Perez OK'd in race for attorney general

May 20, 2006|By JENNIFER SKALKA | JENNIFER SKALKA,SUN REPORTER

Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez has practiced law in Maryland long enough to be eligible to run for the state's top legal office, according to an attorney general's opinion released yesterday.

The opinion puts to rest questions about whether Perez -- an expected Democratic candidate for attorney general -- has the 10 years of state legal experience required by Maryland's Constitution.

Perez, 44, was admitted to the Maryland bar in 2001, and has since been an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

But he became a member of the New York bar in 1988, and joined the U.S. Department of Justice in 1989.

As a federal lawyer, Perez spent a significant portion of his practice on Maryland cases and supervised other lawyers who worked on Maryland cases, work that meets the state's constitutional demand, according to the opinion signed by retiring Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. and Robert McDonald, chief counsel for opinions and advice.

"Practice in Maryland authorized by federal and state law counts toward the durational experience requirement in the Maryland Constitution," the opinion says. "Even if that work was performed while the attorney was not a member of the Maryland bar."

Perez said he was pleased with Curran's ruling but not surprised.

"It's an unmitigated validation and vindication of what I've said all along, and that is that I'm clearly eligible to run for attorney general," said Perez, who plans to officially announce his candidacy Tuesday.

Perez said he has heard that his chief Democratic opponent, Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, has told "scores of people" that Perez was not qualified to run..

"I hope Doug Gansler ceases his practice of telling anyone and everyone who will listen that I'm not eligible to run," Perez said. "Voters can see through those shenanigans."

Mike Morrill, a spokesman for Gansler's campaign, said Gansler has not been involved in questioning whether Perez's legal experience complies with state requirements.

"This is not something that Doug's campaign is going to worry about or take on," Morrill said.

Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle is the Republican Party's preferred candidate for the job, from which Curran will retire after two decades. Rolle launched his bid last week.

State Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, said in an interview this week that he is also considering a run for the job.

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

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