The Washington Post

Md.’s highest court will determine how to fill ousted legislator’s seat

Maryland’s highest court will decide how to fill the state legislative seat vacated earlier this year by Tiffany Alston.

On Thursday, the state Court of Appeals issued what is known as a writ of certiorari — meaning tt will bypass any possible lower level appeal processes and rule on how Alston’s vacated and hotly contested seat should be filled.

The case seemed destined for the state’s highest court even as Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. heard arguments from all those involved earlier this month. Nichols eventually ruled that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had the power to select the 24th legislative district’s next representative.

Both Alston — who claimed she should not have been ousted from the seat after her October conviction on a misconduct in office charge — and Greg Hall — the former drug dealer nominated by Prince George’s Democrats to replace her before O’Malley stalled in finalizing it — had appealed that ruling.

Now the Court of Appeals will decide, among other things, if Alston’s conviction, which eventually was wiped away and replaced by what is known as a probation before judgment, disqualified her from keeping the office.

It will also decide if the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee’s nomination of Hall to replace her was irrevocable and legally binding on the governor.

Though there was some other legal wrangling, the outcome was largely expected; as all the parties in the case agreed the state’s highest court should weigh in.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 4, just days before 2013’s legislative session is to begin.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.

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