Capital Notebook

Capital Notebook

General Assembly

March 08, 2006

Delegates protest bid to oust judge

About two dozen legislators rose from their leather chairs and silently walked out of the House of Delegates chamber yesterday to protest a measure from an Anne Arundel County lawmaker calling for the impeachment of a Baltimore judge who ruled in favor of 19 gays and lesbians seeking the right to marry.

"I thought I had an obligation to leave the floor and not be a party to this attack," said Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat who is gay.

Madaleno and others left the chambers when Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. read his resolution on the House floor.

Dwyer, an Anne Arundel County Republican and gay marriage foe, would need the support of two-thirds of his colleagues in the House and Senate to make Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock only the second justice in Maryland history to lose her job. A justice was removed in 1861 for drinking and falling asleep at the bench.

"We are the guardians of the public trust in this state," Dwyer said yesterday. "As a result of Judge Murdock's decision, the public trust has been violated. ... I charge Judge Murdock with willful neglect of duty and incompetency."

Another Dwyer measure, calling for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, was defeated this year.

Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who is openly gay, called Dwyer's resolution an "affront to both the government and the constitution."

"If every time one of us in the legislature disagreed with a judge's opinion, can you imagine what it would do to our government?" she said.

The measure will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee. But in the Democrat-controlled Assembly that has grown weary of the gay marriage debate, it is unclear whether the committee will vote on the proposal.

Joseph F. Vallario Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that the committee will discuss the resolution this week to decide whether it is worthy of a vote.

"I don't want to see a judge sitting out there worrying if this has merit or not," he said. "We'll take this up right away."

Kelly Brewington

`Patently frivolous endeavor'

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, which represented the plaintiffs in the marriage suit, said Dwyer's proposal goes "too far."

"It is a dangerous, reckless, irresponsible, and patently frivolous endeavor, which clearly demonstrates an utter contempt for the rule of law," said attorney David Rocah in a statement.

Let the advertising duel begin

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan has produced the first advertisement in this year's gubernatorial campaign, and it's found only on his Web page, www.dougduncan.com.

Yesterday, the Duncan campaign directed supporters and media members to the Web page to view the ad, which portrays a contrast between the executive and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. The brief video clip pulls quotations from The Sun stating that there's "plenty of work to be done" in O'Malley's Baltimore, and contrasts it with quotes from a Washington Post columnist saying Duncan is "coolheaded, proficient and practically allergic to glitz."

The ad was produced by Squier Knapp Dunn Communications, Duncan's Washington-based media firm, said Jody Couser, a campaign spokeswoman. She said there would be others like it in coming weeks, but that "we won't be discussing our media strategy at this time."

O'Malley campaign manager Jonathan Epstein focused on the Internet advertisement's negative bent.

"The only two people in Maryland who continue to run down Baltimore's progress as a city are Doug Duncan and Bob Ehrlich," Epstein said.

David Nitkin

Steele hires Senate campaigner

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has a new manager for his U.S. Senate campaign.

Michael Leavitt, who served most recently as executive director of the Maine Republican Party, started work yesterday, according to a statement released by Steele's campaign.

Leavitt has served as political director for Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe's 2000 campaign and in her Senate office as a legislative aide and regional director working on media strategy and constituent services.

He graduated from the University of Maine and holds an MBA from Husson College in Bangor, Maine, the campaign said.

Steele, a Republican, lost his campaign manager and communications director earlier this year. He has yet to hire a spokesman.

Jennifer Skalka

Retroactive pay raise fails

A Senate budget committee approved pay raises for correctional officers in Maryland prisons yesterday but rejected a plan by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to make the raises retroactive to the first of the year.

The result of the vote by the Budget and Taxation Committee is that pay raises will not take effect until July, when the budget for fiscal 2007 kicks in.

There was broad agreement that correctional officers are working in increasingly dangerous conditions and deserve a substantial boost in pay, but some committee members said the state had never given retroactive pay raises.

"I think it's a bad precedent," Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, a Howard County Democrat.

Supporters of the governor's budget said immediate pay increases are needed to help prison officials recruit and retain employees to fill numerous vacancies in the prison system.

Associated Press

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