Baltimore’s top lawyer Jim Shea will retire early next year, the Scott administration announced Thursday. He’ll be replaced by Deputy Solicitor Ebony Thompson, who’s been serving as Mayor Scott’s interim chief of staff the last few months.

In an administration dotted with high-profile departures, Shea’s stands out.

He served as the managing partner and chairman of Venable LLP, the largest law firm in Maryland, for 22 years, before stepping down in February 2017 to run for governor. He raised the mayor’s profile in a big way when he selected Scott, then a councilman, as his running mate, though the pair placed a distant third in the Democratic primary.

Many top officials Scott brought into his administration came from outside of Baltimore — such as City Administrator Chris Shorter, who was hired from Austin and is set to depart for a new job in Virginia at the end of the year, and Department of Public Works director Jason Mitchell, who most recently worked in Oakland. Baltimore politicos were not surprised when he named Shea City Hall’s top lawyer.

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He replaced interim city solicitor Dana P. Moore, who filled the role after the retirement of Andre Davis, who was appointed by former mayor Catherine Pugh. Shea’s appointment was largely viewed as a get for the administration, given the successes of his tenure at Venable and his prominence in the legal community, from chairing the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and the Empower Baltimore Management Corporation.

Most departures, from Shorter’s to those of former chief of staff Michael Huber and former Deputy Mayor Sunny Schnitzer, were not immediately followed with swift replacements.

In a statement, Shea said that before he entered City Hall, he and Scott agreed that he would serve for two years and that he’s delighted that Thompson will replace him.

“I am confident that Baltimore is in good hands with Mayor Scott and his team at the helm,” he said.

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Scott described Thompson as the ultimate team player in a statement.

“I’m excited to see her continue to lead in this new role and look forward to her contributions continuing to make us a stronger and more effective administration,” he said.

Thompson, a Baltimore native, graduated from City College High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, a master’s in business administration from American InterContinental University and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Thompson worked in Venable’s commercial litigation group from 2013 to 2022 before joining City Hall in January. Her cases involved contract disputes, real estate litigation, regulatory litigation, insolvency proceedings, employment law, products liability actions and other commercial matters, according to a news release from Scott’s communications team.

In a statement, Thompson said her journey serves as evidence that providing access, investment and opportunity to city youth “can go a long way in motivating them to set roots here and become productive and contributing members of society dedicated to making Baltimore the best it can be.”

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“I am honored to continue to support Mayor Scott’s vision,” she added.

Emily Sullivan covers Baltimore City Hall. She joined the Banner after three years at WYPR, where she won multiple awards for her radio stories on city politics and culture. She previously reported for NPR’s national airwaves, focusing on business news and breaking news. 

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