A Baltimore judge threw out an election lawsuit Tuesday against Thiru Vignarajah, clearing the way for the former deputy attorney general for Maryland to run for city state’s attorney.
Circuit Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill said he found ample evidence to believe Vignarajah has lived at least two years in a Federal Hill condo, and therefore qualifies for the ballot.
Vignarajah’s attorney presented voting records, car registration documents, tax records and other evidence to prove his client’s home.
“All of these factors align in favor of Mr. Vignarajah,” the judge said. “It is a matter of common sense.”
Vignarajah had been sued by Christopher Comeau, a law clerk and local activist. In the lawsuit, Comeau argued state property records showed Vignarajah’s principal residence was listed both in Baltimore and Howard County.
Comeau asked the judge to ban Vignarajah from the ballot, arguing the candidate did not meet residency requirements.
Maryland law requires a candidate to have lived at least two years in the city — or since Nov. 6, 2016 — to qualify for the Baltimore state’s attorney race.
During a hearing Tuesday, Vignarajah testified that he had lived in Howard County with his wife, but they separated amicably about three years ago and he moved into the condo they owned in Federal Hill.
They have not legally divorced, so both homes remained owned jointly by the couple. Vignarajah said he lives alone in the condo; his estranged wife maintains the Howard County home as her residence.
“For the legal purposes, I have abandoned that residence,” he said.
“Do you have any intention of returning?” asked Josh Insley, an attorney representing Comeau.
“I do not,” Vignarajah said.
He said he returns only to spend time with his young son. Vignarajah said he has lived in the condo since late 2014 or early 2015.
The lawsuit was political gamesmanship, Vignarajah said.
“This was always a clear cut matter,” he said. “We’re pleased the court resolved this promptly and unequivocally.”
Insley had argued Vignarajah maintained the condo only as a campaign office. Afterward, Insley said it was important the matter be hashed out in court.
“The process is better off for having this flushed out,” he said. “When in doubt, flush it out.”
Meanwhile, a second election lawsuit proceeds against Vignarajah’s rival candidate, longtime defense attorney Ivan Bates. The lawsuit challenges whether Bates meets the same two-year residency requirement. A hearing on the lawsuit is schedule for Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court.
Bates maintains that he has lived more than two years in Locust Point, and therefore qualifies to run in the primary election. He said his parents live in a Laurel home that he also owns.
Kristien Miller of Canton sued Bates. She also donated $500 to Vignarajah’s campaign. So Insley took issue with Vignarajah’s suggestion that his own lawsuit was mere politicking.
“He might not want to throw that stone in this glass house,” Insley said.
Both men are challenging Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. She became one of the youngest top prosecutors in the country when elected in 2014 at the age of 34.
All three are Democrats, and because there is no Republican candidate in the race, it will be decided by the primary election June 26.