Politics halts Quarles, Armentrout on way to bench

December 27, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

William Quarles tells his friends about meeting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for lunch one afternoon.

Mr. Quarles, a black Republican, had seen his nomination for a federal judgeship vanish when the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to move on his confirmation before it adjourned in October -- a fate that also befell federal prosecutor Katharine J. Armentrout.

"I had a worse time with the Judiciary Committee than you did," Mr. Quarles told Justice Thomas, whocame under fire from some committee members during his confirmation hearings after sexual harassment allegations by a former staffer.

Mr. Quarles, a partner in the Baltimore law firm Venable, Baetjer & Howard, laughs about the story.

But publicly he doesn't discuss the high of being chosen for a prestigious position or the low of watching his appointment sink with President Bush's re-election hopes.

In the topsy-turvy world of politics, Mr. Quarles realizes that he could again become a candidate for a federal judgeship -- although it would be unlikely in the next four years under a Democratic president.

"My preference is to let it just fade away," he said. In the last weeks of the Senate's session, 50 federal judicial nominees awaited confirmation, but time permitted only 16 to move forward. Mr. Quarles and Mrs. Armentrout weren't among them.

When they were recommended to President Bush by Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, late last year, time didn't seem to be a problem. Mr. Bush was ahead in the polls. If Congress adjourned before confirming them, the president could renominate them in 1993.

As president, Bill Clinton will fill more than 100 vacant federal judgeships. Among those mentioned as strong candidates for the three vacancies in U.S. District Court in Baltimore are U.S. Magistrate Deborah K. Chasanow and Baltimore City Solicitor Neal M. Janey.

Mr. Quarles and Mrs. Armentrout, both Republicans, likely won't be appointed by Mr. Clinton.

"I never really set my heart on having it actually happen," says Mrs. Armentrout, 51. Mrs. Armentrout graduated from the University of Maryland Law School at age 42. She joined Venable after law school, then became an assistant U.S. attorney.

She has a high-level position as the attorney coordinator for the federal drug enforcement program that goes after large-scale drug dealers and money launderers in the mid-Atlantic region.

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