A Montgomery County Republican filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the qualifications of Montgomery County Council member Thomas E. Perez to run for Maryland attorney general.
Perez lacks the 10 years of Maryland legal experience required by the state constitution, despite an opinion to the contrary from Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., argued Stephen N. Abrams, a Montgomery school board member who is a candidate for state comptroller.
Filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, the lawsuit comes two months before the Democratic primary in September. Perez faces Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler and Stuart O. Simms, a former Baltimore state's attorney whose profile was raised this year when Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan selected him as a running mate before dropping out of the governor's race. Baltimore lawyer J. Wyndal Gordon has also filed to run.
Abrams said he sued because he believes Curran's office was "absolutely" wrong to say that Perez met the 10-year requirement because he has not been a member of the state bar for a full decade. Perez should have sought a determination from state election officials on whether he met the qualifications to run, Abrams said.
"My attempt is to make sure the law is properly followed," he said.
He said he was not filing the suit on behalf of Republicans. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and other top Republicans are backing Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle.
Calling it a "frivolous lawsuit," Perez said he will seek to have the case dismissed quickly.
Perez, 44, a former federal lawyer, became a member of the bar in New York in 1988. He was admitted to the Maryland bar in 2001, and has been teaching since then at the University of Maryland School of Law.
Curran's opinion, which Perez requested in May, said that the constitution does not require a candidate to have all of his legal experience in Maryland while a member of state bar.
Abrams, who names Perez and the state Board of Elections as defendants in the lawsuit, tried yesterday to get a temporary restraining order blocking Perez's candidacy.
Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Michael E. Loney rejected the request but expedited the case, giving Perez and elections officials five days to respond.
The attorney general's office represents the Board of Elections in legal matters.
Donna Duncan, director of the elections management division for state elections officials, said that the board has until July 24 to certify the ballot.
The other Democratic candidates - Gansler, Simms and Gordon - had no comment on the lawsuit.