Retain the judges

October 23, 1990

In the general election two weeks from today the names of three state appellate judges will appear on the ballot in what is called a "retention election." They will not be opposed by other candidates; the question will be simply, should the judges be retained, or should they be turned out of office?

This procedure was designed as a good compromise between lifetime appointment (as in the case of federal judges) and periodic election (as in the case of many state judges). The system has worked well, and ordinarily we could expect any judge who had not committed some egregious act of personal or judicial misconduct to be retained.

But these are not ordinary times. As our adept political correspondents Germond & Witcover reported in The Evening Sun yesterday, there is a wave of "anti-incumbency" now sweeping the nation. For evidence of this phenomenon we need only peruse the full-page advertisement appearing on page D9 of yesterday's Evening Sun. In the ad (which appeared in many other newspapers across the country), ordinary citizen Joe Gargan of Tampa, Fla., urged voters everywhere to defeat their incumbent congressional representatives.

It is not likely that most voters in Maryland or elsewhere will actually vote in such a mindless fashion, but all the same, we cannot ignore the fact that a powerful anti-incumbent impulse has been set loose in the land.

This being so, in an election which ordinarily draws little notice, we urge voters to pay special attention to the judicial retention election this year and vote YES to retain Chief Judge Robert Murphy of the Court of Appeals and Judges Robert F. Fischer and Dale R. Cathell on the Court of Special Appeals. All are men of demonstrated competence and ability.

(Because of the method of districted designation of judicial seats in Maryland, Murphy's name will be on the ballot only in Baltimore County and Harford County; Cathell's name will appear on the ballot only in Eastern Shore counties; and Fischer's name will appear on the ballot in all counties.)

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