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CLE in Maryland: Optional now, optional always?

Retired Court of Appeals Judge Lynne A. Battaglia made the most recent push for mandatory continuing legal education in Maryland in 2013. She acknowledges opposition remains but still believes it could happen in the future. ‘In order to be competent and be the best at what we do, we must continue to engage in educational efforts,’ she says. (File)

Retired Court of Appeals Judge Lynne A. Battaglia made the most recent push for mandatory continuing legal education in Maryland in 2013. She acknowledges opposition remains but still believes it could happen in the future. ‘In order to be competent and be the best at what we do, we must continue to engage in educational efforts,’ she says. (File)

Maryland will likely remain one of only five states and the District of Columbia that does not require its attorneys to take continuing legal education classes as a condition of keeping their law licenses.

The last major push for mandatory CLE in Maryland was in 2013 and was spearheaded by then-Court of Appeals Judge Lynne A. Battaglia. Her strongest ally in that effort was attorney Paul Mark Sandler.

But the Court of Appeals, the state’s top court, never held a hearing on the proposal, which the Maryland State Bar Association opposed.

In a statement, the Maryland Judiciary declined to address the prospects for mandatory CLE in the state.

“It would not be appropriate for the Judiciary to comment at this time on a question that may come before the Court” of Appeals, the statement read.

Despite the 2013 defeat, Battaglia said Wednesday she has not lost hope for mandatory CLE for Maryland lawyers, noting that the state’s judges are required to take continuing education classes.

“I don’t think that fight [for MCLE] has ever been lost,” said Battaglia, whom the state Constitution forced into retirement in April when she reached age 70.

“There certainly has been very vocal opposition but that doesn’t mean that it will never come in to the fore,” she added. “In order to be competent and be the best at what we do, we must continue to engage in educational efforts.”

Sandler appeared to be less optimistic.

“I professionally lament the absence of MCLE in the great state of Maryland,” said Sandler, a name partner at Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler in Baltimore. “To be part of a group of professionals, standards should be met and it is helpful for people to reacquaint themselves, stay current.”

Under the failed 2013 proposal, Maryland attorneys would have been required to complete at least 10 CLE hours every year, two of them dedicated to professionalism. Attorneys could have fulfilled the 10 hours by teaching, writing a book or taking an electronic CLE course.

Failure to meet the requirement could have resulted in suspension of the attorney’s law license.

The Maryland State Bar Association’s opposition to mandatory CLE in 2013 followed a survey of its members that found about 70 percent of respondents opposed to a continuing legal education requirement. A majority of the respondents did favor continuing legal education at each attorney’s discretion.

“MSBA does not currently regard MCLE as a pressing issue in Maryland,” W. Patrick Tandy, a spokesman for the association, wrote in an email Wednesday. “There isn’t the active push here as has been seen in recent years; rather, we focus our CLE-related efforts on our ever-growing cadre of quality CLE programming and publications that our members have come to utilize and expect.”

Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan and South Dakota are the only states besides Maryland that do not require their attorneys to take continuing legal education classes. That list will shrink by one on Jan. 1, when Connecticut begins mandatory CLE, as approved by the state’s judiciary in June.


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