Ebony Thompson confirmed as Baltimore’s first female solicitor

Ebony Thompson, Baltimore’s first female solicitor, was confirmed Monday by the Baltimore City Council, making Thompson permanent in the role she has held for the last year.

The council voted unanimously in favor of Thompson, who joined the Baltimore City Law Department as the deputy solicitor in January 2022. Thompson has served as acting solicitor since January 2023 when then-Solicitor Jim Shea retired.

During a confirmation hearing last week, members of the council were effusive in their praise for Thompson, who is a Baltimore native, a military veteran and an attorney with experience in private practice.

“In your role as acting solicitor I think you’ve led with nothing but professionalism and, I think, a vision for what the department can be,” said Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, one of six committee members who voted in favor of recommending Thompson.

“I’m an emphatic yes,” Councilwoman Odette Ramos said.

Thompson’s confirmation as solicitor was delayed because she was not yet legally qualified for the job when she was appointed. Baltimore’s charter requires solicitors to be members of the Maryland State Bar Association who have practiced for no less than 10 years. Barred in December 2013, Thompson was just shy of that benchmark when she became acting solicitor.

During her confirmation hearing, Ronald Weich, dean of the law school at the University of Baltimore, called Thompson a “star litigator” whom he admired for leaving lucrative work in private practice for public service. Thompson is a graduate of the law school.

Thompson remained acting “only because the drafters of the charter couldn’t imagine a young lawyer as brilliant, capable and ready to lead as Ebony Thompson,” Weich said. Thompson is 45.

Baltimore’s solicitor is paid $245,000. The salary was increased by an act of the council in 2023.

The daughter of a city school teacher and an electrician, Thompson was raised in Northwest Baltimore and graduated from Baltimore City College High School. During high school, she was an intern for the city’s Law Department.

“That I am now leading the very department that gave me my start is a full circle moment and a testament to the importance of intentional investment in our students,” Thompson told the City Council on Thursday.

Thompson earned a degree from Brown University and was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. She earned a Master of Business Administration degree from American InterContinental University.

From 2013 to 2022, Thompson worked for the law firm Venable, where she specialized in real estate and mergers and acquisitions. While at Venable, Thompson took a course on blockchain technology, which later inspired her to spearhead a program announced last year to use blockchain to catalog Baltimore’s vacant properties.

During her remarks to the council last week, Thompson said she was proud of her work to address the city’s squeegee workers following a deadly clash in July 2022. Baltimore leaders instituted a two-pronged plan that barred the practice of squeegeeing windows for money at some city intersections, but also extended services and employment programs to youths who squeegee.

“Despite numerous calls for rounding squeegee workers up, we stood firm against unconstitutional practices to address the issue,” Thompson said.

In addition to being the first woman to hold the city’s solicitor position, Thompson is also the city’s first openly gay solicitor. She has three daughters and told members of the council she practices karate in her spare time.