- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2006

A Montgomery County School Board member said yesterday he will appeal a judge’s ruling this week that County Council member Tom Perez is eligible to run for attorney general.

“Remember [when] I said I was going to do my due diligence?” Stephen N. Abrams, a school board member and candidate for state comptroller, asked yesterday. “I did it. The judge was wrong.”

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Paul A. Hackner ruled Monday that Mr. Perez, a Democrat, had fulfilled the state constitution by practicing law in Maryland for at least 10 years.

Mr. Abrams, a Republican, filed the lawsuit based on the argument that Mr. Perez has been a member of the state bar for only five years and did not practice law in state courts before that.

Mr. Perez was a federal prosecutor before being elected to his council seat in 2002, and he has argued that his legal work at the federal level, while living in Maryland, fulfills the state constitution.

Judge Hackner agreed in his ruling, citing a Maryland Law Review article from 1968 that explained why, he said, the attorney general was not originally required by the state constitution to belong to the state bar.

Judge Hackner said the article explained that in the mid-1860s, when the state constitution was rewritten twice, there was no statewide bar exam. Each local court “validated” its own attorneys, he said.

Mr. Abrams said after hearing the judge’s ruling that he had been “totally unaware” that a uniform practice for admission to the bar did not exist in the 1860s.

He called Judge Hackner “exceptionally fair” but said he would read the article and refrain from appealing unless he had a different interpretation.

Mr. Abrams said he read the article, then looked at the footnotes, which led him to study other documents and other sections of the law that explained the historical context of legal practice in the 1860s.

“Once you were admitted as a member of any court, you were entitled to practice in any state court,” Mr. Abrams said.

Mr. Abrams’ appeal now will go to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Perez, who did not return phone calls, is running in a tight Democratic primary against two other candidates: Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler and former Baltimore City State’s Attorney Stuart O. Simms.

They are seeking to succeed Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., a Democrat who is retiring.

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