Robert L. Karwacki, a circuit and appellate judge since 1973, was appointed yesterday to Maryland's highest court by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"It's a great delight to me," Judge Karwacki said from his Queen Anne's County home after being told of his appointment to the Court of Appeals, where he served as a law clerk 34 years ago. "It's comparable to making it into the big leagues in baseball -- that's the best of the best."
Judge Karwacki, 57, has been an at-large member of the Court of Special Appeals since 1984 and served on Baltimore's Circuit Court for 11 years before that -- including six as administrative judge.
His public service also includes two years as an assistant attorney general in the early 1960s and presidency of Baltimore's school board from February 1970 to December 1971. He has been a member of several government commissions and was chairman of the Juvenile Justice Commission in 1975.
Judge Karwacki was one of three nominees selected by the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission, which is composed of lawyers elected by their peers and lay members named by the governor.
He will fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge William H. Adkins II, 65, a member of the court since 1986.
The other nominees were Salisbury lawyer K. King Burnett, 55, and Wicomico County Circuit Judge Alfred T. Truitt Jr., 53, a lifelong Eastern Shore resident whose nomination was dogged by ethical questions concerning his prosecution of a murder case 21 years ago.
Paul Schurick, a spokesman for Governor Schaefer, declined to comment yesterday on the specific reasons for selection or rejection of any of the nominees.
"The governor reviewed the records and qualifications of all the candidates thoroughly and selected the candidate that the governor felt was most qualified for the position," Mr. Schurick said.
The Court of Appeals is composed of seven members, two from Baltimore and one from each of Maryland's five other appellate circuits.
Judge Karwacki, who lives in Chester, will represent the 1st Appellate Circuit, which covers all the Eastern Shore from Cecil County to Somerset County.
"Before I moved here 5 1/2 years ago, we always had a summer place on the Eastern Shore for the 20 years prior to that," Judge Karwacki said.
His appointment, which requires confirmation by the state Senate, would last until the next statewide general election in 1992.
Maryland law requires that appeals court judges seek a full 10-year term by running on their records, without opposition, for continuation in office.
Judge Karwacki graduated from Mount St. Joseph High School in 1950 and received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Maryland. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1956 and --except for a two-year leave to work for the attorney general -- was a lawyer in the firm of Miles & Stockbridge from 1957 until his appointment to the bench in 1973.