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Carroll County News

Plaintiffs in GOP central committee lawsuit appeal judge's ruling

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Carroll County Republican Central Committee have appealed a Circuit Court judge's ruling to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, and early Wednesday filed paperwork requesting the Court of Appeals — the state's highest court — hear the case.

Meanwhile, the committee is moving forward with the process to fill a seat in the House of Delegates representing District 5 that was vacated Feb. 2 when now-Sen. Justin Ready accepted Gov. Larry Hogan's appointment as former Sen. Joe Getty's replacement. The Carroll County Republican Central Committee has received 27 applications for the vacancy as of Monday, the committee's self-imposed deadline for applicants.

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On Feb. 10, Carroll County Republican Central Committee members Kathy Fuller, Amy Gilford and Melissa Caudill, the plaintiffs in the case, made amendments to a lawsuit and asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the committee from submitting more than one name to the governor for the vacant delegate seat in District 5.

The plaintiffs argue that the Maryland Constitution requires one name be submitted by the committee to the governor for any vacancies, but the governor's office has requested three names for each vacancy. Article 3, Section 13 of the Maryland Constitution, says "the Governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy from a person whose name shall be submitted to him in writing … by the Central Committee of the political party."

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Judge Fred Hecker denied the request Feb. 12 and wrote in his opinion that he does not believe irreparable harm would befall the plaintiffs if the temporary restraining order was not granted. His opinion also stated that there are several interpretations to the article, one being the central committee may submit several names and another being it is ultimately up to the governor to appoint someone to the vacant position.

At an open meeting hours after the court's ruling, the committee voted 5-4 to send three names to the Office of Appointments for the vacant delegate seat.

The plaintiffs believe the court's conclusion regarding multiple interpretations of Section 13 is wrong and argue that the opinions of two former attorneys general from 1939 and 1977 support their interpretation.

Attorney General William Walsh's opinion from 1939 states: "We find in the Senate journal from 1935, that when this amendment was introduced it provided, 'the governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy from two person whose names shall be submitted…' and that it was amended in the House by striking out 'two persons whose name…' and inserting in lieu thereof 'a person whose name.' It, therefore, appears that the submission of only one name by the Committee was contemplated, and you are so advised."

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Mark Stichel, attorney for Fuller, Gilford and Caudill, wrote in his petition to the Court of Appeals, wrote: "The provision for two names to be submitted to the governor was struck purposefully to limit the job filling powers of the Governor."

A 1977 opinion from Attorney General Francis Burch affirms Walsh's position, Stichel wrote.

By law, an appeal of a Circuit Court ruling must go to the Court of Special Appeals, Stichel said. An appellant may also file a writ of certiorari, which asks the Court of Appeals to hear the case before it is heard by the Court of Special Appeals in order to expedite the process, he said.

Mike Stewart, the attorney representing the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, said because the lawsuit involves a provision of the Maryland Constitution, the Court of Appeals may be interested in hearing the case, but a writ of certiorari doesn't compel them to do so.

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Stichel said he is requesting both appellate courts issue an injunction pending appeal that would prevent the central committee from submitting more than one name to the governor until the final decision regarding the meaning of Article 3, Section 13 is issued.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

Editors note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of applications that had been received.


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