Baltimore's lawyers make mark in D.C. Baron, Bennett are latest in line of Md. attorneys plying trade in Capitol

September 07, 1997|By NEIL A. GRAUER

Will "Baltimore lawyer" replace "Phila-delphia lawyer" in the nation's lexicon - but as a compliment, not a pejorative? n n n."Philadelphia lawyer" is an appellation connoting cleverness bordering on shiftiness - "a tricky lawyer, especially one skilled in taking advantage of legal technicalities," according to the dictionary.

(The irony is that this expression originated as a reference to Andrew Hamilton of Philadelphia, who successfully defended pioneering newspaper editor John Peter Zenger in a landmark 1735 libel case that helped establish the foundation for one of our basic civil liberties, freedom of the press. Apparently, the media weren't too popular back then, either.)

While today's "Philadelphia lawyers" may be just as shrewd and crafty as their predecessors, their Baltimore counterparts at the bar appear to be even more sought-after down in Washington, where two Baltimore attorneys now hold key positions on opposite sides of the Capitol in the congressional investigations of campaign financing chicanery.

Sitting front-and-center with the Democrats on the Senate's Governmental Affairs Committee is Baltimorean Alan I. Baron, chief counsel to Sen. John Glenn, the Ohio Democrat and leading minority member of the committee headed by Sen. Fred Thompson, the Tennessee Republican.

In the House, Baltimorean Richard D. Bennett, newly appointed as chief counsel to Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of the House's Governmental Reform and Oversight Committee, is advising the Indiana Republican.

In a legal community as relatively small and collegial as Baltimore's, it is not surprising that Baron and Bennett have been acquainted for years - and willingly volunteer complimentary remarks about each other.

"I think Dick is coming into a difficult situation, but I'm certain he has the legal skills and political savvy to handle it. I'm certain he'll do an excellent job," said Baron.

Said Bennett of Baron: "He's a very fine lawyer, he really is. We've had a similar career track, doing white-collar criminal work, and I have a great deal of respect for him.

Both men are alumni of the Maryland U.S. attorney's office, among the most highly regarded of federal prosecutorial staffs in the country - and perhaps one of the few that have a semiformal "alumni association."

Baron, 55, served in the office between 1967 and 1970 under U.S. Attorney and future Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs. Among his top cases under Sachs were the investigation and prosecution of U.S. Sen. Daniel Brewster, a Maryland Democrat, on bribery charges, as well as Vincent Teresa, a national organized-crime figure.

In private practice since 1970, Baron currently is a partner in the Washington office of the Boston firm of Foley, Hoag and Elliot but often has taken on high-profile public jobs. He was special impeachment counsel to the House of Representatives in the 1989 impeachment proceedings against federal Judges Walter Nixon and Alcee Hastings, both of whom were removed from the bench. (Hastings now is a Democratic congressman from Florida.)

In 1991-1992, Baron led a 15-month investigation of the collapse of Rhode Island's privately insured credit unions; in 1993, he was appointed special counsel to the Anne Arundel County school board to investigate allegations of sexual abuse of students by high school teachers.

He also represented House Minority Whip David E. Bonior, a Michigan Democrat, in an ethics case and former Rep. Joe Kolter, a Pennsylvania Democrat, in the House post office scandal. On Maryland's political front, he has been moderately active in Democratic politics behind the scenes.

Bennett, 50, served as an assistant U.S. attorney between 1976 and 1981 under U.S. Attorney Jervis Finney, a Republican appointee of President Gerald Ford, and U.S. Attorney Timothy Baker Jr., a Democrat appointed by President Jimmy Carter.

President George Bush appointed Bennett to serve as U.S. attorney from 1991 to 1993.

He was the chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Party for five years and ran a spirited campaign as the Republican candidate for Maryland attorney general in 1994, garnering 46 percent of the vote against incumbent Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who won with 54 percent of the tally.

Although now devoting all of his time to his new assignment on Capitol Hil, he will remain a partner in the Baltimore law firm of Miles and Stockbridge.

Baron, a Baltimore native, is a Talmudical Academy graduate who went to Princeton and then Harvard Law School, and calls himself a "rabid" Orioles fan.

Bennett, raised in Severna Park, went to Severn High School, the University of Pennsylvania and then the University of Maryland School of Law.

He has been such a tenacious, devoted former Severn High lacrosse player that he continued appearing in alumni games there until this summer - when he left the field with three cracked ribs and decided it was time to hang up his stick.

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