Law Library News

Maryland 2018 Session: New Laws -Expungement

Posted by Joan Bellistri on August 24, 2018

This excerpt from the 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2018 Session at E-8 provides a good discussion of the 2018 changes to the expungement law per HB382/CH686 and SB101/CH143:

Under the Criminal Procedure Article, a person who has been charged with the commission of a crime, including a crime under the Transportation Article for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed, or who has been charged with a civil offense or infraction, except a juvenile offense, as a substitute for a criminal charge may file a petition for expungement listing the relevant facts of a police record, court record, or other record maintained by the State or a political subdivision of the State, under various circumstances listed in the statute. House Bill 382 (passed) clarifies that a person may petition for expungement of any civil offense or infraction, except a juvenile offense. The bill repeals the requirement that the civil offense or infraction be a substitute for a criminal charge.

Chapter 515 of 2016, also known as the Justice Reinvestment Act, authorized the expungement of convictions for several specified offenses, the vast majority of which are misdemeanors. Expungements of these convictions are subject to specified procedures and waiting periods. Senate Bill 101 (passed) authorizes the expungement of a felony conviction for theft, possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance, and burglary. The bill specifies that a petition for expungement of a felony is subject to a waiting period of 15 years from when the person satisfies the sentence or sentences imposed for all convictions for which expungement is requested, including parole, probation, or mandatory supervision. For a further discussion of Senate Bill 101, see the subparts “Criminal Law” and “Public Safety” within this part of this 90 Day Report.

These changes will go into effect October 1, 2018.

To learn more about expungement and expungement resources, check out expungement on the Maryland People’s Law Library and our wiki page. In addition, the Maryland Courts website includes information on how to expunge your records and a video.


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Maryland 2018 Session: New Laws -Divorce and Mutual Consent

Posted by Joan Bellistri on August 21, 2018

This excerpt from the 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2018 Session provides a good discussion of the 2018 changes to the divorce law concerning mutual consent.

Under current law, a court may grant an absolute divorce on the ground of mutual consent if (1) the parties do not have any minor children in common; (2) the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to alimony and the distribution of property, as specified; (3) neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland Rules; and (4) both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

Senate Bill 96/CH849 (passed) repeals the requirement that both parties appear before the court in order to be granted an absolute divorce on the ground of mutual consent. Senate Bill 120/CH850 (passed) repeals the restriction that limits absolute divorces on the ground of mutual consent to parties without minor children in common. Instead, it requires the written settlement agreement submitted to the court to also resolve all issues relating to the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children. The parties must attach to the settlement agreement a completed child support guidelines worksheet, if applicable. The bill also establishes that as a condition to granting an absolute divorce on the ground of mutual consent, the court must be satisfied that any terms of the settlement agreement relating to minor or dependent children are in the best interests of those children.

In regards to Twelve-month Separation , Oral Amendment to Divorce Application Statutory provisions set forth a process by which a court may grant a limited divorce, which does not sever the marriage but does grant the complaining party the right to live separate and apart from the other spouse. A limited divorce also can address issues of custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and use and possession of a family home. A court may grant an absolute divorce based on numerous specified grounds, including the ground of 12-month separation when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce. House Bill 1368/CH782 (passed) authorizes an oral amendment to a previously filed application for a limited or absolute divorce, that is made by a party with the consent of the other party at a hearing on the merits in open court, to qualify as “the filing of the application for divorce” in statutory provisions regarding an absolute divorce on the ground of a 12-month separation.

These changes will go into effect October 1, 2018.

For assistance and more information on family matters please see the following:

  • The Family Law Self Help Center provides self-represented litigants with legal information and forms for family law matters such as divorce, custody, visitation, child support and name changes. Located at the Law Library, the Family Law Self Help Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. (but closes for lunch from 1:00 – 2:00).
  • Maryland Courts Self-Help Center  provides phone (410-260-1392) and live chat assistance Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. 
  • The Law Library’s wiki site includes pages dedicated to Family Law Resources, including referrals, forms and reference materials.
  • The Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County’s website includes a “Learn About” page addressing Family Law Cases.
  • The Maryland Courts’ website includes information about Family Law Issues, such as adoption, child custody, child support, divorce, marriage and name change.
  • The Maryland People’s Law Library has many articles on family law topics

For more information or help getting started with your research, contact the Law Library!

