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Baltimore’s new city solicitor is planning to continue pursuing cases and issues that defined her work as deputy and acting city solicitor, including implementing blockchain technology to address the city’s vacant housing issues.
The Baltimore City Council confirmed Ebony Thompson as Baltimore’s city solicitor on Monday, making her the first woman and first openly LGBTQ city solicitor to hold the role. The council confirmed Thompson as Baltimore City’s next city solicitor in a 6-0 vote, with one councilmember absent from the meeting.
Thompson served as acting city solicitor since January 2023, assuming the role after former City Solicitor Jim Shea announced his retirement. Previously, Thompson joined the Baltimore City Department of Law as deputy city solicitor in January 2022 following her work in private practice at Venable LLP.
During her tenure, Thompson has introduced the use of blockchain technology for recordation of land titles, land valuation, permit tracking and the use of smart contracts to simplify the process for purchasing vacant properties and incentivizing investment in Baltimore City.
“We’re building that, and it’s the first time this emerging technology has ever been used in the country to combat vacant housing,” Thompson said of the blockchain technology.
In addition to the use of blockchain, Thompson said, she plans to continue pursuing opioid litigation, working to decrease the number of Maryland’s homicides and moving into full compliance with the consent decree.
“I just want to thank the people that have gotten me here,” Thompson said of her confirmation. “I believe it’s through intentional investment.”
Thompson said she worked as an intern at the Baltimore City Department of Law during her junior year at Baltimore City College High School through the Baltimore City Law Links Internship program, which introduced her to the legal profession. Thompson described her trajectory, from intern to city solicitor, as a “full-circle moment.”
“It’s the intentional investment and such a historic moment as our first woman to serve (as city solicitor),” Thompson said. “As a Black woman, it signifies the investment that the city has made in students.”
Thompson served as acting city solicitor instead of immediately attaining confirmation as the permanent city solicitor due to a provision in the Baltimore City charter that requires the city solicitor to be a member of the bar for 10 years. Thompson reached that mark this year.
As deputy and acting city solicitor, Thompson has advanced Mayor Brandon Scott’s legislative agenda in the Maryland General Assembly and has worked to address Baltimore’s vacant housing issues.
“Ebony Thompson is one of the best legal minds and most dedicated public servants that our city has to offer,” Scott said in a statement. “She is an invaluable member of our team, a trailblazer, and I am beyond thrilled to have her as our fully-confirmed city solicitor.”
Thompson said she is particularly proud of her work to address the city’s squeegee workers, helping to develop a plan that reduced crimes related to squeegee work by more than 85%.
“I just thought it was phenomenal where we’re actually collaborating with business owners, squeegee workers themselves, nonprofits and educators, and we move beyond just trying to move them out of sight in an area of the city that has been traditionally linked to prosperity,” Thompson said. “We developed a comprehensive plan that protected all of our residents and at the same time promoted public safety.”
But something Thompson said the public might not know about her work — that she is equally proud of — is her introduction of a writing workshop for college-bound students following the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision last June declaring race cannot be a factor in college admission decisions.
After reaching out to both of Maryland’s law school deans, Thompson sat down with college-bound students and worked with them on essay writing, developing a workshop that would later be distributed to city high school students.
“It was probably one of the most impactful things, because we felt that that opinion would create a chilling effect where (students) wouldn’t want to apply (to college),” Thompson said. “We tried to counter that.”