Montgomery County is very fortunate to have one of the finest group of Circuit Court judges in the State. Because the Maryland Constitution still includes a provision that Circuit Court judges appointed by the governor have to stand for election at the next general election, this year the four judges appointed to the Court since the last election will be on the ballot for the primary election on June 24.
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What is unusual about this year’s election is that a challenger, who is not a judge, has paid the $50 filing fee to be on the ballot.
The Circuit Court is the trial court in the County that hears the most serious criminal and civil cases, as well as family court matters like divorce and child custody. To become a judge on this court, candidates must go through a grueling process to assure that only the most qualified candidates are eligible for appointment by the governor. Candidates must submit a detailed application, and then go through a series of interviews. In Montgomery County, this includes being interviewed by the Bar Association of Montgomery County, which also submits candidate’s names for a vote among its members as to who they endorse among numerous applicants.
Candidates may also be interviewed by specialty bar associations including the J. Franklin Bourne Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar, and the Women’s Bar Association. These Bar Associations submit recommendations to the Trial Court’s Nominating Commission, made up of lawyers and lay persons, who investigate the candidates and then interview them. The Commission submits a list of approved judicial nominees, from which the Governor appoints judges after conducting his own interview process.
Judges Gary E. Bair, Audrey A. Creighton, Nelson W. Rupp, Jr., and Joan E. Ryon are the judges who made it through this process to be appointed to the Bench. All of them are highly qualified outstanding jurists, who have been endorsed by the Maryland State Bar, Bar Association of Montgomery County, and numerous government officials. The problem for these judges is that the ballot does not identify them with the word “judge,” so that it is up to the voters to identify the one candidate who is not actually a judge and seeks to bypass the selection process and hope that voter confusion will allow him to win one of the four positions in the primary election.
In the coming weeks in this space I will talk more about these fine sitting judges, in the hope that the voters of Montgomery County will realize who they are and vote to keep them on the bench.