The long-anticipated appointment of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John S. Arnick to a District Court judgeship was announced yesterday by the governor's office.
Delegate Arnick, a 59-year-old Democrat from Dundalk, was named along with Assistant Attorney General Alexander Wright Jr. of Reisterstown to fill vacancies on the Baltimore County District Court
Also appointed to a District Court seat in Montgomery County was Rockville attorney Martha Gamble Kavanaugh, 51, a former assistant state's attorney in Montgomery.
The appointments take effect today, said Page Boinest, press secretary for Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
Mr. Wright, 43, becomes the second black judge appointed to the court in Baltimore County.
A Baltimore native, Mr. Wright graduated from Morgan State University in 1971 and has served as an assistant attorney general since 1979. He fills a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge John Rellas.
"I'm very honored to be appointed," Mr. Wright said. "Over 50 people applied for this job, including some very good attorneys. As African-Americans, we have to seek diversity in every walk of life. This is just one of them."
Judge Michael L. McCampbell, appointed in 1990, was the first black judge in the county.
Mr. Arnick's appointment has been expected by many political observers, and carries with it two more political choices -- who should take over his committee chairmanship, and who will fill out the remaining two years of his term as delegate.
Mr. Arnick was a Baltimore County magistrate from 1966 to 1967, before the current District Court system was created. He served as a member of the House of Delegates from 1967 to 1979, and again from 1983 until his appointment to the court, and was House majority leader from 1971 to 1979 and 1987 to 1990.
He barely won re-election in 1990 -- a year marked by strong anti-incumbent fervor among county voters.
He beat fellow Democrat Joseph "Sonny" Minnick by only 6 votes in the primary, after an errant election night count that showed him a loser by 24 votes.
Mr. Arnick ran afoul of House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. near the close of the fractious 1992 General Assembly session, voting against the budget compromise bill supported by the speaker despite Mr. Mitchell's warning he would sack delegates in leadership posts who defied him.
Rumors of Mr. Arnick's replacement as chairman of his committee, most likely by Delegate J. Ernest Bell II, D-St. Mary's, began circulating after the session.
"I feel very good," Mr. Arnick said yesterday of his appointment to the $82,300-a-year judicial job. "I think I've done a lot of good in the political field and in the legal field, but it's time to move on."
He will fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Gerard Wittstadt, also of Dundalk, who has returned to private law practice there.
Unsuccessful candidates for the appointment were Baltimore County zoning administrator Arnold Jablon; James F. Garrity, who is a Towson lawyer; and Louis J. Weinkam, a Catonsville lawyer and former head of the county bar association.
Mr. Minnick expressed hope yesterday that the county's 7th District Democratic Central Committee would name him to Mr. Arnick's House seat.