Suit against AG Gansler took too long, Maryland Court says

John O'Brien Apr. 3, 2007, 2:00pm


ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland's Court of Appeals decided recently that it didn't matter if Attorney General Douglas Gansler didn't meet the requirements for the office since the lawsuit challenging him was filed too late.

Nikos Liddy, a Bowie man whose lawyer served as campaign manager for Scott Rolle (Gansler's competition in the general election), filed the suit last Oct. 20, just a couple of weeks before the general election.

"Allowing challenges to be brought at such a late date would call into question the value and quality of our entire elections process and would only serve as a catalyst for future challenges," Chief Judge Robert M. Bell wrote in the unanimous opinion released Thursday.

Liddy claimed Gansler did not have the required 10 years' experience practicing law in Maryland. Other requirements say the attorney general must be a citizen of the state and registered to vote in it.

The decision for Gansler came after a successful case against Thomas Perez, who was thrown off the Democratic primary ballot because he had only practiced law in Maryland for five years.

Liddy was making the same claim against Gansler, who was in his eighth year as the Montgomery County state's attorney. He was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1989, but during that time served as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C.

"There is, however, a threshold issue which must be addressed, whether the appellant waited too long to bring this action and, thus, is barred, by the equitable doctrine of laches, from bringing it now," Bell wrote. "We shall hold that this action is barred by laches."

A lower court ruled that Gansler met the requirements, anyway. Gansler cited a two-year judicial clerkship that began in 1989, as well as several pro bono cases he handled in Maryland while working in D.C.

Gansler and defendants Linda Lamone, the state's administrator of elections, and the State Board of Elections, called the suit "an eleventh hour lawsuit that threaten[ed ] to disrupt the entire elections machinery, to sew doubt in the minds of voters, to create voter confusion and uncertainty, and generally to defeat voters' choices."

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