If Leopold wants to run in 2014, the timing of the appeal is critical. The deadline to file as a candidate in this year's elections is Feb. 25 — less than three weeks after oral arguments in the case. The Court of Special Appeals may take several weeks, or even months, to rule.

Marcus says Sweeney lacked the authority to strip Leopold of the right to run for office.

Davitt says the ban is a punishment that relates to his crime.

"It is in the public interest that [Leopold] not hold office during the tenure of his punishment," Davitt wrote.

Whatever happens in the appeals case to be heard Wednesday, either side may appeal again to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.

Meanwhile, two Leopold-related court lawsuits against the county government have yet to be resolved.

The American Civil Liberties Union and several individuals have filed a civil lawsuit against Leopold and Anne Arundel County alleging police officers improperly compiled "dossiers" for Leopold on his political rivals.

Pretrial motions were heard Jan. 27 and a mediation hearing is scheduled for late February.

Former county employee Joan Harris is pursuing a federal lawsuit in which she alleges wrongful termination.

Harris says she was fired as a constituent services representative after Leopold was reelected in 2010 because she assisted ex-employee Karla Hamner with her own wrongful termination lawsuit.

Hamner settled her lawsuit last fall for $110,000 plus legal fees.

John Singleton, who represents both Harris and Hamner, said he's tried to settle Harris' lawsuit as well, but the county has not been receptive. The case could go to trial this spring.

County Attorney David Plymyer declined to comment on the Harris case specifically. He said the county settles lawsuits only when it believes there's "a reasonable likelihood" it won't win and the amount of the settlement is considered fair in comparison to the cost of going to trial.

Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman who was selected by the county council in February to replace Leopold — said she spent her first several months dealing with a government she described as "dysfunctional."

Neuman fired most of Leopold's core staff and brought in her own team, including a new police chief.

"There was culture of 'We can't,' and now there's a culture of 'We can,'" she said. "We've come leaps and bounds in the last 10 months."

Dan Nataf, a political science professor at Anne Arundel Community College, says county politicos are focused on the future, not the past. That means the 2014 county executive's race — especially the competitive Republican primary between Neuman and Del. Steve Schuh.

"The political dynamic has shifted from one of thinking about scandal and having Anne Arundel County constantly on the front page for how not to run the county, now to a generally more positive question of who is the more competent successor to Leopold," Nataf said.

Schuh said voters "have long since moved on" from the Leopold era.

"The county has managed a soft landing from those difficult times, and we now have an opportunity to take the county to a whole other level," he said.

There are two candidates in the Democratic primary for county executive: Joanna Conti, who lost to Leopold in 2010, and former Sheriff George F. Johnson IV, who lost to Leopold in 2006.

Even as Leopold is seeking legal vindication, Nataf said, his political relevance in Anne Arundel continues to erode.

"He's kind of drifting at this point," he said. "He's kind of at the margins."

pwood@baltsun.com

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