Former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel will go before the state's Court of Appeals tomorrow seeking protection from a civil fraud claim filed by former owners of Marlboro Racetrack.

Mandel wants Maryland's highest court to rule that executive immunity protects him from civil suits arising from his actions as governor of Maryland.

Mandel was named in a $15 million suit filed in 1978 by James F. and Thomas Patrick O'Hara, brothers who were part owners of Marlboro when it was sold in 1971 to friends of Mandel's.

The Marlboro transaction was one of the key elements in the 1975 federal indictment of Mandel and five political associates on mail fraud and racketeering charges. The six men were convicted by a jury, but the convictions were overturned on appeal.

The O'Hara brothers claimed in their suit that the governor and four of his co-defendants -- William and Harry Rogers, W. Dale Hess and the late Irv Kovens -- conspired to drive down the value of the Marlboro stock by having Mandel veto a bill that would have given the track more racing days.

The suit alleges that after the track was sold, the men increased the value for the new owners by allowing the veto to be overridden.