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On the Record

The Daily Record's law news blog

A switch in time saves 15

Maryland’s top court will soon consider, and likely adopt, an emergency rule that would spare more than a dozen attorneys in the public defender’s office who are licensed out of state from having to take a Maryland bar exam in February – or perhaps ever —  if they wish to remain paid employees.

The 15 lawyers are operating under certificates issued by the clerk of the Court of Appeals that permit them to work as paid, unlicensed attorneys in the state for two years.

These certificates are set to expire after the February bar exam but before the July test. Under current rules, they would have to take and pass the February exam – thus becoming licensed in Maryland — to remain paid employees beyond the two-year allowance.

But the emergency measure, if approved by the Court of Appeals, would amend the certificate’s two-year cut off – as provided in Rule 19-215 — by allowing the court to extend the expiration date based on “good cause shown.”

The extension would effectively close the gap between the February exam and the July test — with the intent of eliminating the need for the lawyers to take the Maryland exam at all due to a likely change in the state’s attorney admissions policy, Alan M. Wilner, chair of the Maryland Judiciary’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, stated in a letter to the high court Wednesday announcing the proposed emergency measure.

In November, the Court of Appeals approved a recommendation that would permit attorneys who have achieved a qualifying score on the Uniform Bar Examination in another state – like the 15 assistant public defenders – to waive into the Maryland bar, Wilner noted. The court is expected to adopt those recommendations as a formal rule that would take effect prior to the July bar exam.

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