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Legal maneuvers delay naming of P.G. delegate

- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A lawyer urged a Prince George's County judge on Tuesday to order Gov. Martin O'Malley to appoint a businessman to a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates, but an attorney for the governor said it was up to Mr. O'Malley to make the final call on the appointment — not the county's Democratic central committee.

Meanwhile, an attorney representing the committee said the panel should be able to withdraw Greg Hall's nomination, and the former delegate argued she should get her seat back, because her conviction for misconduct in office was modified to probation before judgment.

It all added up to a convoluted afternoon of legal wrangling over the state's constitutional provision relating to an official's removal for wrongdoing and rules for replacing a state legislator. The hearing with multiple parties was the latest turn in how to address former Delegate Tiffany Alston's plea deal in October relating to using $800 in state money to pay an employee in her private law firm.

Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr., said he would try to make a ruling within 24 hours after the hearing ended Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Hall's nomination, which was sent to Mr. O'Malley on Nov. 7 after a 12-10 vote by the committee, has been called into question because of drug and gun charges that Mr. Hall faced about 20 years ago.

Walter Green, Mr. Hall's attorney, said Mr. O'Malley was obligated by law to appoint Mr. Hall to the seat in the state's 24th Legislative District within 15 days of receiving the nomination from the committee. Mr. Green described the governor's role as an administrative one that Mr. O'Malley had no real say in determining.

"He has no say," Mr. Green said. "He has no discretion whatsoever."

But Matthew Fader, an assistant attorney general representing the governor, argued that the ultimate decision on the appointment rested with Mr. O'Malley.

"It's the governor's responsibility to make the appointment," Mr. Fader said.

Joseph Sandler, an attorney representing the Prince George's County's Democratic Central Committee, said the panel had decided to nominate someone else after the governor made the request on learning additional details about Mr. Hall's past. However, when the committee met to do that last month, Mr. Hall went to court to block any action. Mr. Sandler argued that the simple submission of Mr. Hall's name to Mr. O'Malley doesn't make him a delegate. Mr. O'Malley's official appointment, Mr. Sandler said, is needed to put Mr. Hall in the seat.

"There's no right before that happens," Mr. Sandler said.

Ms. Alston's attorneys, however, say a replacement shouldn't even be considered because they think the Democrat former delegate should be reinstated to her office. Rauof Abdullah, her attorney, said her conviction was never final.

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