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Perez Picks Up Endorsements, Lawsuit

County Council member Tom Perez won the backing of Montgomery's County's law enforcement community -- the county sheriff and unions representing police officers and sheriff's deputies -- in his bid for state attorney general this afternoon, but drew a lawsuit from a Republican questioning whether he's technically qualified for the job.

Union officials and Sheriff Raymond M. Kight were quick to stress that their endorsements were not a rejection of their partner in crime fighting, county prosecutor Douglas F. Gansler, but were a vote of confidence for his opponent in the Democratic primary.

"I think he's a great prosecutor, and I wish him well," said Kight, who has served as sheriff for nearly 20 years and is running again this year. "I just think Tom is better."

Still you gotta wonder with quotes like this from union president Gino Renne: "Tom Perez understands that law enforcement is the whole system, not just headlines on the nightly news." (Gansler has drawn criticism for his media-savvy style.)

Renne leads the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 (Municipal and County Government Employees Organization), which represents the county's sheriff's deputies and correction official.

Gansler spokesman Mike Morill suggested the endorsements have something to do with Perez's oversight of budgetary and policy matters as a County Council member.

"I think it's fairly straightforward," Morrill said. "One has to vote on their issues, and the other just works with them."

He said that Gansler has been endorsed by 11 of the 14 Democratic state's attorneys in Maryland.

While the law enforcement types were lavishing Perez with praise, Montgomery school board member Stephen N. Abrams (Rockville-Potomac), a Republican running for comptroller, filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that the councilman has not been a member of the Maryland Bar long enough to run for the seat.

The state constitution requires 10 years in Maryland, but Perez has about half that. Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.'s office wrote an opinion in May that Perez is eligible to run because of his work as a federal prosecutor and administrator in the U.S. Justice Department.

Perez called the complaint a "frivolous lawsuit from a desperate Republican who ought to focus on his own race."

By Phyllis Jordan  |  July 13, 2006; 7:54 PM ET
 
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Comments

Hey, good for Perez! More power to him if he's managed to lock up some of the law enforcement endorsements.

I'm still undecided in the AG race, but Perez is a good guy (just based on my own experiences with him). I haven't dealt as much with Gansler, but I've heard many good things about him as well. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out between Perez, Gansler and Simms.

As for Abrams' suit, well I think Perez responded quite well. A "frivolous lawsuit from a desperate Republican who ought to focus on his own race."

- Russ Louch
http://www.louch.org/politicalyak

Posted by: Russ Louch - Political Yak | July 14, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

This law suit seems to be attack by proxy for one of the candidates. Obviously Perez is picking up enough steam to scare some people. The Law enforcement and AFL CIO
endorsements he picked up last week are a huge boost. I think if Maryland gets to see who Tom Perez is as a candidate and a man he will have little trouble in the primary.

Posted by: Takomaboy | July 14, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Attorney General Curran has already given
an opinion that Perez is more than qualified to run for the AG's office. (see the AG's website)
Gansler may have a length of service issue as well. This is such a nonsense issue when all the candidates should be talking about substantive matters, such as the environment, healthcare, and crime on the streets. I would love to see the people pushing this nonsense stand up in front of real voters and try defend their position. I doubt that they have the courage to do so.

Posted by: Silver Sprung | July 14, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Simms supporter and Gansler hater, so I hope Perez can win this lawsuit and split MoCo with Gansler. Problem is, I've been a Maryland lawyer for more years than I care to disclose; I know the Maryland Constitution, have read the AG opinion, and did some other research on this today.

The lawsuit is far from frivolous. In fact, Perez is dead in the water now that this is in the courts. Abrams has the silver bullet, based on the quote from the lawsuit in the Gazette: "Perez has not practiced law in Maryland for 10 years; in fact, Perez was not admitted to the bar of Maryland until 2001. If Perez had been practicing law in Maryland before he was admitted to the Maryland bar, he would have been violating Maryland law prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law." The AG's opinion is very poorly reasoned and reads like a brief for Perez in a losing case. Sorry to say, but it's the AG opinion that's frivolous here. We'll see what happens. Hope he can pull it out, but I don't see how unless someone gets to the judges.

Posted by: MD Lawyer for Simms | July 14, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Perez's communications director, TakomaBoy, seems to be spinning this as "the Attorney General already decided the issue." Interesting. I went to the AG website like he suggested and read the actual opinion. I'm a lawyer and I actually like to read stuff instead of taking TakomaBoy's (I mean Tom Perez's) statement that the lawsuit is frivolous at face value.

The AG opinion is pathetic. According to the opinion, you don't have to be a member of the Maryland bar to be Maryland Attorney General. The author, Bob McDonald, must be Perez's campaign manager. The whole thing STINKS. Something's up. I hope the courts follow the law, because for whatever reason the Attorney General's office DID NOT.

