Cumberland Times-News

December 29, 2012

Sheriff concerned about possible legislation

From Staff Reports
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A proposal to allow private process servers to serve protective orders in domestic violence cases is “a good way to get someone killed,” said Delegate Kevin Kelly.

The proposal would also put law enforcement officers at risk, said Allegany County Sheriff Craig Robertson.

“I am totally opposed to private citizens serving ex parte orders,” said Kelly.

Kelly was responding to concerns raised by the sheriff at a pre-legislative meeting earlier this month at the county office building on Kelly Road. Ex parte orders are usually issued in domestic violence cases by a judge without the defendant notified of the hearing in advance.

The safety of deputies could be compromised because they would lose the element of surprise that comes when law enforcement officers serve the order, which requires a spouse or significant other to leave the premises.

The law requires deputies to remove any firearms owned by the person the protective order was issued against from the residence. Robertson is concerned because a private process server would serve the order and then law enforcement would have to respond to remove the guns and the individual if they refused to leave.

The sheriff said he’s been informed such a proposal could make its way to the General Assembly this year.

Along with Kelly were Sen. George Edwards and Delegates LeRoy Myers Jr. and Wendell Beitzel. Allegany County commissioners were also in attendance at the meeting. The issue of private process servers is only one of many likely to be considered by the General Assembly in the 2013 session.

Among other issues of concern to Western Maryland residents, a bill to enact a legislative moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling for natural gas is likely. Sens. Brian Frosh and Jamie Raskin have joined with Delegate Heather Mizeur to pass new limits on fracking in the General Assembly in 2013.

The state moratorium bill, to be introduced by Mizeur in the House of Delegates and Raskin and others in the Senate, would prevent fracking from occurring in Maryland until the state completes the series of 14 studies laid out in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2011 executive order on gas drilling, which also established an advisory commission.

O’Malley’s timetable calls for a final advisory commission report due in 2014; until then, no permits will be issued for drilling Marcellus Shale in the state. Marcellus Shale formations throughout the eastern U.S. harbor large untapped natural gas resources.