The Maryland Court of Appeals should name the Anne Arundel County state's attorney to investigate whether four Democratic state senators illegally tried to influence judges' decisions in a big redistricting case, state Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele said yesterday.
Steele made the request in a petition filed with the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. The petition accuses the senators of "a bald systematic effort to entice the judges of this court to participate in judicial misconduct."
Thomas V. Mike Miller and three other senators were identified by the court as having contacted judges to talk about legislative redistricting.
Steele said such contacts with judges should be condemned as "criminal contempt" and should trigger "a full and complete investigation."
David Paulson, a state Democratic spokesman, called Steele's petition "attack-style politics."
"We know what this is about, and the Republican Party had no shame," Paulson said. He said Steele "knows this is a charge that can't go very far because there is no crime."
The calls to the judges came as the court is weighing legal challenges to Gov. Parris N. Glendening's redistricting plan for the General Assembly. District lines are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts.
Miller and three other senators - Clarence W. Blount of Baltimore, Ida G. Ruben of Montgomery County and Ulysses Currie of Prince George's County - have been identified by the court as having spoken to judges about redistricting.
In every instance, the judges reported cutting off the conversations as soon as it became apparent the lawmakers wanted to discuss redistricting, and they said none of the contacts will influence their pending decisions.
The lawmakers said they don't believe they did anything wrong. In several cases, they said they were simply seeking information on how the legal process worked.
"The law in Maryland is quite clear," Paulson said. "The onus for ex parte communications is on the judge. It's the judge who has to say, 'This is improper.'"
Steele's petition says legal precedent establishes that efforts by nonparties to influence the court are considered contempt.