And, by the way, for the Perez conspiracy theorists, I AM a Gansler supporter. I also support and respect the Constitution of Maryland (which, unlike, Perez, I have read). Perez should too, if he wants to be Attorney General.

Posted by: A Person Who Reads | July 14, 2006 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm a strong supporter of Doug Gansler, but, I think this lawsuit is crap, regardless of what Gansler's operatives, oops, I mean the "person who reads" and the "Simms supporter" say.

As the Curran opinion states, "Practice in Maryland authorized by federal and State law counts toward the durational experience requirement in the Maryland Constitution, even if that work was performed while the attorney was not a member of the Maryland bar."

Tom Perez has been a member of the Maryland bar since 2001. He's taught future Maryland Lawyers at our state's flagship law school. Before that, he worked in the Clinton administration as director of the Office of Civil Rights and before that, in Attorney General Janet Reno's justice department. This is a guy that has the legal credentials to be state AG.

Look, I think Gansler is the better man for the job, but, I also think that voters deserve a choice. And, I'm frankly ashamed to be associated with the Gansler operatives who made the previous comments.

Posted by: Gansler Supporter | July 14, 2006 10:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm perfectly willing to say I'm a Gansler supporter, unlike "Gansler Supporter," who's obviously TakomaBoy trying a new tack.

I like the quote from the AG opinion. Unfortunately for Perez, there's the little matter of what the Maryland Constitution actually says, as opposed to what the AG opinion's author has rewritten it to say.

The courts, not the current AG, will decide the case. No amount of rhetoric or wishful thinking from TakomaBoy/Gansler Supporter is going to be able to prevent the courts from looking at the merits of the case. Courts tend to read what the constitution actually says.

Perez is a goner.

Posted by: Perez Who Reads | July 14, 2006 10:46 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to my colleague who posted earlier, I think Abrams's suit is going to get tossed pretty quickly. You may not agree with the AG's opinion, but the Circuit Court is likely to give it a LOT of weight. And that crack about somebody "getting to the judges" was really uncalled for and unprofessional.

Posted by: Another MD Lawyer | July 15, 2006 12:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a Gansler campaign operative. I'm a strong supporter of Mr. Gansler. He's done so much for Montgomery County and he's clearly the most qualified man running.

With that said, I'm disappointed that the Gansler campaign operative doesn't seem to want my vote or my money - just because I believe that the voters, and not the courts, should decide who the nominee will be.

Moreover, I question the Gansler strategy of supporting this lawsuit. Even if the lawsuit is somehow successful, why do you think that a bunch of embittered Takoma/Silver Spring Perez supporters are going to run to Gansler and not Simms? If Gansler really is behind this lawsuit, as seems likely by his operative's comments above, I think it will bode very poorly for Mr. Gansler's campaign and will hand this election to Mr. Simms.

Posted by: Real Gansler Supporter | July 15, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry to disappoint you "Ganlserboy" but I only publish under one nomme de guerre. That means there are other folks out there that find this Swiftboating of Tom Perez completely repugnant. It is a badly thought out and poorly executed ploy designed to distract the Perez campaign and freeze Tom's fundraising efforts. Unfortunately for his opponents this idea has completely backfired. Many people are responding to this slimey, low rent move to derail the Perez campaign by increasing their support for Tom. We'll see you all in September and November!

Posted by: TakomaBoy | July 15, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I would like to point out the difference between the requirements for the AG's office and the office of States Attorney.
The office of States Attorney does require
10 years as a memeber of the Maryland Bar, however the AG's office requires 10 years practice of law in Maryland. No mention is made of the length of time as a member of the Maryland Bar. Perez has been a member of the Maryland since 2001.
Perez, as an assistant US Attorney General for the Justice Department Civil Rights Division and also Director of Office of Civil Rights for the Department of Human Services , prosecuted hundreds of cases in Maryland throughout the nineties. Unless
MD Lawyer for Simms thinks that the federal government has no jurisdiction in Maryland, a matter that was, I believe, settled with the end of the Civil War, then Perez more than qualifies as having practiced law in Maryland.

Posted by: Silver Sprung | July 15, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Silver Sprung didn't bother to check the Maryland Constitution. It does not say that a State's Attorney must have been a member of the Maryland Bar for 10 years. It just says he has to be a member of the Maryland bar when elected. Perez could qualify for this position, but not for AG. Here's the actual language on State's Attorneys:

SEC. 10. No person shall be eligible to the office of State's Attorney, who has not been admitted to practice Law in this State, and who has not resided, for at least two years, in the county, or city, in which he may be elected.

Silver Sprung's second point is silly. There happens to be a distinction between the federal courts and the state courts. The Attorney General has a duty to appear in the state courts and he can't do that without being a member of the bar. But, under Silver Sprung's reading, the Md AG doesn't have to be a member of the bar at all -- federal practice would count. One can't "practice law in Maryland" without being a member of the bar -- you can go into a federal court in Maryland if you're admitted to another state bar. But you can't "practice law in Maryland" as that term is used in Maryland law.

