. . . and on the Shore

September 29, 1990

Judicial politics of another sort are at work on the Eastern Shore. Instead of race being the key factor, roots are.

In August, Court of Appeals Judge William H. Adkins II retired. The state constitution requires that one judge come from each of five appellate circuits and two from the sixth, which is Baltimore City. Judge Adkins was a resident of Talbot County, in the First Appellate Circuit, which is composed of the nine Eastern Shore counties.

The appellate judicial nominating commission recommended three names to the governor: Salisbury attorney K. King Burnett, Court of Special Appeals Judge Robert Karwacki of Queen Anne's County and Wicomico Circuit Court Judge Alfred T. Truitt Jr. All have fine reputations, but some Eastern Shoremen object to Judge Karwacki because he is not an "authentic Shoreman," as House Speaker Clayton Mitchell Jr. put it.

Del. Norman Conway of Salisbury has written Gov. William Donald Schaefer urging him to appoint either Judge Truitt or Mr. Burnett, because they are shore natives. Judge Karwacki was born in Baltimore and moved across the bay in 1985. This argument reminds us of the true story of the woman who was born in Baltimore, taken to Kent County by her parents at two weeks of age, lived there till her death at 97 -- and got an obituary in the local paper headlined: "Baltimore Woman Passes Away."

Judge Karwacki's five years on the shore qualify him according to the letter and the spirit of the constitution for this vacancy on the Court of Appeals. He is highly competent. Where someone was born should not be a qualification or disqualification for a judgeship. (For the record, Judge Adkins was born in New York City, not the shore.)

The requirement that judges of appellate courts be residents of a specific circuit makes little sense. Presidents long ago gave up the notion that the U.S. Supreme Court must have a geographical balance. Maryland's Court of Appeals interprets statutes that mean the same thing everywhere in the state. No region is "different" any longer. The only qualifications that count for judges are their intelligence, legal training and judicial temperament.

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