Miles runs for prosecutor

His entrance guarantees contested race for state's attorney

July 01, 2006|By JENNIFER MCMENAMIN | JENNIFER MCMENAMIN,SUN REPORTER

He may be Baltimore's most recognizable lawyer, having beckoned potential clients with TV ads that proclaimed "Let's talk about it" for so long that strangers now approach him with the catchphrase.

After a 37-year legal career, primarily representing plaintiffs in personal-injury cases, Stephen L. Miles wants to talk about something else: He's running for Baltimore County state's attorney.

"It's time to give back at this stage in my career," the 63-year-old county native said. "It sounds corny, I know. I'm not in it to make money. The people of Baltimore and Baltimore County have been good to me."

Miles' entrance into the race -- he filed to run as a Democrat Thursday afternoon -- ensures a contested primary for the top prosecutor's post.

Scott D. Shellenberger, 47, a former county prosecutor who has spent 13 years with Peter G. Angelos' law firm, filed in January to run as a Democrat.

The only declared Republican candidate is veteran prosecutor Stephen Bailey, 43, the hand-picked successor of Sandra A. O'Connor, who has served as state's attorney for 32 years. She will retire this year.

Just days before Monday's filing deadline, the three candidates guarantee a contested election for the seat for the first time in two decades.

"It's a very interesting twist," said David B. Irwin, a criminal defense attorney who was a law clerk in the city state's attorney's office when Miles was a prosecutor there.

Irwin supports Bailey.

"Steve [Miles] is a very bright guy and, if nothing else, a great character," he said, adding that the civil attorney's name recognition could prove formidable.

Miles earned a diploma in 1961 from Milford Mill High, graduated from the University of Maryland and earned his law degree in 1969 from the University of Maryland School of Law.

He took a job with the city state's attorney's office, where he spent two years prosecuting hundreds of cases in the Circuit Court trial division. He then worked for a criminal defense attorney in Towson for two years before opening his own firm.

"I started with one part-time employee, who made more than I did," Miles said. "Now I have eight offices and 50 employees. ... I'd submit that because of my management skills, ... I have the ability to run a law firm, which, in fact, the Baltimore County state's attorney's office is."

Although his practice initially revolved around criminal work, the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in 1977 to strike down state bans on lawyer advertising prompted Miles to take his firm in a different direction. He began pursuing personal-injury cases with the now-famous invitation, "Let's talk about it."

His firm merged in 1999 with another Baltimore law office known for its TV advertising, Saiontz & Kirk, whose ads proclaimed, "If you have a phone, you have a lawyer."

Miles, who unsuccessfully ran for Baltimore Circuit Court judge in 1975, said he will not accept a penny in campaign contributions to avoid feeling "political pressure" should he win.

Miles and his wife of 10 years, Elena Langrill, a lawyer with the Maryland attorney general's office, live in Lutherville with their two daughters, ages 8 and 12. He also has two children, ages 35 and 39, from a previous marriage, and two grandchildren.

jennifer.mcmenamin @baltsun.com

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