ATTORNEY GENERAL RACE
High Court Rejects Case to Remove Gansler From Ballot
Friday, November 3, 2006
With five days remaining before the Nov. 7 election, Maryland's highest court yesterday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to knock Democratic attorney general candidate Douglas F. Gansler off the ballot.
The State Court of Appeals did not rule on whether Gansler meets a state constitutional requirement that the attorney general have practiced law in Maryland for 10 years.
An Anne Arundel County circuit court judge ruled last week that Gansler's 17 years as a member of the Maryland State Bar combined with his legal experience in public and private practice met the standard, and the judge dismissed the case, brought by a Bowie voter.
The high court vacated the lower court's decision and ordered the case dismissed because it was brought too late.
During oral arguments yesterday morning, the judges signaled concern about the chaos that would be created by a decision to remove Gansler from the ballot. "I don't see how we can possibly grant the relief you seek even if Mr. Gansler is not qualified," Judge Dale R. Cathell told attorney Jason Shoemaker, who argued the case against Gansler.
Shoemaker said the uncertainty about the candidate's qualifications could give Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) the right to challenge Gansler's election should the Montgomery County prosecutor be chosen by the voters Tuesday night.
According to the state constitution, the governor has the duty "to decide on the election and qualification" of the winner of the election for attorney general.
Dan Friedman, an expert on the state constitution who assisted Gansler's attorneys in preparing arguments for the high court, said the exact meaning of the language "is an open question of Maryland law, but I believe that the governor's job is just to swear in the winner of the election."
Gansler dismissed the possibility that the governor might refuse to qualify him. "We don't know that Ehrlich has anything to do with this," he said. And he pointed out that Shoemaker is the campaign manager for his Republican opponent, Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle.
"It was obviously a political trick, and it backfired," Gansler said.
Rolle said again yesterday that he had nothing to do with the case being filed. "That's just Doug Gansler saying what he wants; it doesn't matter whether it's true or not," he said.