Attorney General Anthony G. Brown met with MSBA Members for an informal talk at O’Brien’s Oyster Bar & Seafood Tavern on MSBA Day, Jan. 23, 2023. He acknowledged Natasha Dartigue, who was in attendance, and thanked her for the hard work as Maryland’s newly appointed Public Defender. The MSBA is honored that Brown and Dartigue are both Members of the association.
Brown highlighted some top priorities for the Office of the Attorney General — two that are related to appropriations and two involving grants of new authority.
The first priority he highlighted is obtaining greater resources and increased salaries for the employees of the Office of the Attorney General. He touted the fact that the Governor had already included a one grade increase in the salaries for OAG attorneys.
The second priority is increasing the office’s capacity to investigate and prosecute organized crime, including drug trafficking, gun trafficking, labor trafficking, human and sex worker trafficking, and organized retail crime. Noting that the number one issue that Marylanders raised with him during his campaign was safety, bar none, he expressed gratitude that the Governor’s budget honored his request to double the number of lawyers focused on organized crime.
He acknowledged, however, that “we are not going to investigate and prosecute our way to safer neighborhoods,” and emphasized that there needs to be greater investment in juvenile diversionary programs to address “the underlying needs and concerns and challenges that they face, whether it’s mental health, behavioral health, drug or alcohol, supporting families.” He cited studies that show it is less expensive to do that than to reincarcerate young people into adulthood and throughout the course of their lives.
Grants of New Authority
Brown explained that by dint of history the Maryland Office of Attorney General has no inherent, common law powers, and that all of the OAG’s authority must be granted by the State Assembly. He said he is seeking grants of new authority in two areas.
One grant of authority is to bring civil rights enforcement actions in the state of Maryland based on such characteristics as race, faith, identification, and orientation. He clarified that he sees no need to either modify the state’s civil rights laws or the operations of the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.
He said that the Commission does an excellent job obtaining relief for Marylanders in individual cases. But due to lack of resources, there remains a need to investigate whether an individual case is part of a broader, systemic problem. He emphasized that he would not want to undermine the Commission’s authority but instead he wants to work in tandem with the Commission.
The other grant of authority is to conduct pattern or practice investigations of police misconduct. He said his focus is on “signs of repeat misconduct in law enforcement, with the eye towards civil remedies, consent decrees.” Although the federal government undertakes this kind of action, he said he believes it should be handled by Maryland authorities in a thorough and swifter manner.
The MSBA is grateful for the time Attorney General Brown generously shared with our Members on MSBA Day, and we wish him success in his new role.
Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown (left) with Maryland Legal Aid Executive Director, Vicki Schultz and MSBA President, David Shapiro