Baltimore prosecutor not licensed to practice in Maryland

Chief deputy state's attorney will take exam in July, can't be admitted to bar before December

March 09, 2011|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

The city's no. 2 top prosecutor — appointed late last year by Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein — isn't licensed to practice law in Maryland, and can't be licensed before December, according to the state's Board of Law Examiners, which deemed the situation "problematic."

George J. Hazel, a former federal prosecutor selected to be Bernstein's chief deputy, is a member of the D.C. and Virginia bars, but not Maryland's. He had planned to take the state's exam for out-of-state attorneys last month but changed his mind, with Bernstein's blessing.

"Mr. Hazel, with the absolute full support of the state's attorney, decided not to sit for the lawyers' exam in February," Bernstein's spokesman, Mark Cheshire, said Wednesday. "We wanted Mr. Hazel to focus his full-time attention on his job, during what are really these crucial early months of the new administration."

Now, he'll have to wait until July to take the exam, which means the earliest he could be licensed to practice law in Maryland is mid-December, according to Steven W. Boggs, secretary of the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners.

Boggs said it "would be problematic" for Hazel to perform the deputy state's attorney job in the meantime, even if his duties are mostly administrative.

"The essence of what he would be doing would be a local practice in the state of Maryland, and you may not practice in the state of Maryland without being licensed," Boggs said.

Cheshire said there's no conflict, however, because Hazel is not appearing in court or signing pleadings on behalf of the office.

"He's really doing an exceptional job right now as the chief deputy state's attorney," Cheshire said, adding that Bernstein will free up some time for Hazel to study for the exam over the summer.

"These tests don't come without challenges," Cheshire said. "There's going to be some time provided to him so he can prepare."

Hazel graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1999 and spent five years working in private practice as a litigation associate in Washington before joining the U.S. attorney's office there, where he focused on violent felony cases, according to a statement released last year. He became an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore in 2008.

He left the office to work with Bernstein, who became Baltimore's state's attorney in January.

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