Judge blocks challenge to Gansler

Lawsuit questioned his qualifications to serve as attorney general

October 28, 2006|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler is qualified to serve as attorney general, a Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday, blocking a case that could have thrown the Nov. 7 election into turmoil.

The attorney for a Bowie man who sued over Gansler's qualifications said he had not seen the decision last night and could not say whether his client will appeal.

Gansler, a Democrat, hailed the decision by Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth, calling the suit a political stunt orchestrated on behalf of his opponent, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle.

Rolle has said he was not involved in the case, but the attorney for plaintiff Nikos Stanford Liddy was Rolle campaign manager Jason W. Shoemaker.

"Judge Silkworth's decision confirms that Doug clearly exceeds the qualifications of the office of attorney general," Gansler campaign manager Vivek Chopra said. "The campaign calls upon Scott Rolle to renounce the efforts of his campaign manager and his association with this frivolous lawsuit."

Liddy, a student at Anne Arundel Community College, argued that Gansler did not meet the state constitution's requirement that an attorney general practice law in Maryland for 10 years before he or she is elected.

Gansler has been a member of the Maryland bar for 17 years, but Liddy argued that his activities for the first nine years of that time, when he worked for the U.S. attorney's office and Washington law firms, didn't count. Gansler acknowledged during his testimony that he was not the attorney of record in any Maryland cases before he was elected state's attorney in 1998.

Silkworth wrote that Gansler's membership in the bar was a strong factor in determining his eligibility, along with Gansler's testimony that he provided informal legal services to family and friends as well as pro-bono work for various organizations and commissions during the time he worked in Washington.

"The fact that he could legally engage in these activities in Maryland adds to his credibility when he states that, during his three years in private practice, he constantly held himself out as an attorney licensed to practice law in the state," Silkworth wrote. "The Maryland constitution does not require a specific quantity or quality of activities."

One of Gansler's opponents in the primary election, Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez, was disqualified from the ballot after another lawsuit raised the same questions about his experience.

Perez, a longtime Department of Justice lawyer, was admitted to the Maryland bar five years ago. Although the Court of Appeals ruled him ineligible, it has not provided a full opinion in the case setting out precise guidelines for what activity is necessary to meet the constitutional requirement.

andy.green@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Rona Marech contributed to this article.

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