Experience Qualifies Perez to Run, Judge Rules

By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

A judge ruled yesterday that Montgomery County Council member Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) is eligible to run for Maryland attorney general because his service in the Justice Department satisfies a requirement that candidates have a decade of legal experience in the state.

Judge Paul A. Hackner's decision, which arrived at the same conclusion that Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D) stated in an opinion issued in May, ends for now an effort by another Montgomery official to force Perez off the ballot.

Perez's work as a Justice Department official, along with other experience, satisfies a legal requirement that a person seeking to be attorney general have "practiced law" in the state for at least 10 years, Hackner said in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Stephen N. Abrams (R-Rockville-Potomac), the Board of Education member who challenged Perez's candidacy, said he considers an appeal unlikely. Abrams, a candidate for state comptroller, had argued that Perez was ineligible because he was admitted to the Maryland bar just five years ago.

Perez and two others -- Montgomery State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler and Baltimore lawyer Stuart O. Simms -- are vying for the Democratic nomination to replace Curran, who is retiring. The winner is expected to face Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle (R), the candidate Abrams is backing, in November.

Perez said he had studied the requirement in the state constitution and was confident he was eligible. He also consulted with Curran's office, which issued the opinion supporting his position. "Joe Curran agreed, and now a trial judge has agreed," Perez said.

In court papers, Abrams said Perez would not, as attorney general, have the background and experience to effectively represent Abrams, should he win the office of comptroller.

Abrams said after the ruling that he and Perez have clashed over several issues in Montgomery -- most notably, he said, an effort by Perez and the council to require the school board to allow employees to obtain prescription drugs from Canada. Abrams said he considered such an arrangement illegal, and he was left with the impression that Perez took "an activist view of the law."

He said, however, "My inclination based on what I've heard so far is to be satisfied that I've had my day in court."

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