Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said Friday that he will strive to strike a difficult balance between vigorously defending environmental laws while not discouraging chicken farmers on the DelMarVa Peninsula from remaining in the state.
He also said that Maryland cannot go it alone on protecting the environment, adding he will meet with his counterparts in Virginia and Delaware to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
“Feeding operations have to follow the law,” Frosh said. But without the cooperation of the two other states, Maryland farmers can “move the farm five miles away” to a different state.
“We run the risk of raising townhouses instead of corn and soybeans” without such cooperation, Frosh said at the annual Annapolis Summit, hosted by radio host Marc Steiner and co-sponsored by The Daily Record.
Frosh also fielded questions on a range of topics, including consumer protection, transparency in government, police-involved shootings and gun control.
On the consumer-protection front, Frosh said scams are “rampant” and that he will aim to prevent and prosecute those directed at the elderly. He noted that his 94-year-old mother has received unsolicited telephone calls from people making unbelievable claims.
Frosh’s remarks followed those by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan at the Annapolis Summit, held at the Gov. Calvert House.
“That’s democracy for you,” Frosh said, when asked about being a self-proclaimed “proud Democrat” working with a Republican governor.
He noted the attorney general serves as legal counsel for the GOP-led executive branch agencies, the Democratic-led General Assembly and the non-partisan Judiciary.
Frosh and the governor have pledged to work together, with Frosh referring to Hogan as “the client” and Hogan praising Frosh for his “grassroots campaigns to change Maryland for the better” and belief in bipartisan cooperation. And they share the bond of both having been considered underdogs during the campaign for the offices they now hold.
“I also didn’t check my beliefs when I was elected attorney general,” Frosh said. “Sometimes these views will conflict with the governor and the General Assembly.”
Fielding a question about the recent police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York, Frosh said he would ensure that Maryland law enforcement maintains strong guidelines to protect the rights of citizens. Grand juries in Missouri and New York declined to indict the officers in the two fatal incidents.
Frosh, who served in the Maryland legislature for 27 years, said he has and will continue to oppose “stand your ground” legislation that would permit Marylanders to use deadly force rather than leave if they believe their life is in danger.
“I think it’s a law that leads to more violence,” Frosh said, adding that individuals have a right to self-defense in response to violence, particularly in their homes.
He cited the February 2012 sidewalk killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, the head of his neighborhood-watch group, who claimed self-defense under the state’s Stand Your Ground law. A jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder in July 2013.
As attorney general, Frosh said, he will also “vigorously” defend Maryland’s gun control law, which is being challenged in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by gun-rights advocates. Frosh was lead sponsor the statute, the 2013 Firearm Safety Act, when he chaired the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Frosh, a former civil litigator who resigned from his Bethesda law firm upon becoming attorney general, said he has not decided if he will argue the Firearm Safety Act case himself. Arguments are scheduled for the week of March 24 before the Richmond, Va.-based 4th Circuit.
Both Frosh and the gun-rights advocates have vowed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if they lose in the 4th Circuit.
The gun-rights advocates, including Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association Inc., argue that the law’s ban on assault-style weapons and ammunition magazines exceeding 10 rounds violates the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
“The basis of their claim is that it’s illegal for the state to ban military style assault weapons,” Frosh said. “I think that is way off base.”
The state law “makes sense [and] will make people safer and save lives,” he added.
U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake in Baltimore last year upheld the weapons ban and ammunition limit as constitutional restrictions on gun possession to achieve the state’s compelling goal of public safety. The advocates then appealed to the 4th Circuit.