Nurturing a vision for Maryland courts Agenda for the future: Bill would continue work of commission on the judiciary.

March 11, 1997

COURTS ENSHRINE unchanging legal principles, but systems of justice must also be resilient. Changing times bring new challenges. Good systems of justice -- those that serve citizens well -- know when to adapt.

Maryland's courts are facing daunting challenges, ranging from dramatic increases in caseloads to outdated and inadequate facilities. The Commission on the Future of Maryland's Courts has looked at a wide range of issues and made recommendations on problems big and small. Some will be politically tough -- like reorganizing the circuit court system. Some are essential -- like helping courts to make better use of technology.

Other recommendations touch on important but often-overlooked areas, such as providing access to the disabled, interpreters for non-English speakers, child care for those involved in trials or waiting areas out of the public eye for victims of crime. And, as in most every sweeping look at potential reforms, some of the commission's recommendations may be dropped altogether.

The process of sorting out these recommendations has barely begun, which is why so little of the commission's work has found its way into legislative proposals this session. Many of the suggestions need to be thoroughly aired before legislators decide on far-reaching changes. But at least the commission's report has jump-started an important debate, which needs to continue if Maryland citizens are to have a judicial system that truly serves their needs. That won't happen if the commission is allowed to die altogether.

A bill pending in the House Judiciary Committee would keep the debate alive by authorizing the commission's executive committee to continue through the end of the 1998 legislative session. This legislation does nothing to favor or push forward any particular proposal. It simply ensures that months of work will not slip away before citizens and lawmakers can take a good look at the merits of the issues. Despite the disgruntled feelings of a few committee members, this bill deserves swift approval.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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