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Blogs | February, 10 2023

Delegate Luke Clippinger and Senator Will Smith Offer Insider Perspective into the 2023 Legislative Session During MSBA Day

On January 24, 2023, the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) welcomed members to take part in the fourth annual MSBA Day (previously known as “Lobby Day”). It was the first MSBA day held in person since 2020.

MSBA day provides members with insight into MSBA’s legislative priorities and advocacy efforts. As the voice of Maryland attorneys, the MSBA advocates not only for the interest of the legal profession but also stresses the importance of increasing access to justice. 

One of the highlights of MSBA day was an insider perspective into the 2023 Legislative Session, which came from a discussion between Senator Will Smith, the Chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Delegate Luke Clippinger, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Former State Senator Bobby Zirkin moderated the discussion. 

Delegate Clippinger began by expressing his appreciation for “all the resources that MSBA has made available to me to my committee and all the issues that have been raised along the way.” He believes the Legislature as a whole, and specifically the Judiciary Committee, has made great strides over the past four years, working hard on police reform, police accountability, access to justice, and providing assistance to people facing eviction.  This year, 12 of the 23 members of the Judiciary Committee are new; they come from varied backgrounds, some are attorneys, and some work in law enforcement, but all are “incredibly excited not just to be here, but to get to work.”

One of the challenging issues that Clippinger anticipates the Judiciary Committee will look at closely this year is how to regulate concealed carry in Maryland in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 US _ (2022). 

Another contentious issue facing the Judiciary Committee is the liability of not-for-profit institutions where child sex abuse occurred; Clippinger reported that HB1, the Childhood Sexual Abuse Act introduced by Delegate Wilson, “seeks to address those issues and give people the opportunity to seek justice.”  

While the Judiciary Committee will tackle issues related to the legalization of marijuana, the bulk of those issues are going to be handled by the Economic Matters Committee as they figure out the licensing structure for marijuana. The Judiciary Committee will also seek to shine greater light on the programming that Maryland provides for juveniles who have been found to be delinquent in our juvenile justice system; as Clippinger noted, the Department of Juvenile Services “struggles to provide basic services, and struggles to be able to provide services to kids who have been found delinquent.” 

Senator Smith addressed the MSBA’s legislative priorities: eliminating contested judicial elections, funding access to counsel for eviction proceedings, and expungement. He supports judicial election reform, an issue that has been before the General Assembly for 54 years, and is “confident that you’ll hear a robust debate in both Committees.” He then talked about the continued need to expand and fund access to counsel and noted that legislators put forward several new measures for expanding expungement opportunities. 

Smith agreed with Clippinger that HB1 presented controversial issues but explained, “we want to make sure that victims of that survivors of child sex assault have an opportunity to seek access to civil justice” and that the Committees would do their best to move forward in a constitutional manner.  Gun safety is important to Smith as well; per a briefing he received from the Maryland State Police, since Bruen, more wear and carry permits are issued per month than were issued every year, which means “there are going to be more guns in public spaces, and that ultimately leads to us being less safe.” Smith intends to work “to push to the constitutional limit, to ensure that we have secure locations or those sensitive locations where those carry permits cannot be permitted … to ensure that all Marylanders are safe.”

Smith believes, “we’ve got a lot of really weighty and meaty issues facing our Committee.” He talked about the importance of the Committee’s partnership with the MSBA, noting that MSBA members “all have expertise in specific areas of the law that can help us develop really sound policy.” He looks forward to deepening that partnership because he thinks our profession and the citizens of Maryland will benefit from it. 

Additional information about MSBA Day and the MSBA’s advocacy efforts is available here.