Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh discussed the role of his office and shared his priorities at a recent Greater Baltimore Committee Newsmaker Breakfast.
“We strive to provide good service to our clients and to the folks who interact with our clients,” said Frosh, whose office provides legal counsel to Governor Larry Hogan, all executive agencies, the Maryland General Assembly and the judiciary. “We want to give our clients the right answer and we want to do it in a timely fashion.”
Frosh addressed more than 35 members and guests of the Greater Baltimore Committee at the Newsmaker Breakfast series event on November 9 at The Center Club.
Frosh was elected Attorney General of Maryland on November 4, 2014, and was sworn into office on January 6, 2015.
Prior to his current position, he served for 28 years in the Maryland General Assembly – eight years in the House of Delegates and 20 years in the State Senate, where he was chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee for 12 years.
In addition to providing counsel to Maryland’s government, the attorney general’s office also serves as “the people’s lawyer,” Frosh said.
“We stand up for folks who can’t stand up for themselves,” he said. “We protect state government.”
Frosh told attendees that his office currently has several key areas of focus:
In August Frosh’s office announced guidelines when it comes to racial profiling for law enforcement agencies across the state.
“We told them that racial profiling, ethnic profiling, religious profiling is illegal, unconstitutional and inappropriate for use by law enforcement,” Frosh said. “We give examples of where profiling – identifying suspects by race, ethnicity, etc. – is appropriate. It is appropriate if you have a legitimate lead or credible intelligence but not to go out and stop and search everyone of a certain race or ethnicity.”
The attorney general’s office is “urging law enforcement agencies across the state to adopt our guidelines as part of their general orders,” Frosh said. “We were the first state in the country to do this. We’re going to do everything we can to train law enforcement agencies, press them to adopt our guidelines as our general orders.”
In February Maryland joined a multistate task force to combat illegal sales and distribution of heroin.
Prosecutors in the Maryland Office of the Attorney General joined their counterparts in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine as part of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Heroin Task Force which is working to tackle the heroin crisis, particularly in the Northeast United States.
“It’s not a problem that is confined to any county or state,” Frosh said. “It’s an epidemic in the United States, all over the country. We are trying to use our law enforcement tools to interrupt the flow of heroin.”
Over the past four years, heroin deaths in Maryland have doubled, Frosh said, and emergency room visits for overdoses have tripled.
Frosh said the price of heroin has “dropped precipitously” and needs to be driven up. In addition, the drug is three times as pure as it once was, he said.
“It’s extraordinarily dangerous,” Frosh said, “and it’s something we have to pay a great deal of attention to.”
Frosh’s legislative initiative during the 2015 Maryland General Assembly session was to expand the false claims act. He sought to have it expanded to all areas of government.
“Honest businesses suffer when there are businesses that defraud their customers, defraud the state government and obviously the taxpayers suffer when we aren’t getting our monies worth,” he said.
His office also fights fraud against consumers.
“Our office, last fiscal year, had about 9,000 folks saying they were having problems with businesses and we were able to help them,” he said. “We got about $12 million back for them for monies they were entitled to.”