Lawyers start rehearsing for GOP lawsuit appeal

The Baltimore Sun

Attorneys for Republican lawmakers suing to scrap laws passed during last year's special legislative session held the first of several private "moot court" events in Annapolis yesterday, in preparation for next week's hearing before the state's highest court.

A Carroll County Circuit Court judge dismissed the suit in January, but the Court of Appeals agreed to take it up. Oral arguments are scheduled for next Tuesday.

The practice session took place at the Marriott Waterfront hotel, where three chairs were set up to approximate the seven-judge panel. Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. of Cecil County, the lead plaintiff, and Manchester attorney Joseph M. Getty - a key staffer in Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration - were among those scheduled to play judges.

Plaintiff's attorney Irwin R. Kramer said he had instructed Smigiel and the other participants to try to hammer holes in his arguments.

"If I'm practicing on a mechanical bull, I want it to be set on the highest setting," Kramer said.

The lawsuit - brought by Smigiel and the minority leaders and whips of both legislative chambers - argues that the House failed to appropriately consent, as required by the Maryland Constitution, to a five-day adjournment by the Senate during the special session.

All laws passed, including increases to the sales tax and corporate income tax, should therefore be scrapped, the plaintiffs say.

In a brief filed with the high court, the plaintiffs also argue that the Democrat-controlled General Assembly should not be allowed to ask voters to amend the constitution to legalize slot machine gambling.

They argue that approach, also passed during the special session, is unconstitutional because it unlawfully delegates the power of fiscal appropriation to voters.

The plaintiffs further argue that the General Assembly intends to mislead voters into thinking revenue from slots parlors would only fund education investments, when in fact enabling legislation also directs gambling revenue to other uses.

In its responding brief, the attorney general's office argues that the plaintiffs are making substantially new arguments before the high court with respect to the constitutional amendment. A new argument "may not be raised for the first time on appellate review," wrote Austin C. Schlick, head of the civil litigation division. He also attacked the legal merit of the plaintiff's argument.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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