ago, I hadn’t given much thought to the oath since that day.  But it formed the framework for my comments, especially the first sentence which states:  “I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will at all times demean myself fairly and honorably as an attorney and practitioner at law.”

That single sentence framed what I hoped, if nothing else, the new attorneys would remember from my remarks.  But it is also relevant to those of us whose admission to the bar is a hazy memory.  And, it serves as a reminder that we, as attorneys, are always “on the clock.”  So, my advice to the newly-admitted attorneys was, in part, as follows:

But, most importantly, always comport yourselves with the professionalism and civility befitting your chosen profession.  For better and for worse, technology is changing how we interact and communicate as attorneys.  And that is not going away.  I predict that the practice of law will change and evolve more during your careers than it has during the careers of all of the attorneys who have preceded you at the bar. 

But those changes are not an excuse for a lack of civility.  We are the faces and voices of our system of justice.  Everything that we say and everything that we do has the ability to inspire or discourage confidence in the legal profession and the law.  And everything that you say and everything that you do from this point forward will add or detract from your reputation as an attorney.

We have many ethical obligations.  And, at times, the path is not always clear.  But my advice to you is simple:  Always remember that, after today, you will never NOT be a lawyer.  It is not just what we do, it is what we are.  We are lawyers both on the clock and off, day and night.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to review the attorney’s oath recently, take a moment and re-read it.  You can find it at §10-212 of the Business Occupations and Professions Article.  It is a reminder of the basic obligations we all have as attorneys.  As I read it in preparing my remarks, I was also reminded of the pride that I experienced when I was admitted to the bar.  That pride has never been extinguished.

I am proud every day to call myself an attorney and to be a member of the bar of Maryland.  I am also mindful of the fact that we, as professionals and citizens, can always strive for improvement.  A renewed commitment to civility is a great place to start.  With viral media always ready to pounce, vigilance is the order of the day.  A single unfortunate event has the ability to adversely affect the public’s perception of our profession.

Justice Marshall’s observation about our country, quoted above, can be applied with equal relevance to our profession.  While “great,” it is not “perfect.”  There is always much to be done.

Miscellanea

Courthouse Security:  Last month, I wrote about changes in our profession on a macro level.  The new year is bringing change on a micro level, however, of which our membership should be aware.

Perhaps most notable to litigators among our ranks will be changes to the security procedures at the Circuit Court building.  I am “seasoned” enough to remember a time when the only metal detector at the courthouse was at the entrance to the Domestic Relations Masters’ hearing rooms on the second floor.  Other than that, attorneys and the public had unfettered access to the remainder of the courthouse.

Obviously, that antiquated system has not been feasible for quite some time.  Morever, the current system, in which attorneys can bypass security with a bar card, is no longer realistic.  Administrative Judge Robert A. Greenberg has formed a committee to study and implement new security requirements that will increase the level of safety and security for everyone in the courthouse.

Montgomery County is somewhat “behind the curve” as it relates to security.  Multiple jurisdictions, including Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County and Howard County, already require screening of all who enter the courthouse.  The security protocols for our Circuit Court will eventually require screening of everyone who enters the building as well, including courthouse employees. 

Fortunately, Judge Greenberg has invited the input of all of the stakeholders, including the BAMC, the Office of the State’s Attorney and the Office of the Public Defender.  We are all working cooperatively with the court administration and the Sheriff’s Office to implement a policy that will minimize the impact on the attorneys who require frequent access to the courthouse.  Judge Greenberg will be addressing these changes at the February 6th Bar Luncheon so please be sure to attend.

While the new procedures are being crafted, the Circuit Court will be implementing random screening.  The new arrangement is similar to that already adopted by the District Court.  We will all need to be mindful of this policy, especially during peak entry times at the Circuit Court building.

Judicial Appointments:  Last and certainly not least, I want to acknowledge the unprecedented deluge of judicial appointments.  The BAMC’s Judicial Selections Committee (chaired by Stephanie Fink and Kristina Badalian), in concert with the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission and the many other specialty bars, worked tirelessly to recommend and nominate qualified and diverse candidates to fill the many judicial vacancies.  Governor Hogan’s appointments have advanced the goals of maintaining the excellence of our County’s judiciary while also insuring that our courts reflect the diversity of the community it serves. 

Congratulations to all of our newly-appointed judges (BAMC members all):  on the Circuit Court, Judge Margaret M. Schweitzer, Judge Jill R. Cummins and Judge David W. Lease; and on the District Court, Judge Amy J. Bills, Judge Karen A. Ferretti, Judge Carlos Acosta and Judge Aileen Oliver.

Jim Mood