Politics halts 2 on the way to federal bench Quarles, Armentrout denied judgeships

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 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, who came under fire from some committee members during his confirmation hearings after sexual harassment allegations against him by a former staffer.

Mr. Quarles, a partner in the high-powered 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.

"My preference is to let it just fade away," the Baltimore native says.

In the topsy-turvy world of politics, Mr. Quarles realizes that he could again become a candidate for a federal judgeship.

Mr. Quarles and Mrs. Armentrout got caught in a numbers game during the closing weeks of the Senate's session. In September, there were 50 federal judicial nominees waiting to be confirmed by the Senate, but time permitted only 16 to move forward.

When they were recommended to President Bush by Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a Maryland Republican, late last year, time didn't seem to be a problem. Although the backlog of Republican nominees was growing, the president was comfortably ahead in the polls. If Congress adjourned before confirming them, the president could simply renominate them in 1993.

Now President-elect Bill Clinton will fill more than 100 vacant federal judgeships across the nation. Among those mentioned as strong candidates for the three vacancies in U.S. District Court in Baltimore are U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah K. Chasanow and Baltimore City Solicitor Neal M. Janey.

Mr. Quarles and Mrs. Armentrout, both Republicans, almost certainly will not be appointed by Mr. Clinton, who is expected to select members of his own party.

"Everybody else calls me a terrible pessimist. I never really set my heart on having it happen," says Mrs. Armentrout, 51, who cringed when people greeted her with "Your Honor" while her nomination was still alive.

"Maybe it's a way of self-protecting. I knew by June that this wasn't going to happen."

Mrs. Armentrout graduated from the University of Maryland law school at age 42 after being a housewife and a "full-time volunteer" on children's issues. She joined Venable after law school, and two years later became an assistant U.S. attorney.

She has a high-level position as attorney coordinator for the federal drug enforcement program that goes after large-scale drug dealers and money launderers in the mid-Atlantic region. She also is a supervisor in the U.S. attorney's narcotics section.

"Make no mistake, I would have enjoyed being on the bench," she said. "But I'm grateful that I've got a wonderful job that I can stay in."

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