For 125 years, MSBA has been the home of the entire legal profession. We continue to serve our members and the public by connecting with important leaders around the state and talking about the issues that matter to our members. Recently, we spoke with candidates for Attorney General, including U.S. Representative Anthony Brown, to learn more about him and what he intends to do if elected.
The MSBA is apolitical and does not support any particular candidate, but aims to increase awareness of each candidate’s plans for moving our state forward.
Congressman Brown, who credits his childhood with inspiring him to pursue a life of public service, recounted how his father, who was a doctor, practiced medicine in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the service of others. He thought he could make a difference in the lives of people through the law, and as Attorney General, he wants to make an even greater impact on the lives of people in Maryland.
In Congressman Brown’s views, the Attorney General has two clients: the State of Maryland and its citizens. The challenge that sometimes arises is how to serve both effectively. His three main priorities as Attorney General are increasing public safety, worker rights and protections, and enforcing environmental protections. He plans to seek legislation that grants the Attorney General the independent authority to file actions against those in the private sector who violate civil rights, power it does not currently have.
Congressman Brown believes that the Attorney General has a duty to advise the General Assembly when redistricting maps are unconstitutional, but once the General Assembly passes the maps, the Attorney General has a duty to defend them regardless of personal beliefs. He supports the use of independent commissions in principle, but noted the appointment of such commissions is often politically motivated. He believes the Maryland courts will reject the challenges to the recently drafted maps.
As chief legal officer, Congressman Brown believes that the Attorney General plays an important role in legislation that is considered or ultimately passed by the General Assembly. He thinks Maryland has made a lot of progress with regard to gun safety, but there is not one piece of legislation that will make gun use safer. He supports the use of gun courts, and believes it will be a greater deterrent of gun crimes than increased penalties. To Congressman Brown, it is essential that the Attorney General has authority to prosecute crimes, but he believes that the state’s attorneys should have the right of first refusal for cases within their jurisdiction.
Congressman Brown stated that the General Assembly should consider granting the Attorney General the authority to conduct pattern and practice investigations to see what types of systemic problems there are in police departments throughout the state and eliminating qualified immunity, as there is an obstacle to bringing actions against police officers who commit misjustice. He said we can hold law enforcement accountable while still supporting them and funding them within communities.
Congressman Brown stated that there are over thirty commissions, committees, and task forces that the Attorney General or their designee is either a member or chair of, and many of those commissions involve members of the public and require attorneys with experience and expertise in the specific areas they deal with. One area where the Attorney General can and should have a relationship with the MSBA is in filling the committees and task forces with people from the legal community. If elected, he hopes that the MSBA could offer recommendations regarding how to improve and build on the work that Attorney General Frosh has done as well.
Congressman Brown noted renters should be able to feel secure in their living situation and generally supports the just cause eviction legislation currently before the General Assembly that prevents landlords from evicting tenants that comply with the terms of their lease. He also supports finding a funding mechanism to provide counsel for tenants facing eviction.
In discussing access to justice, Congressman Brown said one of the most important issues is access to counsel for children in the juvenile justice system, and he supports legislation that says no child can be questioned without the consent of their parent or the presence of counsel. He also supports the proposal not to automatically waive children up to adult court for certain crimes, stating they should instead be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
You can view the entire conversation with Congressman Brown and all of the Attorney General candidates that spoke with the MSBA here.