June 24 is primary day, and early voting has already begun in Montgomery County. As discussed in this space in recent weeks, included on the ballot are four sitting Circuit Court judges who must run for election because of provisions of the Maryland Constitution.
It is important that we understand why these judges have to run, and why the sitting judge principal of retaining these Judges is critical to the administration of justice in this County.
Article IV of the Constitution says that Maryland judges shall be selected from lawyers admitted to practice in this State, and “who are most distinguished for integrity, wisdom and sound legal knowledge.” To help make sure that the most qualified judges are selected, Section 5 says that Circuit Court judges when a vacancy occurs the Governor shall appoint “a person duly qualified to fill said office,” but he or she only stays a Judge until the next general election. When such elections come up, the judges names appear in alphabetical order without any indication of who has been through the rigorous process to become a Circuit Court judge.
This means that our sitting judges have to campaign like any other person on a ballot. However, a judge has to abide by the Code of Judicial Conduct. This includes a prohibition against the judge making any public comment on pending or impending cases the judge may hear. The Bar Association of Montgomery County and most lawyers have rallied to support the sitting judge principal that these judges who have been recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission and have experience on the bench should be retained, and why you will see many of us working the polls to make sure the voters know who the sitting judges are.
Judges Nelson Rupp, Jr., Gary E. Bair, Joan E. Ryon and Audrey Creighton are the sitting judges. Please make sure to see one of us at the polls for a sample ballot to make sure you cast your vote to retain our judges on the Bench.