Government for the People
MSBA Section of
State & Local Government
No. of Members
Ernest A. Crofoot
Karen Louise Henry
William R. Varga
State & Local Government
In August 2006, with the gubernatorial election still months away and the
minds of voters even further from a decision on potential candidates, MSBA's
State & Local Government Law Section took a proactive approach by holding an
open debate for the four Maryland Attorney General hopefuls. Two months and
seventeen days before the 2006 election, Republican Scott Rolle and Democrats
Doug Gansler, Stewart Sims and Tom Perez entered the University of Baltimore
School of Law prepared to offer their plans as the next Attorney General to
the awaiting public.
Though the title
"debate" was used, the event was configured by the Section as more of a forum,
allowing for free-flowing dialogue between the candidates, as opposed to a
Often referred to as
"the People's Lawyer," the position of Attorney General is, according to Gansler,
"akin to who you hire for your [personal] lawyer." With that in mind, Section
Chair Ernest Crofoot and his committed members organized the event, which drew
six news outlets, many area attorneys and a slew of University of Baltimore
law professors and students.
"The debate was orderly and intelligent," notes Crofoot. "I was quite pleased
the candidates responded very positively. [It] was the first one of its kind
"Since the MSBA makes a great effort to remain nonpartisan on political issues
and campaigns, it was very constructive to have the MSBA Section on State and
Local Government take the initiative to arrange a debate of all the candidates
for the Office of Maryland Attorney General," notes MSBA Executive Director
Paul V. Carlin. "I, like the other estimated 200 attendees, appreciated the
opportunity to see the candidates side by side and hear their proposed legal
solutions to Maryland's concerns."
Though the event was designed to be informative rather than proclaiming a "winner",
Gansler eventually won the post in the November election. In retrospect, Gansler
himself regards the August debate as a valuable lesson, noting that the open-dialogue
format, in which every participant's views and ideas were presented in a clear
and conscious fashion, helped him forge a new respect for his opponents while
expanding his own beliefs.
But voters and candidates were not the only ones to benefit from the high-profile
event. "Not only was [the event] well-attended, but it garnered a lot of respect
for the State Bar and our Section," says Crofoot.
For the last quarter-century, the Section has maintained a relatively low
profile within MSBA, though its dealings have had an irrefutably strong impact
on the law community, as its members have devoted a majority of their professional
careers to serving the public and each other through the Section. Currently,
the Section is preparing the framework for a service honor to be awarded to
a member that assists in advancing the state and local government components.
Furthermore, these devoted public employees allow themselves the opportunity
to better represent the community at large through the Section's State and
Local Government Institute, an event cosponsored by MICPEL, which is conducted
every 18 months. The daylong session discusses a variety of current issues
and processes that compose the daedal state and local government system.
"There are a number of peculiarities in the state and local government," remarks
Crofoot. "[The Section looks] to further the education and commentary of ideas
by practitioners in Maryland. A lot of [the members] do these jobs because
we enjoy them. You feel like you're doing something worthwhile."
Seldom basking in the limelight of the legal landscape, MSBA's State & Local
Government Law Section remains driven to aid and support our state's public