A way out

October 04, 1990

Happily, the issue of race does not often intrude into politics in Maryland; unhappily, the area where it does most frequently intrude is in the election of judges. At the moment there is a campaign taking place in which four candidates are competing for three Baltimore city circuit judgeships. The incumbent sitting judges -- Ellen L. Hollander, Richard T. Rombro and John C. Themelis -- are white; the challenger -- Paul A. Smith -- happens to be black. Inevitably, race has become a major consideration in the campaign.

There is, however, a way out of this thicket. By all accounts, Smith, who is presently a district court judge aspiring to move to a higher level in the judiciary, could be appointed by Governor Schaefer to the vacancy created on the city's circuit bench by the recent retirement of Judge Mary Arabian. This would allow Smith to withdraw from the election contest, and the three sitting judges -- all persons of demonstrated ability -- would then be home free, relieved of the necessity of soliciting funds and campaigning for their jobs like legislators.

No doubt Governor Schaefer is concerned that such an 11th-hour appointment could smack of playing politics with the judiciary. But the reality is, through no fault of the governor, judges are involved in politics, and the appointment of Judge Arabian's successor must be made, so why not now rather than next week or even after the election? Moreover, by fortunate coincidence there is a second vacancy on the city's circuit bench -- a new judgeship -- which the governor could fill from the list of able nominees now on his desk. An expeditious appointment would be a way out of this particular political thicket.

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