- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Attorney General's Office yesterday filed a last-minute attempt to block testimony from a key witness in a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the special General Assembly session.

Lawyers representing the state filed an emergency motion in the Court of Special Appeals seeking to protect the chief clerk of the House, Mary Monahan, from testifying.

Mrs. Monahan is scheduled to give a deposition Thursday morning in Tampa, Fla., but may be prevented from doing so if the state’s appeal is successful.

“What does the state have to hide?” asked Irwin Kramer, who is representing the six Republicans and a Carroll County businessman in the lawsuit. “Obviously, the state wants to insure that we never talk to Mrs. Monahan.”

A spokesman for the Court of Special Appeals said the motion will be heard by a three-judge panel, but a date has not been set.

Mrs. Monahan became the central figure in the case after private investigators and an FBI agent were unable to find her last week.

The Attorney General's Office argues in the appeal that the court’s attempt to force Mrs. Monahan to testify violates the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches.

The Republican lawmakers and the businessman filed the suit earlier this month to invalidate the special session, charging that the Senate improperly took too long of a break without the legally required permission from the House.

A Carroll County judge issued a continuance Friday to allow the plaintiffs time to find and depose Mrs. Monahan, seen as a key witness in her official capacity as record-keeper for the House.

Mrs. Monahan, as chief clerk, is charged with recording and validating proceedings of the House, an otherwise rote job that is central to the lawsuit.

The suit centers on whether the Senate received consent to adjourn for more than three days — it adjourned for five — in the middle of the special session.

State lawyers attempted to protect Mrs. Monahan from testifying this month, but Judge Thomas Stanfield ruled she could not be barred from testifying and ordered a deposition be taken.