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year alone the stock market is down by approximately 33%, the unemployment rate in Maryland has nearly doubled,5 home values have declined, and Maryland foreclosures are trending upwards. We have also seen unprecedented efforts by our federal government to bail-out mismanaged corporations, insurance companies, banks, and even private industry. Government bail-outs create the opportunity for increased regulation of insurance companies and big corporations. Our organization, Te Maryland Association for Justice,


has seen many changes during this past year as well. We changed our name from the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association to the Maryland Association for Justice. Although we will always be proud of the fact that we are trial lawyers, our new name maximizes our ability deliver our message in Annapolis, in our community, and in the media. As our Immediate Past President Wayne M. Willoughby explained, “Te Maryland Association for Justice is about what we do and what we do is fight for justice-for our clients and all Marylanders each and every day.” We moved our office from downtown Baltimore to a more centralized location in Columbia, Maryland. We have a new Pro-Bono Committee. We expanded our Public Awareness & Outreach program by cultivating a relationship with the Baltimore City Fire Department. Tese changes make our Association stronger, and help us aggressively combat the tort reform rhetoric that drowned out our message in the past. We continue to give away bike helmets and school supplies to disadvantaged children. We continue to feed the hungry during Tanksgiving. We continue to send our members into Maryland schools to educate our youth about the civil justice system through our Public Awareness School Program (PASP). In the spring of 2009 our members raised over $7,000.00 to purchase smoke detectors which our members installed in Baltimore City homes with the assistance of the Baltimore City Fire Department. With the downturn in the economy,


there is a


corresponding increase in the public’s need for legal services and for access to the civil justice system. Te insurance industry will continue to do what they do best: deny just claims, make low-ball settlement offers, delay settlement of just claims, and force Maryland citizens to litigate these relatively small cases. Fortunately, we have new tools to combat these tactics including Maryland’s First Party Bad Faith Law that went into effect on October 1, 2007. Our legislative committee is working hard to increase the jury demand threshold so that smaller cases can be litigated in District Court where they belong. Our organization’s members need to be there for these individuals during these difficult times, even if it means taking certain smaller cases that we would not ordinarily pursue. For the cases that we cannot prosecute, we should consider taking the time to explain how to file a small claim lawsuit in District Court, and when appropriate, give them the forms to do this on their own. We should point these individuals to the Maryland Insurance Administration’s website so they can file a complaint against the offending insurance company.


5


United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the unemployment rate in Maryland has increased from 4.1% in May 2008 to 6.9% in March 2009. See http://data. bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet.


4 Trial Reporter / Summer 2009


Tousands of Maryland citizens are facing foreclosure and


are in financial ruin as a result of the fact that they were misled by their mortgage brokers, bankers and financial advisors. Te Honorable Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, asked Maryland lawyers to volunteer to help those faced with foreclosure, and over 700 lawyers in Maryland have already volunteered.6


As trial lawyers, we


have a responsibility to familiarize ourselves with this new, and rapidly changing area of the law, and when appropriate and feasible, we should assist mortgage fraud victims and others in need due to the economic downturn through the civil justice system on a contingent fee or pro-bono basis. By being there for Marylanders in need during these


challenging economic times we are taking an important step towards undoing the mistruths that insurance companies and big corporations instilled in the public’s mind set about trial lawyers. We will not be able to change the public’s negative perception of “trial lawyers” overnight. But the stars are aligned, and this is an opportunity for us to step up to the plate and show the citizens of Maryland who we are, what we do, and why it is important. Te combined effect of our new communications strategy and our willingness to be there to help individuals in their time of need will make inroads towards changing public opinion. Many of our political leaders and legislators are finally seeing through the rhetoric of the tort-reform movement. Te Maryland Association for Justice will be there to “correct the record” when tort reformers misstate the facts and mischaracterize who we are and what we do in the media.7 Tis is a great time to be a trial lawyer! 


Biography Kevin I. Goldberg, Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, LLC,


received his J.D. from the Catholic University Columbus School of Law Magna Cum Laude in 1996. He was an Associate Editor of the Catholic University Law Review. He won the American Jurisprudence Award in Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure. Mr. Goldberg was selected for


inclusion in Maryland Superlawyers Magazine and


Washington, D.C. SuperLawyers Magazine from 2007-2009. Mr. Goldberg is a member of the Maryland Association for Justice President’s Club as an Eagle. Mr. Goldberg served as the Maryland Association for Justice Fundraisng Chairman from 2004-2009. He is also a member of the D.C. Trial Lawyers Association, AAJ and the Montgomery County Bar Association. Mr. Goldberg’s practice concentrates on the representation of catastrophically injured clients and their families.


6 If you are interested in receiving training for these cases, and willing to assist in the pro bono program underway, then you should contact the Maryland Pro Bono Resource Center at 410- 332-1195.


7 For an example of MAJ fighting back, see Te MAJ Report in Te Daily Record for May 18, 2009 titled “Te Empire Strikes Back? How Te Tort Reform Movement Is Responding To Its Supreme Court Loss” in which our Immediate Past President Wayne Willoughby points out how the Chamber of Commerce’s “Faces of Lawsuit Abuse” advertising campaign at local movie theaters is false and misleading.


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