Maryland high court grants expedited hearing for Baltimore City Council ballot

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

This past Thursday, which seems like a political lifetime ago, the Court of Appeals of Maryland granted certiorari in the following case:

Linda H. Lamone, et al. v. Ian Schlakman, et al. – Case No. 50, September Term, 2016

Issue – Election Law – Did the trial court err in entering an ex parte temporary restraining order that requires the Appellants to remove the name of a qualified candidate from the ballot in Baltimore City Councilmanic District No. 12 for the 2016 General Election?

The Court of Appeals will hear the argument at a special sitting on October 18.

Green Party nominee Ian Schlakman and independent candidate Frank W. Richardson filed suit against the State Administrator of Elections, seeking to remove Dan Sparco (a self-described “Unaffiliated Democrat”) from the ballot. According to an August article by the Baltimore Sun’s Luke Broadwater, Sparaco “acknowledges he missed the state’s deadline,” but he “gained access to the ballot through his own federal lawsuit, which alleged that Maryland’s February filing deadline was unconstitutionally too early.” Sparaco “agreed to drop his suit once State Board of Elections officials agreed to let him on the ballot if he gathered enough signatures.”

Schlakman and Richardson originally filed their challenge in federal court on August 25, but U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III struck their complaint in a September 20 order, holding that “Plaintiffs’ counsel … is not a member of the Bar of this Court and an active member in good standing has not moved for her admission pro hac vice. Accordingly … the Clerk of the Court was prohibited from accepting Plaintiffs’ Complaint and all subsequent filings.”

The Maryland judiciary website shows that Schlakman and Richardson immediately filed suit on September 20 in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, and that Judge Paul F. Harris, Jr. entered a temporary restraining order in their favor on September 23. The Administrator appealed to the Court of Special Appeals and successfully sought bypass review before the Court of Appeals. Her counsel is Deputy Chief Attorney General Julia Doyle Bernhardt, a seasoned appellate advocate who argued before the Supreme Court of the United States earlier this year in Ross v. Blake.

This grant of certiorari comes as the Green Party makes a push this year to become the leading opposition party in the Democratic Party-dominated Baltimore City government. The Democratic nominee, Robert Stokes, Sr., is not a party to the case.

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