Abrams v. Lamone

Decision Date26 March 2007
Docket NumberNo. 142, September Term, 2005.,142, September Term, 2005.
Citation919 A.2d 1223,398 Md. 146
PartiesStephen N. ABRAMS v. Linda H. LAMONE, et al.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Stephen N. Abrams, Rockville, for appellant.

Andrew M. Dansicker (Joshua R. Treem of Schulman, Treem, Kaminkow, Gilden & Ravenell, P.A., Baltimore), on brief, for appellees.

William F. Brockman, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen. of Maryland, Baltimore), on brief, for appellees.

Argued before BELL, C.J., RAKER, WILNER,* CATHELL, HARRELL, GREENE and JOHN C. ELDRIDGE (Retired, specially assigned), JJ.

Plurality Opinion by BELL, C.J., which WILNER and CATHELL, JJ., join.

This case is the first of two pertaining to the eligibility requirements of a candidate for the office of the Attorney General of Maryland.1 The genesis of this case was the attempt by Mr. Thomas E. Perez ("Perez"), an attorney and law professor, one of the appellees, to run for the office of the Attorney General of Maryland in the 2006 Gubernatorial Primary Election. Article V, Section 4 of the Maryland Constitution prescribes the qualifications for that office. It provides:

"No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney-General, who is not a citizen of this State, and a qualified voter therein, and has not resided and practiced Law in this State for at least ten years."

MD CONST. art. V, § 4 (emphasis added). Today, we address whether a combination of membership in the Maryland Bar for five years, fewer than the ten years prescribed, and the practice of law for more than ten years, much of it being done at the federal level, suffices to meet the constitutional requirements of Article V, Section 4.2 In analyzing past and present bar admission requirements of this State, the historical role of the Attorney General, and other Constitutional provisions which were in existence at the time of Article V, Section 4's adoption, we shall hold that a candidate for the office of the Attorney General must be a member of the Maryland Bar for at least ten years and must be a practitioner of law in Maryland for an identical requisite period.

I.

Perez announced his candidacy for the office of the Attorney General on May 23, 2006. Before doing so, recognizing that there was a potential question as to his eligibility, i.e. the sufficiency of his professional credentials, to serve as Attorney General, in a letter dated May 8, 2006 and "in the continued spirit of thoroughness and due diligence . . . as to whether [he] met the eligibility requirements of [Article V,] Section 4 of the Maryland Constitution,"3 he requested an advisory opinion from the office of the Attorney General.4 In that letter, Perez related his career, as follows.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1987, Perez was admitted to the New York Bar in 1988 and clerked for a federal judge in Colorado until 1989. He moved to Maryland after the clerkship and accepted a position with the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"), through its Attorney General's Honors Program. He remained in that position, performing various functions within the Department, until 1999.

In his first position, as a federal prosecutor in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, which he held from 1989 to 1994, and which was based in the District of Columbia headquarters of the Department, Perez investigated and prosecuted criminal civil rights cases nationwide. In that capacity, he was "responsible for directing the investigation of the case, discussing the matter with the local Assistant United States Attorney, FBI agent or other investigator, making a determination of whether a case merited prosecution, and then prosecuting the case, if [it] merited prosecution." Some of the cases on his docket were Maryland cases.

In 1994, Perez was promoted to the Deputy Chief of the Section. His responsibilities in that position included supervising all cases that occurred in Maryland. This required him to consult with "any attorney in the Section desiring to pursue an investigation or prosecution in Maryland[.]" He also reviewed briefs and discussed strategies with the attorneys he supervised.

In 1995, while remaining a DOJ employee, Perez was detailed from the Civil Rights Division to the minority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a fluctuating basis, i.e. he worked in both positions, staying, on an alternating basis, a few months in each. While with the Judiciary Committee, Perez worked on various bills that had widespread impact in areas such as juvenile crime, immigration, and civil rights.

In 1998, Perez was appointed the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, one of the four highest ranking positions in the Division. In that position, he oversaw the Criminal, Education, and Employment Sections, which entailed roughly 30% of all litigation activities within the Division. Several of the cases had a geographic anchor in Maryland.

In 1999, Perez left the Justice Department and became the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In that capacity, Perez "led a 220 person agency whose mission was to enforce civil rights laws in the health and human service context across the country," acting as a "legal strategist, case supervisor, manager, and policy maker." His nationwide caseload included cases from Maryland involving Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. None of the Maryland cases involved litigation.

