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O'Malleys' new life is a tale of two cities

The O'Malley brood includes four children, three dogs and two parents with bustling careers, and, of late, the whole crew has wrestled with one big decision.

Maryland's Constitution requires Martin O'Malley, once he is sworn in as governor, to live in Annapolis. But the law also demands that District Court judges, including Catherine Curran O'Malley of the Baltimore bench, reside where they work.

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The O'Malleys face a historic quandary - and one that is a novel twist on a problem many families must confront when one parent is offered a promotion in a new city.

With 11 days until the Baltimore mayor takes his oath as the state's 61st governor, the O'Malleys are still hashing out the practicalities of work and family lives that will - at least in the short term, according to the new first lady - straddle the two locations.

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"We do intend to live in the mansion, we definitely do," Judge O'Malley said in an interview yesterday. "The children are very excited about it. As I am. ... But our intention is to remain as Baltimore City residents for the rest of our lives."

In a letter sent yesterday to Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn of the District Court of Maryland, the incoming governor's attorney explains that Catherine O'Malley will keep her job as one of 27 Baltimore District Court judges.

"Judge O'Malley's intent to maintain her domicile in Baltimore City is not inconsistent with the expectation that she will spend substantial amounts of her non-work time in Annapolis, including living in the Governor's Mansion, with her husband and children," Ralph S. Tyler wrote in the document, which was obtained by The Sun.

In addition to work-related issues, the couple must also determine what is best for their children - two teenage daughters and two young sons - who would have to transfer to new schools with a move to Government House or commute more than an hour each way. The family lives in Baltimore's Arcadia neighborhood.

"We're going to just play that by ear," Catherine O'Malley said. "The girls are very happy where they are right now."

The boys, because they are younger, are "a little more flexible," she added, saying, "They may move to school closer" to Annapolis. The three eldest children attend Catholic schools.

The O'Malleys are not the first family of a governor to ponder the pluses of living at home instead of in Government House.

William Donald Schaefer wanted to stay with his mother in Baltimore but moved to Annapolis -with his companion, Hilda Mae Snoops.

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But no one challenged Parris N. Glendening, who spent most of his first term with his then-wife and son in their University Park home in Prince George's County.

"You are literally living in a fishbowl there," Glendening said in an interview this week, referring to the mansion across the street from the State House. "You walk out the door, and the public and the press are there. For children, in particular, there's a pretty strong impact."

Former Maryland Gov. Harry R. Hughes lived in Government House with his wife, Patricia. He said his decision turned on matters of convenience and custom.

"I think it's symbolically important," said Hughes, who is on O'Malley's transition team. "It's been there a long time. It's sort of tradition in Maryland. The thought never occurred to me to not live there."

Governors across the country make different choices, and many are not bound by state law to live in state-provided housing.

Catherine Curran O'Malley said she and her husband don't have a move-in date because they haven't received a move-out date from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s family.

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Still, she said, she is looking forward to Annapolis and believes she can juggle career, family and state responsibilities. She said she's hoping that her role as first lady will focus on many of the issues she deals with in her courtroom: truancy, gangs and absent parents, among others.

O'Malley and his wife have dueling conditions tied to their jobs. The state Constitution says the governor must "reside at the seat of government." Meanwhile, state law also requires a District Court judge "be a resident of the district in which he holds office." Few lawmakers or constitution drafters probably could have imagined that the requirements might conflict within a household.

Legal experts say that in the past the courts have broadly interpreted the residency restriction that affects the state's next first lady, looking at a number of factors - such as where a person sleeps overnight and votes. Other matters, such as where a person's children attend school, where mail is received and even where an individual's doctors and dentists work, could also help establish domicile, according to a case involving one-time Republican Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin.

McKeldin wanted to run for Baltimore mayor after serving eight years as governor. His bid was challenged on the grounds that he had resided in Annapolis, not Baltimore, during his tenure. But McKeldin, who had served as the city's mayor in the 1940s before becoming governor, won out.

"The idea was he intended to return" to Baltimore, said Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. "When he left to live in Annapolis, as he was required to do as governor, it was his intent to reside there only for the period of time during which he was serving as governor."

Murphy said that by that standard, the O'Malleys, too, are simply temporary residents of Annapolis - even if they were to sell their Walther Avenue home.

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"I think the McKeldin case makes it a slam dunk, and I think as long as [Catherine O'Malley] wants to continue to serve as a judge, she can," he added. "And the only way that she would not be able to is if she at some point says she no longer intends to return to Baltimore. ... You keep your domicile until you intend to change it."

That question of intent was revisited during a 1998 case exploring whether former state Sen. Clarence W. Blount had abandoned his Baltimore residence for Baltimore County. Blount kept an apartment in the 41st District, but he and his wife had a home in Pikesville as well and stayed there more often than not.

The Court of Appeals determined that Blount's residence in the district was valid, even if it was not his full-time residence.

"Domicile is not synonymous with primary place of abode," the court concluded.

Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Zarnoch likened Catherine Curran O'Malley's situation to that of a college student who has gone away to school but still gets mail, or even votes, back at home.

"The mere fact that she has accompanied her husband to the mansion does not change the fact that she's still a Baltimore City resident," he said.

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Glendening said that he was happy to stay in Prince George's County, where his son, Raymond, played street hockey with friends and where the family spent their Christmas holidays. Living there also made manageable his wife's commute to Washington, where she worked for the Federal Election Commission.

"In today's world, I think it is essential that one spouse be as accommodating as possible to another's professional ambitions," said Glendening, who appointed Catherine O'Malley to her judgeship in 2001. "Just because you're elected governor doesn't mean your spouse should abandon everything."

But apart from a 35-mile commute, Judge O'Malley is keeping changes to a minimum. Not only is she keeping her job, but in the short term at least, the O'Malleys are holding onto their Baltimore house. "Baltimore is my home," she said.

"I'm going to be in Baltimore every single day."

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

For the record

An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun about where Martin O'Malley and his family will reside after he becomes governor erroneously stated that William Donald Schaefer wanted to stay at home in Baltimore with his mother after he was elected governor in 1986. His mother, Tululu I. Schaefer, died in 1983.The Sun regrets the error.


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