- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — An Anne Arundel County judge yesterday ruled that Montgomery County Council member Tom Perez is eligible to run for attorney general.

“I was confident I was eligible,” Mr. Perez said after Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Hackner ruled from the bench, following a 90-minute hearing. “I’m pleased with the outcome.”

The suit against Mr. Perez was brought by Stephen Abrams, a Republican school board member in Montgomery County who is running for state comptroller.

Mr. Abrams said he was “impressed” with the judge’s decision and that he is not likely to appeal.

Mr. Abrams and Mr. Perez have clashed several times over county issues during the last two years. When Mr. Abrams found that Mr. Perez had not been a member of the Maryland State Bar Association for 10 years, he thought it violated the state constitution.

The state constitution says the attorney general must have practiced law in Maryland for at least 10 years. Mr. Abrams thought that practicing law included belonging to the state bar.

Mr. Perez did not join the Maryland bar until 2001 but argued that he has satisfied the constitutional requirement by having been a federal attorney living in Maryland.

Judge Hackner said he spent “the better part of the weekend trying to figure out the answer to this.”

While doing research, Judge Hackner found a Maryland Law Review article from 1968 that explained how the state constitution’s framers could have conceived that the attorney general would not belong to the state bar.

He found that in the mid-1860s, when the state constitution was written, there was no statewide bar exam. Each local court “validated” its own attorneys, he said.

Mr. Abrams said he was “totally unaware of no uniform practice for admission to the bar in the 1860s.”

He said Judge Hackner had been “exceptionally fair” and then went to the courthouse library to find the article the judge referenced.

“Unless I get a very different reading of the law review article, it’s not my current intention to appeal,” Mr. Abrams said of the ruling.

Mr. Perez 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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