Maryland’s top law enforcement officer, State Attorney General Douglas Gansler, issued an opinion on the question of whether Maryland could legally recognize same-sex marriages that are performed out-of-state in places where gay marriage is legal.
In response to Gansler’s opinion, Delegate Don Dwyer (R-District 31) said, Gansler usurped the General Assembly’s powers by offering a new opinion on same-sex marriage even though a 2004 opinion by a different Attorney General reached a different conclusion. Delegate Dwyer stated he would look into initiating impeachment proceedings against Gansler for violating the Maryland State Constitution.
Here’s where it gets interesting. House Speaker Mike Busch said he would rule Delegate Dwyer’s impeachment charges out of order if they are presented on the House floor. Speaker Busch said he has an obligation to following the legal advice provided by Dan Friedman, counsel to the General Assembly. Actually, Speaker Busch has an obligation to uphold his oath of office to support the Maryland Constitution. The advice provided by Friedman is a court of law is the only method of redress for Gansler’s actions. Friedman cited his own book on the Maryland constitution as the basis for his advice to Speaker Busch. There’s a certain self-serving arrogance underlying Friedman's advice, but that's a separate issue.
Article 5, Section 1 of the Maryland Constitution pertains to the Judiciary, and more specifically to the Attorney General. The section states “There shall be an Attorney-General elected by the qualified voters of the State, on general ticket, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November, nineteen hundred and fifty-eight, and on the same day, in every fourth year thereafter, who shall hold his office for four years from the time of his election and qualification, and until his successor is elected and qualified, and shall be re-eligible thereto, and shall be subject to removal for incompetency, willful neglect of duty or misdemeanor in office, on conviction in a Court of Law (amended by Chapter 99, Acts of 1956, ratified Nov. 6, 1956).” [Emphasis added.]
I read this as a set of OR conditions where any of these are the basis for removal from office. Therefore, the Attorney-General can be removed for incompetency, OR for willful neglect of duty or misdemeanor in office, OR on conviction in a Court of Law.
In my opinion, the question is whether Attorney General Gansler violated any of these three provisions. This section does not address what entity or body is responsible for initiating proceedings to remove Gansler from office. Hypothetically, if Gansler indeed violated these provisions what are the procedural steps to remove him from office?
According to Speaker Mike Busch, and based upon Friedman’s advice, Delegate Dwyer must pursue this in the Court system. Practically, this makes no sense. You must ask the Attorney General’s office or the Attorney General himself, to file some type of legal proceedings to remove himself from office. Speaker Busch’s assertion is equivalent to allowing a criminal to decide whether he should be tried for his crime. What do you think the criminal is going to do? He would decide not to pursue it. So, Speaker Busch owes the citizens of Maryland a better explanation. Speaker Busch’s action gives the appearance that he wants to sweep the issue under the rug to protect a fellow Democrat.
I believe the appropriate remedy is provided in Article 3, Section 26 of the Maryland Constitution. Once it has been determined that the Attorney General has violated any of the three provisions for removal of office as specified under Article 5, Section I then the responsibility for impeachment falls upon the House of Delegates.
Article 3, Section 26 of the Maryland Constitution states “The House of Delegates shall have the sole power of impeachment in all cases; but a majority of all the members elected must concur in the impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried by the Senate, and when sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath, or affirmation, to do justice according to the law and evidence; but no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the Senators elected.” [Emphasis Added.]
In conclusion, House Speaker Mike Busch is out order. Speaker Busch’s only obligation is to uphold the oath he took to defend the Maryland Constitution. Speaker Busch was elected to office to serve the citizens of Maryland. Speaker Busch is our servant. Speaker Busch works for the citizens of Maryland. The citizens demand you allow Delegate Dwyer’s impeachment proceedings to begin.