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Medical Malpractice

President’s Message

Robert J. Zarbin I

am truly humbled and honored that you have entrusted me to serve as the 57th President of the Maryland Association for Justice. In doing so, I acknowledge

the debt we all owe to my 56 predecessors. It is because of their remarkable vision and leadership that we now plan an agenda they could only have dreamed about. Public service, though, by Maryland trial lawyers in defense of the rights of ordinary citizens is nothing new. William Paca, Samuel Chase, Tomas Stone, and Charles Carroll - all trial lawyers - all Marylanders, signed the Declaration of Independence. Over the last couple of months, working with friends,

advisors, and MAJ’s exceptional staff, I have put together a vision of where I would like to take this Association over the next twelve months. Tis game plan focuses on who we are and where we would like to be. Regarding our identity, every day, our opponents spend

millions to demonize us as the “greedy trial lawyers.” Once you get a clearer picture of who we are, leaving aside who “they” are, it is easy to understand why they choose invective over reason. We are the people’s lobby, working tirelessly in Annapolis

on behalf of those whose voices would not otherwise be heard: victims. More than once, we have been the lone voice against an immunity bill, or legislation that would substitute a pre- cooked arbitration scheme for a trial by a jury of one’s peers. Meanwhile, at the other end of Rowe Boulevard, the Court of Appeals, our Amicus briefs are often the only consumer- friendly input the Court receives. Tis year, as we have in the past, we will continue to work

tirelessly to ensure that Maryland’s families are kept safe, by holding those who do them harm accountable. Turning to our Association – we are fortunate to count in our membership and leadership so many dedicated, hard working, champions of the rights of victims. We cannot, however, continue to call upon the “old guard,” who have come through for the Association, time and time again. Nor can we pursue a “business as usual” approach to recruiting. Ironically, it has been trial lawyers who worked tirelessly to ensure that women and minorities are treated fairly. Yet, the MAJ membership is not as diverse as it could, or should be.

Te Maryland State Bar Association, for example, has 23,136 members, of which 8,986 – 39%, are women. By contrast, in MAJ, women only comprise 18% of the members. We must commit ourselves not only to increased

recruiting, but to ensuring that once enlisted, these recruits become actively involved. But, no one,

stays with an

association, if there is a perception that his or her voice is not being heard. To ensure that the women of our association’s opinions are not only sought, but heard, we are forming a Women’s Caucus. Laura Zois, MAJ Secretary, will chair it. My hope is that all the women in MAJ will assist her in this endeavor. Note the quest to diversify the membership does not end with a women’s caucus. We are exploring, and will continue to explore, outreach strategies to specialty bars. It may be that we offer membership incentives or discounts to attend MAJ seminars, or that we work with their members on CLE projects. For example, if we could recruit specialty bar members to present, we might offer a seminar aimed at educating practitioners about the unique issues confronting lawyers who represent immigrants. While on the topic of recruitment, we must never lose

sight of the fact that we are attractive, as an association, to younger lawyers, because we offer what no one else does: practical, hands-on schooling in what it takes to be a better trial lawyer. To be sure, our current CLE programs offer this type of information. But we can also accomplish this goal if the older, more seasoned veterans, mentor the younger lawyers. A young lawyer might look us over, if we have a seminar about how to try an auto tort. But he or she is more likely to join, if membership comes with the right to be mentored by one of the lawyers who conducted the seminar. Mentoring is not merely limited to how-to practicalities

but must also involve inculcating the notion of civility. Tat the lawyer on the other side is an opponent, not an enemy. Tat the system works best when cases are decided on the merits. Tat we will all live ten years longer if we subscribe to the notion that granting someone an accommodation today, means we will have to “sweat” less when the time comes when we need one. In addition to what happens in-house, we cannot lose sight of the outside world. If we have learned anything in the new millennium it is that elections count. Imagine how people who did not vote in Florida in 2000, or Ohio in 2004, must feel when they read about Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito voting to overturn a century-old law protecting our political process from the undue influence of corporate money. Tis fall, Maryland faces a governor’s race to elect the governor who will appoint the next Chief Judge of the Court

Trial Reporter / Summer 2010 3

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