The People’s Law Library (PLL) of Maryland, which just celebrated its twentieth anniversary, is a legal information website designed primarily for self-represented citizens of Maryland. Starting out in the 1990s as a University of Maryland law school clinical project, it has operated under the auspices of the Maryland State Law Library for almost a decade. It is widely used, with 2.1 million page views in the last year alone.
After learning of my passion for “truth-tellers,” Faith Mullen, my clinical professor at the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, suggested I submit a whistleblower article to PLL. We floated the idea by David Pantzer, Esq., of the Maryland State Law Library, who is the manager and editor of PLL. With Dave’s encouragement, I attended one of his “Clear Writing” seminars and began my research.
I acquired a broad understanding of federal whistleblower law after completing a clinical study semester, and subsequently a summer internship, at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), where I worked under Legal Director Tom Devine. GAP, established in 1977, remains one of the world’s leading whistleblower protection nonprofits.
To give my PLL article a Maryland-centric point of view, I researched the five Maryland statutes that provide rights to whistleblowers and sought to summarize this information into an easily digestible piece. Like too many whistleblower laws, the Maryland statutes offer a patchwork of protections. They protect only certain employees under specific types of disclosures (often made in a very limited fashion), have short time-limits for filing a claim, and often have limited remedies available to the aggrieved employee.
As Tom Devine would say, these laws are akin to “going into battle with a cardboard shield.” Stronger legal protections, with fewer loopholes for the employer, better access to due process for the employee, and better availability of remedies for the truth teller, would be more like a “metal shield.” In short, Maryland whistleblower law need strengthening.
As the public’s awareness of whistleblowers increases and their value becomes more widely recognized, more people will be interested in their right to speak up about wrongdoing by their employer. For citizens of Maryland, PLL will be there, and for citizens everywhere, GAP will be there, too.