Naming of prosecutor, U.S. judges stirs attention

November 11, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Since the Democrats swept to power in last week's presidential election, speculation has intensified over the likely prospects to fill three vacant seats on the federal bench in Baltimore and to replace U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett when he steps down.

Those most frequently mentioned for the three judgeships by courthouse and congressional sources are Baltimore City Solicitor Neal M. Janey, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah K. Chasanow and Prince George's County State's Attorney Alexander Williams Jr.

"One certainly has to be flattered to be thought of so highly, but I haven't applied for anything," said Mr. Janey, 44, who said he is devoting his energies to running his office. "It's very early in the game. I'm still serving as city solicitor."

He would become the third black ever to be named to the U.S. District Court in Baltimore. At least one black and one woman are expected to be nominated to the 10-member bench.

Lynne A. Battaglia, an aide to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is rumored to be a clear front-runner to eventually replace the Republican-appointed U.S. attorney. Mr. Bennett said Monday that he plans to leave his post in August to make room for his Democratic-appointed successor.

Before going to work for Ms. Mikulski, Ms. Battaglia headed the Criminal Investigations Division in the office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who called her a good manager and "a good people person."

"What I liked most about Lynne was that in terms of prosecution, she understood the need to be very thorough but also to be very sensitive about how to use the prosecutorial arm," said Mr. Curran, explaining that she would wait until cases were solid before going to court. "Also, she wasn't afraid to go after complex cases."

Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms, 42, a former assistant U.S. attorney, also has been mentioned as a possible successor to Mr. Bennett on the strength of his reputation and his ties to local Democratic leaders.

President-elect Bill Clinton will nominate candidates for the federal bench and the U.S. attorney, who will be subject to FBI background checks and confirmation by the Senate.

But the top-ranking member of the congressional delegation in the president's party in each state traditionally gets to pick the nominees. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes is the state's senior senator.

A Sarbanes spokesman declined commdnt.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a strong Clinton supporter, will wield some influence in choosing at least one of the federal judges, according to sources. That is one reason why the names of Mr. Janey and Mr. Simms, close allies of the mayor, have emerged for federal posts.

Another power-broker is Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., who will lobby for at least one judicial nominee from the Washington suburbs, especially with the construction of a new courthouse in Greenbelt under way.

At least two federal judges will sit in the Southern Division courthouse when it opens in the summer of 1994, said U.S. District Court Clerk Joseph A. Haas.

Magistrate Judge Chasanow, 44, is frequently mentioned because of her reputation as having a masterful legal mind and because of her College Park address. She was appointed by the court in 1987 to serve an eight-year term as magistrate judge.

She would become only the second magistrate judge to be elevated to a life-term appointment as a federal judge in Maryland. The other was Judge Frederic N. Smalkin.

Mr. Williams, 44, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in the newly created Congressional district in suburban Washington, also could benefit because he lives in Prince George's County. He has served as the county's top prosecutor since January 1987.

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