Judging John Arnick

February 12, 1993

Before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee circles the wagons around a former colleague, ex-Del. John S. Arnick of Dundalk, and confirms his appointment to the District Court, the citizens of Maryland deserve answers to some crucial questions:

* Is Mr. Arnick temperamentally suited to sit in judgment of others in District Court?

* Can he render fair and impartial verdicts on female defendants and in domestic relations cases given the disparaging remarks two female lobbyists say he made?

The integrity of the state Senate is very much at stake today when the committee holds hearings and plans a vote on the nomination. Simply rubber-stamping the nomination based on sympathy for Mr. Arnick's plight and his long years in the House of Delegates ill serves the public. We expect more -- much more -- of our elected leaders.

Selecting judges is serious business. Yet the Senate routinely confirms them without determining their suitability for the job. In this case, allegations have been raised about Mr. Arnick's attitude toward women. If the charges are true, and if other, similar charges are raised today, senators cannot in good conscience recommend this nomination.

The panel is being asked to approve Mr. Arnick for a 10-year term on the District Court of Baltimore County. This is a position of enormous importance. These judges handle many cases of spousal disputes and assaults. The judges must question those involved, determine what happened, render a verdict and then impose a penalty, if any. Is Mr. Arnick up to this difficult task, especially in cases involving women?

The recent charges against him make us wonder if he is suited for District Court. We are also troubled by the failure of women legislators to view the charges more seriously. One legislator, Del. Leslie Hutchinson, tried to smear the integrity of the witness against Mr. Arnick. Other women lawmakers are eager to excuse his behavior as a momentary slip. "Boys will be boys," they are saying.

That kind of attitude is inexcusable. Mr. Arnick should not be given the benefit of the doubt just because he has served in Annapolis for 23 years, twice as majority leader and three times as a committee chairman. If these same charges had been lodged against a non-legislator named John Smith, would the panel think twice before rejecting his nomination for a judgeship?

It will not be an easy decision for the Senate committee. Nor should it be. If other allegations are leveled against Mr. Arnick at today's hearing, the panel ought to weigh with extreme care the nominee's fitness for serving on the District Court. On this vote, Mr. Arnick's past service in the legislature should not be the deciding factor.

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