Alston loses case in court while O'Malley prevails

Tiffany Alston, the Prince George's County delegate who was ousted from the General Assembly this year after being convicted of misconduct in office, will not be reinstated, a court ruled Wednesday.
At the same time the Prince George's Circuit Court turned down Alston's plea to regain her seat, it gave Gov. Martin O'Malley a victory by ruling that the Democratic Party committee that recommended a replacement can withdraw its nomination as the governor requested.
O'Malley asked the county Democratic Central Committee to rescind its recommendation of Gregory Hall after learning about the man's criminal record on a case two decades ago.
"The circumstances of this case do little for the good name and reputation of our state and even less for our county," Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. wrote in ruling that the committee can in fact do so. The judge also ruled that if the committee send the governor a new name, it is not a binding recommendation.
In Maryland, legislative vacancies are usually decided by the local party central committee of the departing lawmaker, whose choices are binding on the governor.
Alston, who was elected in 2010, was indicted twice in 2011 -- once for illegally diverting campaign funds to personal use and once for theft of state funds and misconduct in office. She was convicted by an Anne Arundel County jury in the second case in June and reached a plea agreement with the prosecutor in the first in September.
In October, the trial judge set aside the convictions on all charges except misconduct in office. At the time, Alston waived her appeal rights.
That month, the Attorney General's Office told House Speaker Michael E. Busch that Alston had to be removed from office immediately. The speaker, a defendant in Alston's suit, accepted that advice.
The Prince George's Court upheld the attorney general's opinion, ruling that the Anne Arundel judge's decision in November to substitute probation before judgment for Alston's conviction was not the same as a win on appeal that would have entitled her to reinstatement.
Nichols also ruled that a central committee can rescind its recommendation of a nominee any time before the governor makes the actual appointment. In this case, the central committee told the court it intends to revoke its nomination of Hall, who pleaded guilty to an illegal handgun possession charge in a 1992 case that resulted in the death of a 13-year-old boy. The judge also rejected Hall's contention that the 15 days the state Constitution gives the governor to appoint a committee's candidate is not a mandatory deadline.
Because any new recommendation would fall outside the 30-day window prescribed in the Constitution for a nomination, the committee's decision on a new candidate would not be binding on O'Malley, the court ruled. That would leave the final decision on who would replace Alston up to the governor unless the committee were to stand by its nomination of Hall. In that case, the governor would be required to appoint Hall despite the nominee's criminal record.
Nichols prefaced his opinion with a quote from the English poet George Herbert: "Every path hath a puddle."