Weathersbee, Greiber air issues in state's attorney race CAMPAIGN 1994

October 23, 1994

The two candidates for Anne Arundel County state's attorney were at The Sun newsroom in Pasadena on Oct. 10 to debate. Incumbent Democrat Frank Weathersbee and Republican John Greiber were questioned by three Sun reporters for more than an hour. What follows is an edited transcript of that exchange.

Mr. Weathersbee, does it harm prosecutions for assistant state's attorneys to engage in part-time private practice?

Weathersbee: No, I don't think so. In a majority of the offices throughout the state, part-time practice is allowed. Some of the larger offices, including Baltimore County, allow it. It's always been a shame to me that you could go to law school and spend so much time garnering an education and then you get into a job and then after hours you can't write contracts or wills or whatever. I felt that unless there was some obvious conflict attorneys should be allowed to do that. In our office, very few attorneys have taken that option, six, as far as my count goes. Only one of those attorneys has what I would call a private practice, where he has a law office that he goes to in the evening. Other than that the attorneys -- and I've talked to them all -- handle minor matters for friends and relatives. I know ethical considerations have been raised concerning attorneys handling private clients. But I point out that all attorneys are under the canons of ethics and are precluded from getting into conflicts of interest.

Greiber: The National Association of Prosecutors recommends against the private practice of law by assistant state's attorneys. The ABA strongly recommends against the private practice of law by assistant state's attorneys. In 1978, Steven Sachs, the Democratic attorney general, prohibited the practice in his office. In 1982, Mayor [Kurt] Schmoke prohibited the practice in Baltimore City. Contrary to what Frank says about Baltimore County, I'll quote you [the regulation] that says that the 24 assistants designated as full-time assistant state's attorneys may not engage in the private practice of law. I think it is a question of ethics. I think it's a question that raises a double standard. When we first started off, Frank said there were none, then there was one and now there are six, before there was eight.

Weathersbee: He keeps bringing up Baltimore County. There are more than 24 assistants in Baltimore County and some of them are allowed to have private practices. That's what the law says.

*

Mr. Greiber, as an attorney specializing in constitutional law, why are you qualified for job as the county's chief prosecutor?

Greiber: The constitution of our state, unless we want to revise it, says [a state's attorney must be] a member of good standing with the bar [association] and a resident of the county for two years. The National Association of Prosecutors says a member in good standing of the bar. I don't know anybody who would limit it to just criminal-type of lawyers, which raises an interesting point. Frank will concede that criminal lawyers can practice civil law, but he wants to discriminate: Civil lawyers can't practice criminal law. The main components of criminal law are, in fact, constitutional. The great body of criminal law is rather fundamental. It dates back to the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal. If criminal law were so complex that people could not conform their conduct to it, it would be constitutionally restrictive and prohibited. So I have a background that lets me go into the various amendments of the Constitution and their historical context. For instance, the Fourth Amendment -- whether it's civilly or in the case of police excessive force or in a search and seizure case -- the component word is reasonable. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. In the great body of criminal law, it's either search and seizure or arrest -- that's the Fourth Amendment. Quite candidly, if you had a defense lawyer sitting here he wouldn't be able to tell you when it was he last won a suppression motion or hearing because it has been exceptioned away. You almost have to show bad faith . . . by the officer in the warrant. With the background in constitutional law and the fact that I'm a licensed lawyer and I clerked for a judge and was exposed to 300 or 400 serious cases, qualifies me eminently for this position.

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