Perez left federal service in January, 2001. He joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law as an Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Law Programs in April 2001. Also in that year, Perez took the Maryland lawyer's bar examination and was admitted to practice in Maryland.5

As Director of Clinical Law Programs, Perez supervised students who handled real cases and were permitted to appear in court pursuant to Maryland's student practice rule (Rule 16).6 He supervised those programs from 2001 until 2003.

When, in 2003, Perez was elected to the Montgomery County Council, he resigned his position of Clinic Director, although he remained a member of the faculty. Perez recently was promoted from Assistant Professor of Law to Associate Professor of Law.

Based on the information provided by Perez,7 the Attorney General, on May 19 2006, issued an opinion, 91 Opinions of the Attorney General 99 (2006), concluding that Perez was qualified to hold the office of the Attorney General. Attorney General Curran reasoned:

"While the State Constitution explicitly requires that a candidate for Attorney General have practiced law in the State for 10 years and implicitly requires that the candidate be admitted to the State bar, it neither explicitly nor implicitly requires that a candidate have accumulated all of that experience while a member of the State bar. 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."

Id. at 116.

Relying on this opinion, Perez, as we have seen, announced his candidacy for the office of the Attorney General and, on June 19, 2006, formally registered his candidacy with the State Board of Elections ("the State Board"). By filing, pursuant to § 5-301(a)(1)8 of the Election Law Article, a certificate of candidacy, he certified, under oath,9 that, among other things, he was "a registered voter and a citizen of Maryland and [met] all other [constitutional] requirements for the . . . office [of the Attorney General]." The State Board accepted Perez's certificate and, pursuant to § 5-601(1)10 of the Election Law Article, placed his name on the ballot for the 2006 Primary Election.

On July 13, 2006, Mr. Stephen N. Abrams ("Abrams"), the appellant, a registered voter in Maryland and a Republican candidate for the office of Comptroller of Maryland,11 filed, in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, an action pursuant to §§ 9-209(b)12 and 12-202(b)13 of the Election Law Article, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against Perez, Ms. Linda H. Lamone ("Lamone"), in her official capacity as the State Administrator of Elections, and the State Board, collectively, "the appellees."14 Abrams sought an order declaring that Perez did not have the qualifications required for the office of the Attorney General, an injunction requiring Perez to withdraw his certificate of candidacy, and an injunction prohibiting Lamone and the State Board from placing Perez's name on the ballot for Attorney General. He argued that, under § 5-301(b)15 of the Election Law Article, it was the State Board's duty to determine whether Perez met all of the qualifications prescribed by the election laws, including constitutional requirements as to his eligibility to run for, and, thus, to hold the office of the Attorney General.16

The appellees, defendants below, responded by filing dispositive motions. Perez filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or Motion for Summary Judgment, principally on the ground that he met the qualifications prescribed by Article V, § 4 of the Maryland Constitution. Lamone and the State Board filed a Motion to Dismiss and to Expedite Scheduling. They contended that Abrams' action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations and by laches and that their sole interest in the action was in ensuring an orderly administration of the election process, the deadlines of which would be jeopardized if the action were not adjudicated expeditiously. The Circuit Court held a hearing on the motions, at the conclusion of which it issued its oral opinion.

The Circuit Court first addressed the issue of the timeliness of the appellant's action under § 12-202(b) of the Election Law Article.17 The court rejected the appellees' argument that the relevant "act or omission" in the case sub judice was...

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  • Getty v. Board of Elections
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
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    ...It is a basic canon of statutory interpretation that words should not be added to nor deleted from a provision. See Abrams v. Lamone, 398 Md. 146, 174, 919 A.2d 1223, 1240, quoting Price v. State, 378 Md. 378, 387, 835 A.2d 1221, 1226 (2003); Condon v. State of Maryland-Univ. of Maryland, 3......
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    ...two cases involving the eligibility requirements of a candidate for the office of the Attorney General of Maryland. In Abrams v. Lamone, 398 Md. 146, 919 A.2d 1223 (2007), this Court considered a petition by Stephen A. Abrams ("Abrams")1 challenging the eligibility of Thomas E. Perez ("Pere......
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    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 81, 2007
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