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No misconduct found in legislators' calling judges, report says


Six state legislators did not abuse their offices by contacting judges about pending redistricting lawsuits, State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli concluded in a report released yesterday.

While finding no criminal misconduct, the report provides fresh criticism of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's role in the redistricting fracas, as well as the most detailed description to date of the actions of Miller and other lawmakers.

Montanarelli's analysis is based partly on interviews with four Court of Appeals judges, who have not spoken publicly about their conversations with the lawmakers.

Judge Alan M. Wilner told Montanarelli he was "disturbed" when an April telephone call from Miller turned to redistricting. Miller told investigators that he called Wilner to discuss legislation that overturned a Court of Appeals decision, hoping that the General Assembly's action would not create friction.

But Wilner had a different view, the report says. He "stated that his impression ... was that the senator really wanted to discuss the pending redistricting matter so that the judge would understand the politics involved," Montanarelli wrote.

The report also confirms that in late March, Miller suggested that Sen. Ida G. Ruben of Montgomery County contact Judge Irma S. Raker, a friend, and ask about the redistricting cases.

"Miller's suggestion was wrong per se. As a lawyer, he knew or should have known that a judge should not be subjected to an ex parte communication about a pending case," Montanarelli wrote. "He may have to answer to another agency for what he said to Ruben, but not to a criminal court."

Montanarelli was apparently referring to the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, which is investigating the actions of Miller, who is a lawyer.

The report said Miller's discussion with Ruben was the only evidence of coordination among the legislators. And while Miller called two judges himself, Wilner and Judge Glenn T. Harrell, there is no "direct, unambiguous evidence of a threat, promise, coercion, persuasion ... showing an attempt to influence," it said.

Montanarelli investigated the matter at the request of Del. Robert L. Flanagan, a Howard County Republican. Republicans also asked the General Assembly's ethics committee and the Maryland State Ethics Commission to examine the charges.

Last month, the Assembly's ethics committee reprimanded Miller, saying he "abused his position" and "contributed to the erosion of public confidence in the operation of state government." The panel delivered a milder letter to Sen. Ulysses Currie of Prince George's County. It did not sanction Ruben, Sen. Clarence W. Blount, Sen. Robert R. Neall or Del. Ruth M. Kirk. All are Democrats.

The legislators' contact came to light as the court was considering a redistricting map drawn by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, with input from Miller. After disclosing the telephone calls and letters, the court rejected the governor's plan and drew a map of its own that forms the basis for this fall's election.

Miller issued a statement yesterday saying he was "pleased that the state prosecutor has found no criminal conduct."

"I am also pleased that the state prosecutor ... found there was no orchestrated effort to influence the court," he said.

Flanagan said he was pleased with the prosecutor's work, but noted that Montanarelli lacks subpoena power or the ability to convene a grand jury, which could have produced more evidence.

"He didn't conclude that Mike Miller wasn't guilty of a crime," Flanagan said. "He concluded he couldn't get enough evidence to warrant the filing of a criminal complaint."

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