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Maryland Sentencing Guidelines effective July 1, 2018

Posted by Joan Bellistri on August 17, 2018

From the website of the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy:

The MSCCSP released Version 10.0 of the Maryland Sentencing Guidelines Manual (MSGM). MSGM 10.0 includes revisions to the juvenile delinquency scoring component of the offender score approved by the MSCCSP and adopted in COMAR effective July 1, 2018. For additional details on the juvenile delinquency score revisions, see the June 2018 edition of the Guidelines E-News. In addition to the juvenile delinquency score revisions, the new manual includes updated sample cases, an updated offense table (Appendix A), and a revision to one of the victim information items that involves changing “Victim Non-participation” to “Victim participation” following feedback from practitioners to phrase the item in the affirmative. Finally, the updated offense table reflects minor edits and the addition of a previously unclassified offense (EC, § 10-439–Purchase, sell, transfer, or obtain stem cell material donated in accordance with EC, § 10-438 for financial gain or advantage).

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Sixth Edition of Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland is Here.

Posted by Jean Stephens on August 14, 2018

COA_6thOne of the most frequently consulted books in the law library is out in its new edition. The updated version of Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland by Mark Sandler, Esq. and James K Archibald, Esq., now includes citations for over 2,600 cases as well as updated material on foreclosure proceedings, mandamus proceedings, custody and other family law proceedings. Decisions of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, and the United States District Court for the District of Maryland are current as of December 31, 2017.

Reviewing the Complaints and commentary in this book will help you develop an awareness of the elements of your case, and its strengths and weaknesses,” say the publishers, MSBA, Baltimore, Maryland 2018.

Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland is kept on reserve, so please ask if you need it. This title is also available electronically on both Lexis and Westlaw here in the law library, although the 6th edition may not yet be online.


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National Consumer Law Center: Access NCLC Titles Digitally in the Library!

Posted by Joan Bellistri on August 10, 2018


You may already know that the Law Library has an extensive collection of National Consumer Law Center titles on our shelves. But did you know the library also offers these same titles online?

Easily navigate a wealth of information regarding Debtor Rights, Credit and Banking, Consumer Litigation, and Deception and Warranties using the Law Library’s digital subscription. Enjoy the functionality of speedy, thorough searches for information, as well as the hassle-free ability to copy, paste, email, and share texts with the click of a mouse.

This digital subscription includes not only the standard 20 titles, but web links to primary sources, related court decisions, forms, links, and a plethora of other useful resources. The NCLC website also has free webinars, information on NCLC legal assistance programs, consulting services for attorneys and legislation/rulemakings on consumer topics.

Visit the Law Library to access these valuable information resources.


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Blockchain and Pamela Ortiz–The New Trends in State Courts 2018 is Out!

Posted by Jean Stephens on August 7, 2018

Have you ever experienced a sinking feeling when the word Blockchain  comes up in a news report or a conversation–unsure exactly what it is, let alone what implications it might have for you? There’s an refreshingly clear analogy for Blockchain in an article by Di Graski and Paul Embley titled “When Might Blockchain Appear in Your Court?” featured in the new issue of Trends in State Courts 2018.

“Before paper ledgers, medieval Europeans used tally sticks to record transactions by notching a piece of wood with marks to signify the amount of a transaction, and then splitting the wood lengthwise, with each party taking half. Neither party could change the value by adding more notches because corresponding notches would be missing from the other party’s stick. No central authority was required to validate the transaction because the uniqueness of the stick’s natural wood grain ensured that only the two original pieces would align perfectly when reunited,” say Graski and Embrey.

Key here is the idea that the tally sticks require no central authority. The same goes for Blockchain which uses cryptography to achieve similar autonomy with no central data bank and no ledger-keeper. From this set-up emerge applications such as “smart contracts”, i.e. contracts which activate a remedy, such as a transfer of funds to the violated party, automatically in response to an embedded “If/Then” facility.

Hmn . . . On second thought, this explanation may not be as clear as I hoped. If that’s the case, please check out the Trends in State Courts 2018 in the periodicals section at the law library. Smart contracts are already on their way to a court near you.

Also . . .

Maryland’s own Pamela Cardullo Ortiz is the author of “Developing a Research Agenda for Access to Justice” also in the current issue of Trends. “What factors affect the quality of judicial decisions?” she asks, then proposes a response based on research from Harvard and Stanford, and design thinking techniques borrowed from technology industry start-ups. Broad-based teams, strategic data collection, and decisions grounded in social context are key to her recommendations.

Pamela is Director, Access to Justice Department, Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts. She is the recipient of the 2015 Benjamin L Cardin Distinguished Service Award. Yes, she’s that Pamela Ortiz who fronts the Pamela Ortiz Band that rocks Chestertown!

Trends in State Courts is a peer-reviewed journal, published once a year. You can access its monthly online edition here: http://www.ncsc.org/trends.

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Ask a Lawyer in the Library: July Wrap-Up

Posted by Joan Bellistri on August 1, 2018

Thanks to our volunteer attorneys  – Jonathan Pasterick of Hillman, Brown and Darrow, Carole Brown, Frank Lozupone of Gormley Jarashow Bowman and Richard Ronay – who assisted 22 people with issues such as divorce, health insurance, contracts, property disputes and guardianship.

