By JACK SHAUM firstname.lastname@example.org l Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 3:00 am
ANNAPOLIS — An organization based in the state capital that seeks to improve the professionalism of lawyers and judges in Maryland has issued its first annual report, and says it is making “significant” progress in that area.
The Maryland Professionalism Center was formed to "support and encourage members of the Judiciary to exhibit the highest levels of professionalism and to support and encourage lawyers to exercise the highest levels of professional integrity in their relationships with their clients, other lawyers, the courts, and the public," according to Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Lynne Battaglia, chairman of the center's board.
"We're talking about civility and treating each other with respect," Battaglia said in an interview. She said there is a public perception that there are those in the field who are "being less than professional."
The center administers a professionalism course that was attended by 1,500 new attorneys during 2014, the annual report states. It also administers the Court of Appeals' mentoring program, which placed over 200 new lawyers with veteran attorneys around the state. There is also a Professionalism Pilot Court for Judges, which will be offered through the Judicial Institute.
"In 2014 the center has achieved significant growth in furtherance of its mission," according to Battaglia.
Maryland is one of only 14 jurisdictions nationwide to have such a center, she said. Its board of directors is made up of 13 members of the legal community and each heads a subcommittee. Queen Anne's County District Court Judge Frank M. Kratovil, Jr. is a board member and chairs the Community Outreach Subcommittee. He believes there's a certain perception of lawyers because certain TV shows and books "sort of demean the profession" and that it's the butt of jokes as a result.
"The first purpose is improving the professionalism of lawyers and judges and making sure they're exhibiting characteristics that are appropriate, given the nature of the profession, whether it's responsibility, whether it's integrity, whether it's courtesy to other lawyers, judges, witnesses, victims," Kratovil said in an interview.
He chairs the organization's Community Outreach Subcommittee, which is promoting the center's work and also providing "some education, not on just what the center is and what the center does, but also perhaps [provide] guidance to the public on various issues related to the law."
Kratovil is hoping that his subcommittee can promote the center's work through presentations to local community meetings, clubs, and other organizations. He believes the center's work will help make the legal profession be the best it can be.
Highlights of the center's 2014 annual report are available by visiting www.marylandprofessionalism.org.