Term limits for the Montgomery County Council will be on the ballot next month. After losing in the Montgomery County Circuit Court, the No on B team appealed to the state’s highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals. Yesterday, the Court denied certiorari in Moore v. Montgomery County Board of Elections, meaning that they decided not to even hear the appeal.
The decision surprised the No on B team, as they believed that they had strong arguments. Moreover, the circuit court judge had been overturned twice before on cases involving major ballot initiatives. Attached is the brief written for No on B by Jonathan Shurberg, so you can assess the strength of the argument and whether the Court of Appeals made the right call.
Attorney Jonathan Shurberg made the argument for No on B–the group fighting term limits–but the judge wasn’t inclined to buy because (1) he doesn’t think he’ll rule that the Board of Elections improperly validated the signatures, and (2) they didn’t have enough evidence to support their case.
No on B has over the weekend to continue to hone their argument and put together their evidence. But I’d expect council term limits to go to the voters. Meanwhile, Bethesda Beat reports that Attorney Robin Ficker is still Robin Ficker:
Ficker, who fought for and won the right to be a defendant in the case Wednesday, arrived nearly two hours after the hearing started. He told Greenberg he needed to leave at 3 p.m. to be at CNN studios in Washington where he was taping “Nancy Grace.”
This is after Ficker fought to become a co-defendant in the case. He’s laser focused on press attention. Not so much on the case.
Today, at 9:30am, the Circuit Court will hear arguments as to whether No on B’s case against the referendum on term limits can go forward. The argument is purely about whether the proposal has met the legal requirements to be placed on the ballot–not the constitutionality of the referendum.
No on B’s argument rests on two points: (1) Robin Ficker marked up the petition pages and made changes before their submission to the Board of Elections in violation of the law, and (2) the petition lacks sufficient number of legal signatures. Having checked 28% of the pages so far, they have found 63% of the number of flaws required to knock the referendum off the ballot.
Weighing heavily on the pro-referendum side will be that the Board of Elections–the main defendant in this case–has certified the petition has a sufficient number of valid signatures. The judge could well regard the Board as more neutral party, as their job here is to carry out a bureaucratic process, not to advocate. At the same time, neutral does not immunize them against legal errors–and they may not have known of Ficker’s changes.
Robin Ficker, the petition’s proponent, has received permission from the Court to be an additional defendant. Whether Ficker’s brand of obnoxious vocal advocacy aids the case remains to be seen. While bringing strong support for the referendum, his presence could undermine any view of the Board as a more neutral party.
There is also the little underlying problem that Ficker is a walking advertisement against his own proposal. After all, the voters managed to unseat the Republican after his one and only term in the House of Delegates. While irrelevant to the case, it isn’t the sort of background that aids the pro-term limits side.
Democrat Jonathan Shurberg, a former candidate for delegate in District 20 who now blogs and has remained active in County politics, will serve as the attorney for No on B. While No on B aspires to pay him, they have not raised the funds so far.