By Robert McFarland
Assistant attorney general, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Needless to say, what goes on in government agencies affects the private realm in one way or another. Many in our MSBA membership who practice in the private sector often interface with government agencies on behalf of their clients. We who advise government agencies work with the agencies to help them work with the private side. Thus, having a forum where we can meet and share our knowledge and experience from both perspectives is desirable.
The MSBA’s State and Local Government Section naturally focuses on matters of governmental interest, but is also a forum for both private and government practitioners to help work together more effectively for our clients, whoever they may be. Just as in other sections, we seek to be a resource to all our MSBA members, so in the COVID-driven virtual world the State and Local Government Section was proud to present virtually in the end of October its Fall Institute for all Association members.
The program kicked off with developments in the Supreme Court starting with a 2019 Term overview on a wide range of questions including sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, Clean Water Act developments, and the Second Amendment, among other things. We also covered the appointment of new justices by the Trump Administration and a 2020 Term preview. Sharing their wealth of knowledge and insight in these matters were Amanda Kellar, deputy general counsel of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, and Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center.
The Honorable Brynja Booth of the Court of Appeals, Lynn Board, City Attorney of Gaithersburg, and Brenda Gruss of the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland shared their tips and perspectives on virtual presentation of oral arguments before the appellate and trial courts and administrative tribunals. This was followed by a talk about attorney ethics in government led by the Honorable Robert McDonald of the Court of Appeals, and our Section’s own Patrick Hughes, chief counsel for opinions and advice at the OAG, and Charles Thompson, the executive director of the International Municipal Lawyers Association. The program concluded with a roundtable discussion of the current state of policing in America coming from several city attorneys from around the country giving their respective takes on the reform and defunding movements that have emerged in the last year.
There were a number of useful takeaways for practitioners both inside and outside government. The Section is planning further presentations and other events throughout the year. The State and Local Government Section aims to expand its membership to attorneys from other practice areas to develop better perspectives for the public and private sectors. We welcome input and participation from MSBA members to develop topics that will be valuable to both government and private attorneys in the future. Stay tuned as we continue in this direction.