Md. judge: Neither nominee has right to disputed delegate seat

WASHINGTON – The fight over a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates pitted a disgraced former delegate against a man with a criminal past who was selected to replace her.

A Prince George’s County Judge ruled Wednesday that neither former Delegate Tiffany Alston nor Gregory Hall, a former drug dealer, have a right to a disputed seat in District 24, which represents a portion of Prince George’s County.

In his ruling, Judge C. Philip Nichols wrote “The circumstances of this case do little for the good name and reputation of our state and even less for our county.”

The judge found that despite Alston’s arguments, the District 24 seat was indeed vacant and her removal from office should stand.

Alston and her attorney Raouf Abdullah had argued that because she was given probation before judgement in her case involving misuse of state funds, Alston should be allowed to get her old seat back.

Alston had been convicted of misuse of funds for taking $800 in state funds and using it to pay an employee of her law firm.

Nichols likewise ruled against Hall, who pleaded guilty in 1992 to possession of a handgun in connection with a shooting and who readily admits he was a drug dealer two decades ago.

Hall argued that he had a right to the seat because the Prince George’s Democratic Central Committee had submitted his name to Governor Martin O’Malley. But Nichols ruled that because O’Malley never finalized the appointment, Hall had no claim to the office.

Nichols’ ruling sends the messy fight over who should replace Alston right back to the bitterly split Democratic Central Committee. And the move could give O’Malley some added leeway.

Under one interpretation of Maryland law, if the committee withdraws one name, it loses its right to make a second binding submission to the governor.

Asked about that, and whether it opens the door to the governor making his own selection, O’Malley’s spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said the Governor’s Office is studying the ruling.

Guillory says the governor is pleased by the judge’s decision.

Hall intends to appeal the judge’s ruling, according to his attorney Walter Green.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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