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Longtime activist to fill state's new civil rights post

The Baltimore Sun

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said yesterday that he is creating a position to safeguard civil rights and named as its first head Carl O. Snowden, a longtime Anne Arundel County activist and former Annapolis mayoral candidate.

Snowden will be charged with handling allegations of civil rights violations during the 2006 election, higher education equity, hate crimes and ground rents.

He will report directly to Gansler and will be responsible for proposing legislative and legal remedies to civil rights problems, as well as acting as a liaison between the attorney general and the community.

"Where there are patterns of discrimination that do exist, we have somebody who will help us identify those and do our best, using the law and advocating for other laws, to address those issues," Gansler said.

Snowden, 53, has had a long and lively history of civil rights advocacy in Anne Arundel County, starting in the late 1960s, when he led a student walkout from Annapolis High School to protest discrimination. He was expelled but went on to lead more protests around the city.

Since then, he has served as an Annapolis alderman and operated a civil rights consulting firm, which sued various state and local government agencies in discrimination cases.

He narrowly lost in the 1997 Democratic primary for Annapolis mayor, but then was hired by the county executive, Janet S. Owens, as her intergovernmental relations officer.

"This is an opportunity of a lifetime," Snowden said in a news release yesterday. "I plan to work tirelessly to make our great state a leader in safeguarding the civil rights of all Marylanders."

Gansler said the plans for the position were complicated because of the potential conflicts of interest inherent in increasing his office's involvement in civil rights.

The attorney general represents corrections officers, state police troopers and others who are sometimes accused of civil rights violations.

But he said similar posts exist in other states, and current civil rights enforcement from the federal government is inadequate for the state's needs.

Civil rights under Maryland law are different from those available under federal law, and the degree to which the U.S. Department of Justice enforces federal statutes varies from administration to administration, Gansler said.

Snowden will research potential patterns of discrimination, advocate for remedies and, if necessary, refer cases to litigators in the attorney general's office, Gansler said.

Snowden is not an attorney.

"The office of the Attorney General is uniquely positioned to assess the patterns of potential civil rights violations in the state," Gansler said.

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