Mitchell seeks dismissal of residency suit His lawyer faults board for not deciding case

November 28, 1995|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

A lawyer for Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. yesterday asked for dismissal of a lawsuit that seeks to determine whether the

councilman-elect met a city residency requirement, arguing that the courts shouldn't intervene because Baltimore's election board didn't decide the issue.

But an attorney for the election board countered that it was in the "public interest" to have a court ruling on the case, saying a "serious question" exists about Mr. Mitchell's residency.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Richard T. Rombro said he would rule on the motion before Friday's tentative trial date.

Mr. Mitchell, a member of a prominent West Baltimore family that has been active for generations in politics and civil rights, and the rest of the City Council are scheduled to be sworn into office Monday. Five days before this year's voting, the election board asked a court to decide whether Mr. Mitchell had lived in the 4th District a year before the Nov. 7 election, as required by the city charter.

Election board records show that Mr. Mitchell was registered to vote at his parents' home in Guilford in the 2nd District as recently as February. But Mr. Mitchell and several witnesses at a two-hour hearing Nov. 1 said he had been living in an apartment above his father's medical office at 1230 Druid Hill Ave. since he graduated from law school in June 1994.

Yesterday, attorney Paul Mark Sandler, criticizing what he called a "cavalier crusade" by the state against Mr. Mitchell, said that because Baltimore's Board of Election Supervisors had failed to decide the residency issue, the court has no controversy to decide.

"This [election] board has to say he is qualified and then state why , not say we don't know one way or the other," Mr. Sandler said.

If a question remains about whether Mr. Mitchell is qualified to hold office, it is up to the City Council, not the courts, to make that determination under the charter, Mr. Sandler added.

But Deputy Attorney General Ralph S. Tyler said the election board was entitled under state law to seek a judgment by the court.

"To suggest that the facts should never be heard, that a court should never decide, is not in the public interest," Mr. Tyler said. "If ever there was a matter of great public interest, it is in the purity of elections."

He said that the case was "not a manufactured dispute" but one that was based on public records.

Yesterday's hearing was attended by several members of Mr. Mitchell's family, as well as Council President-elect Lawrence A. Bell III and 4th District Councilwoman Agnes Welch.

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