Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Filling The Void

The Maryland Supreme Court has held that volunteer attorneys who aid in the bar admissions process are immune from suit

Volunteer Maryland attorneys, serving on local character committees, play an important role in vetting Maryland Bar applicants. Unfortunately, if an ultimately unsuccessful applicant takes umbrage at the local character committee’s handling of, and recommendation regarding, his or her application, the applicant might seek legal redress against the local character committee member or members. Although there exists strong indication to believe that such a civil claim brought in a circuit court lacked a jurisdictional basis to proceed, we could find no reported Maryland case holding explicitly that local character committee members were immune from such an action. This case fills that void.


In essence, the applicant in Kimmer and Phillips both sought to use other laws—the ADA there, and state tort law here—as a Trojan horse to smuggle their complaints about bar-admission-related matters into a circuit court. The Supreme Court stated clearly that it has “no intention of relinquishing [its jurisdiction] to any degree or extent.” Id. The circuit court here recognized correctly that allowing an applicant to sue personally the members of a local character committee for acts performed as part of that role would be participating in the undermining of the Supreme Court’s exclusive jurisdiction. It did not err by refusing to do so.

(Mike Frisch)


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