Does Arnick deserve a judgeship?

February 12, 1993

"Poor John Arnick. He's resigned his seat in the House of Delegates. He's given up his law practice. He's been one of us for all these years. How can we not confirm him for a judgeship?"

To hear legislators deal with this misguided nomination, you'd think that what is, in effect, a lifetime seat on the District Court was any well-connected, veteran legislator's right.

Never mind the fact that many people who have observed Mr. Arnick at work seriously doubt that he has the temperament necessary to do the job. And never mind the disturbing fact that more witnesses are coming forward with stories of verbal abuse and harassment of women. At least, they are trying to make their concerns heard. Earlier this week, the Senate's Executive Nominations Committee was telling some women who wanted to come forward that their testimony would not be "needed" at today's hearing in Annapolis.

Anyone who ever suspected that legislators develop more loyalties to each other -- to the legislative "fraternity" -- than to the public interest, need only point to the Arnick case for proof. Certainly it's not easy for legislators to deal with disturbing allegations against a long-time colleague.But when that person is being considered for an important public post, legislators should understand that their duty to the public overrides personal discomfort. Some people in Annapolis seem to be having trouble understanding that elemental principle of public service.

Even more disturbing than the committee's reluctance to deal with these allegations is the behavior of the Women's Caucus, where the operative motto seems to be "go along to get along." Once the allegations surfaced, the caucus promptly reaffirmed its support for the nomination. Rather than waiting to hear and evaluate all testimony, including any rebuttals from Mr. Arnick, the caucus' action made it appear that these legislators couldn't wait to stand by their man.

That action makes it appear that women legislators are blind to the central question raised by these allegations. As a District Court judge, Mr. Arnick would deal with all manner of domestic disputes. The allegations against him suggest that he is capable of insensitive, even offensive behavior toward women. Can a woman who ends up in his courtroom charging her husband with abuse expect fair, respectful treatment?

That question -- not legislative loyalties -- should be the issue here. It is a question both male and female legislators seem eager to push aside so as not to interfere with business as usual.

Maybe John Arnick does deserve pity. But that's not the same as deserving a judgeship.


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