Challenge of Gansler was `too disruptive'

Late lawsuits harm the ballot process, court says

March 30, 2007|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,sun reporter

An 11th-hour challenge to the eligibility of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to run for that office was dismissed because last-minute lawsuits are "too disruptive" to elections, the state's highest court said yesterday.

The unanimous Court of Appeals opinion says the judges are not considering whether Gansler met the requirements -- a lower court ruled that he did -- because the matter should not have been heard. The opinion elaborates on the court's Nov. 2 order that threw out the case for being filed too late for the Nov. 7 election.

"Allowing challenges to be brought at such a late date would call into question the value and quality of our entire elections process and would only serve as a catalyst for future challenges," Chief Judge Robert M. Bell wrote.

Agreeing with state elections officials' position, he wrote that the turmoil of so late a ballot change would have "interfered with the rights of Maryland voters."

A Bowie man -- whose lawyer was the campaign manager for Gansler's opponent in the general election -- filed the lawsuit Oct. 20 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Attorney Jason W. Shoemaker denied that the campaign for Republican Scott L. Rolle, who was severely lagging in the polls, had orchestrated the challenge to Gansler, the Democratic nominee.

In the lawsuit, Nikos S. Liddy unsuccessfully claimed that Gansler, a former federal prosecutor in Washington who was finishing his eighth year as Montgomery County state's attorney, lacked the mandatory decade of legal experience in Maryland.

The case came shortly after the top court threw Thomas E. Perez off the Democratic primary ballot because he had been licensed to practice law in Maryland for five years. This week, the court explained that ruling.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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