In addition, the MVLS Foreclosure Clinic helped one person with foreclosure questions. The MVLS Brief Legal Advice Foreclosure Clinic is held on the 3rd Wednesday in the law library from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The Ask a Lawyer In the Library program is a civil, non-family law, self-help program sponsored by The Anne Arundel Bar Association and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. Every Wednesday, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., you can talk with a volunteer attorney for up to 20 minutes. No appointment is necessary, but sign-up is required at the law library’s information desk. Sign-up begins at 10:45 a.m., and time slots are determined by a lottery. In addition to the weekly program, the Ask A Lawyer In The Library program is held monthly at two Anne Arundel County Public Library branches: Glen Burnie Regional Library on the 3rd Wednesday (except in June and July) and Eastport-Annapolis Neck Community Library on the last Tuesday. For more information, please see http://circuitcourt.org/legal-help/lawyer-in-the-library.

Do you have a family law matter? Family Law matters are best addressed by Family Law Self-Help Center which is located in the back of the law library.

Do you have a criminal case? The Office of the Public Defender provides legal services to eligible individuals.

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Pro Bono Made Easy: MVLS Introduces the Pro Bono Portal

Posted by Joan Bellistri on July 31, 2018

News from Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS):

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), the largest provider of pro bono civil legal services to low-income Marylanders, unveiled the new Pro Bono Portal to easily connect volunteer attorneys with vulnerable Marylanders who need legal help. Through a mobile-friendly and optimized user interface, attorneys can quickly identify individuals and families who need their expertise. The Pro Bono Portal displays cases in real time using a color-coded system that organizes cases by type and geographic region.

“We are always looking for ways to increase the speed at which we can match Marylanders in need with the generous support of volunteer attorneys. Our refreshed Pro Bono Portal is a wonderful example of how we are evolving our technology to help more people,” said Bonnie Sullivan, executive director, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS). “Now, attorneys can easily check available cases from any mobile device and no matter where they are in their daily activities. We look forward to continuing to leverage technology to expand the reach of our services and the commitment of our volunteers.”

During an initial trial with current volunteer attorneys, MVLS’ new Pro Bono Portal received positive reviews. According to Richard (Ricky) L. Adams, associate at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP, the new Pro Bono Portal is “very easy to understand and determine which cases might be interesting to me as an attorney. Hopefully this tool will make it easier for attorneys to volunteer and to share cases with colleagues they know might be looking for such opportunities!”

While the Portal works for all attorneys, it’s particularly ideal for new attorneys to be able to see all the available cases (sortable by case type and geography) and to find a case to jump into to start building their legal skills.

If you are an attorney and want to make an impact in the Maryland community, please visit www.mvlslaw.org/probonoportal to identify a case that aligns with your professional skillset and geographic location


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Yankee Doodle Encounters Magna Carta

Posted by Jean Stephens on July 12, 2018

“Picture the scene. John Adams sits alone, his fellow committee members James Bowdoin and Samuel Adams having decamped to a local tavern. Spread out on the table before Adams are an assortment of sources–Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, Locke’s Second Treatise, Mason’s Declaration of Rights, and other tomes . . .”

IMG_1564Thus goes the process of funneling the rights and principles valued by constitutional thinkers circa 1780 into the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, and ultimately into the US Constitution, according to A. E. Dick Howard in his essay Magna Carta’s American Journey which appears in Magna Carta, Muse and Mentor available in the Law Library.

Those with an eye for lexicographic oddities may find in the same volume essayist Bryan A. Garner’s use of the word “macaronic” to describe the plural form Magna Chartaes favored by the 1989 OED. Not familiar with the term macaronic? Think macaronicus–the Latinization of vernacular, often indulged as a verbal amusement around the time that Yankee Doodle stuck a feather in his hat.

BTW, I got interested in the Magna Carta on a rainy day in London a few weeks ago, when one of those famous double-decker buses dropped me off at the British Library which houses one of the four copies still extant of the original sheepskin signed by King John in 1215. It’s a daunting treasure trove . . . and it’s right across the street from Platform 9 3/4 where Harry Potter caught the Hogwarts Express.

For a modern English translation of Magna Carta from the original Latin, go to:


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Maryland’s 2018 Primary Election

Posted by Joan Bellistri on July 9, 2018

ballot-1294935_960_720From the number of candidates I saw in Annapolis’ 4th of July Parade, it looks like the winners of the primary are gearing up for the General Election in November.

Find out who the candidates will be in the General Election by reviewing the results of the Primary Election here.

The General Election will be held November 6, 2018, 7 am until 8 pm. Early Voting starts Thursday, October 25, 2018 and goes through Thursday, November 1, 2018 from 10 am until 8 pm.

For more information on elections in Maryland visit the website of the Maryland State Board of Elections.


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