This is so silly. It's not a complicated or hard issue. I worry about Gansler getting all the MoCo vote after Perez is disqualified, but no one should have any illusions about this -- he's going to be out. The AG opinion is indefensible; I challenge any lawyer to read it, and say with a straight face that it wasn't result-oriented.

Posted by: MD Lawyer for Simms | July 15, 2006 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I guess we'll see MD Lawyer for Simms in court.
I guarantee everybody will have a straight face.

Posted by: Silver Sprung | July 15, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

You won't see me there. I already know how it'll come out unless the judge is determined to twist the law the way the AG's office did. I don't care that much -- but the legal issue is interesting, and simple.

Posted by: MD Lawyer for Simms | July 15, 2006 10:10 PM | Report abuse

So anybody who disagrees with you is "twisting the law"?

Posted by: Another MD Lawyer | July 16, 2006 2:05 AM | Report abuse

Just to be clear, and apart from the semantics of what it means to "practice law in Maryland", which will be decided by a judge, it seems that the "Simms" supporter is suggesting that someone who conveys a couple wills a year but has been a member of the Maryland Bar for 10 years is more qualified to be AG than Perez, who is a University of Maryland Law professor, Harvard Law and Kennedy school of Government graduate with more than 10 years experience as an assistant AG at the Federal level. The fact that during those 10 years he had jurisdiction over hundreds of cases in Maryland is the key question for the judge to decide about what it means to practice law here.
But really, you think that this guy is not qualified to be Maryland's AG? Give me a break.

Posted by: TakomaBoy | July 16, 2006 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Perez is thoroughly qualified to be an Attorney General, in the general sense used when speaking of whether one is "qualified" for a job. That's not the issue. He's not eligible because he doesn't have one of the constitutional qualifications.

LOTS of Maryland lawyers are upset about this, but no one's done anything until Abrams.

The Maryland State Bar Ass'n was quoted in the Washington Times on this:

Janet S. Eveleth, communications director for the Maryland State Bar Association, said she could not comment on Mr. Abrams' lawsuit, but confirmed that an attorney general candidate would have to have been "a practicing member of the Maryland bar" for 10 years.

The line that the lawsuit is "frivolous" ain't going to fly. The judge has already found that "the complaint raises substantial and important issues on the merits that warrant full adversary hearing." This means: NONfrivolous.

I have no ill will towards Perez; from everything I know he's a terrific lawyer, fine person, done a lot of good things. But the Maryland Constitution is very clear. My earlier comment of "get to the judges" was over the top. But it reflects my suspicion that the AG opinion was the product of some improper influence, because it is so intellectually dishonest. A court applying the law is not going to pay it any attention because its reasoning really is "twisted."

Posted by: MD Lawyer for Simms | July 16, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see you're quoting from the mouthpiece of the Unification Church, you know, the Moonies, as the source for your stories.
That tells me a lot about where you are coming from.

Posted by: Takomaboy | July 16, 2006 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I think I have to disagree with MD Lawyer for Simms on this one, although he raises valid questions that should be resolved by a judicial determination to make sure that there aren't any lingering questions about Perez's candidacy.

That being said, I don't see anything in the plain language of the MD Constitution that requires 10 years of MD bar membership in order to be AG; on that point, the MSBA communications director got it plainly wrong. If the case law and prior opinions cited in the AG's initial opinion say what they are cited to say, then I think Perez has got this thing beat. In particular, there seems to be pretty strong precedent for liberally construing eligibility requirements for candidacy for elected office. The obvious policy rationale being that, if the language is not clear, then the courts should not take it out of the hands of the voters -- the ultimate decisionmakers.

It seems to me that the crucial issue is simply whether the prior experience that Perez had at the federal level prior to 2001 sufficiently constituted "the practice of law" in Maryland.

The AG's opinion specifically points out that he (Curran) believes that a candidate for AG must be admitted to practice law in the state of Maryland -- but that, again, is not the primary issue. Indeed, I agree with Silver Sprung that the eligibility requirements for State's Attorney candidates is instructive, in that a candidate for State's Attorney must have been "admitted" to practice law in the state of Maryland, whereas a candidate for AG must have simply practiced law in Maryland. A subtle distinction -- but an important one when it comes to statutory construction/interpretation.

Anyhow, those are my two cents. This is an interesting dialogue, and I'll be very curious to see how it all shakes out.

Posted by: Yet another MD lawyer | July 16, 2006 6:06 PM | Report abuse

The judge has spoken. Perez is qualified.
So I guess the "lawyer who reads" and the other nay sayers above will give it a rest. Now the voters can decide on which AG candidate is best qualified for Maryland. Onward to the primary.
And those issuing legal opinions above
should seriously consider another profession.

Posted by: Takomaboy | August 1, 2006 8:10 AM | Report abuse

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