Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s announcement last fall that he would not seek re-election sent shockwaves through political circles and sparked widespread speculation about who would seek to replace him. as State Legal Director.
Only one candidate, Republican Jim Shalleck, had already declared his intention to run at the time. A wider field of candidates has gathered since Frosh’s announcement in October.
US Representative Anthony Brown quickly declared that he would leave Congress after his third term in order to run for Attorney General.
Former Baltimore judge Katie Curran O’Malley retired from the bench in October and announced her campaign for attorney general in December.
The two Democrats make an intriguing political couple for the primary. Brown served as lieutenant governor to O’Malley’s husband, former Governor Martin O’Malley, from 2007 to 2015. Katie Curran O’Malley’s father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., served as attorney general of Maryland for two decades.
Republican Michael Peroutka, a former Anne Arundel County Council member who has past ties to the League of the South, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group because of its racist and white nationalist views, is also in the running.
The Maryland State Bar Association is hosting hour-long interviews with each of the nominees this week as part of an effort to keep the legal community informed as the race heats up.
The Daily Record is attending the interviews, which are conducted by MSBA President Natalie McSherry and former Maryland Senator Bobby Zirkin, who works with the MSBA on its advocacy efforts. Interviews will also be posted on the MSBA website.
Interviews with Brown and Shalleck took place first, on Tuesday. O’Malley and Peroutka will be interviewed on Thursday, with a story to follow.
In Tuesday’s interviews, both candidates said they wanted to expand the attorney general’s role, albeit in very different ways. They both also agreed that more resources are needed to provide access to a lawyer for people who cannot afford lawyers in civil cases, such as evictions – a cause Frosh has championed in recent legislative sessions. .
As attorney general, Brown said, he would prioritize public safety, workers’ rights and environmental law enforcement.
Those efforts will include asking the legislature for greater authority, he said, including the ability to launch a workers’ rights unit and independently investigate and prosecute violations of environmental law. .
Brown also said the bureau should have the power to prosecute law enforcement officers based on investigations into police use of force. The General Assembly authorized the attorney general’s office to investigate deaths involving police in 2021 and is considering legislation this year to expand that authority to include prosecutions.
Brown said he also supports curtailing qualified immunity, the legal shield that protects police and other government officials in suits for constitutional violations.
“We can hold law enforcement accountable,” Brown said. “We can support and fund law enforcement so they can provide effective policing in the community. You can do both at the same time. »
Brown was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1999 until 2007, when he became lieutenant governor of O’Malley. As a delegate representing Prince George’s County, he served on the House Judiciary Committee. Brown ran for governor in 2014 and lost to Republican Larry Hogan.
In Tuesday’s interview, Brown said the attorney general can play an important role in pursuing public safety.
“As chief legal officer, you not only have a voice, but you have the tools and resources to advance public safety in Maryland,” he said. The Attorney General oversees hundreds of attorneys and other staff, including investigators, and can provide support to state attorneys.
Brown said he supports reform of the juvenile justice system, including a proposal to charge all children as minors with the option of transferring them to adult court. Under the current system, some crimes automatically trigger adult charges, even when the suspect is under 18.
Brown doesn’t think increasing criminal penalties for crimes committed with a firearm will have an adequate deterrent effect. He argued that speed and certainty of sentencing are more effective in stopping crime than long prison sentences.
“If those who own guns understand that their day in court will come sooner rather than later, I think that’s more of a deterrent than increasing sentences,” he said.
He also addressed the inherent discomfort of running for office against the former first lady of Maryland.
“Primaries are always tough and clumsy in that regard,” he said. “It always happens in primaries, but this one probably has to be the most troublesome, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Jim Shalleck would shift the focus of the attorney general’s office to stopping violent crime, he said.
A former district attorney and chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, Shalleck said his two passions are prosecutions and public service.
He would create a specialized unit of assistant attorneys general to deal with what he calls “street crime”. The unit would not offer plea bargaining or agreements to shorten an offender’s sentence, he said.
When asked if the attorney general has the power to handle crime in local Baltimore jurisdictions, Shalleck noted that the governor and legislature can ask the attorney general to get involved.
“If you can’t get that, let the public know that the AG is blocked and not allowed to participate in these efforts,” he said.
State attorneys can also seek the bureau’s assistance, he said.
Shalleck has been a private attorney in Montgomery County since 1994. He previously worked as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx, where he ran the homicide bureau, and as an assistant attorney general in New York. While working in the Bronx, Shalleck helped prosecute “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz, according to his campaign website.
Shalleck moved to Maryland in 1989 to serve in the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.
Shalleck said he was a “friend of the police” and criticized lawmakers for the repeal last year of the Bill of Rights for Law Enforcement Officers, which gave police officers certain protections during internal investigations.
“I’m a friend of the police, but a bad cop is my enemy,” he said. “It taints all the police and they do a wonderful job.”
Shalleck also said he supports the accountability of judges by publicly listing the sentences they hand down.
Shalleck said his crime-fighting focus would not affect the office’s other functions, including representing the state in civil litigation and pursuing prosecutions for environmental violations.
Shalleck also criticized Frosh’s national profile, including his 2017 lawsuit against then-President Donald Trump for alleged violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses.
“Mr. Frosh has spent years and God knows how much money and resources go after Donald Trump to make money on his hotel in DC,” Shalleck said. money and resources Families who are destroyed by crime deserve the attention of the Attorney General.
Asked about the right to vote in Maryland, Shalleck expressed concern that the state does not require personal identification to vote and does not verify voters’ signatures when they send in ballots by correspondence.
And while he said he’s never seen “provable” evidence of voter fraud in Maryland, he said it’s impossible to know if fraud exists here because of those issues.
Shalleck also said he would work to raise salaries for assistant attorneys general so he could attract attorneys from around the country.
“You have to find the best lawyers if you can,” he said.