The governor will choose one of four finalists recommended by the county's Judicial Nominating Commission to fill the seat being vacated by county Circuit Court Judge J. Thomas Nissel.
The 13-member commission has selected local attorney Lewis S. Nippard, Circuit Court master of chancery Bernard A. Raum, deputy state attorney general Dennis M. Sweeney and county public defender Louis P. Willemin from a list of nine candidates seeking the judgeship.
The Circuit Court seat became available when Administrative Circuit Court Judge Nissel announced in October that he would step down Dec. 31.
Circuit Court Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. has been appointed administrative judge of the Circuit Court to replace Nissel, a 10-year veteran of the bench.
The commission, made up of six lawyers and seven lay members, interviewed the nine candidates on Monday before submitting their list of finalists to the governor.
"In general it's a great cross section of the county," said commission member Fred Silverstein, an Ellicott City attorney.
"We have young people who are relatively new to the area, people who have been here for a long period of time, some people who are practicing in Howard county, even one candidate who practices outside the county," said Silverstein. "They all have extremely impressive credentials."
Noticeably absent from the list was county District Court Judge Lenore R. Gelfman, appointed to the bench in the fall of 1989.
Gelfman received the highest rating of the nine candidates in a vote taken by 128 members of the Howard County Bar Association.
"Personally, I don't understand how a district court judge, even though she's only been on the bench for a year, who received more votes than anyone else, could not at least have had her name sent up to the governor," said Michael Weal, president of the Howard County Bar Association.
Behind Gelfman, Raum, Sweeney, Nippard and Willemin were the top vote-getters in the county bar association's referendum.
"I am as pleased as I could be with the other names; I expected all four of the other names to go up," Weal said. "But I thought Judge Gelfman's name would have been on the list, too."
Silverstein said the commission considered the results of the county bar association's vote in their selection process, as well as the recommendations of other legal organizations, including the Maryland Bar Association and the Women's Bar Association.
He said he couldn't comment on why Gelfman's name was not forwarded to the governor.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer will schedule separate interviews with each of the four candidates before making his decision.
Silverstein said he isn't sure when Schaefer will make his selection.