St. John of Dundalk

February 13, 1993

Just as we suspected, legislators, lobbyists and bureaucrats rallied behind the embattled John S. Arnick yesterday to ensure that the Senate Executive Nominations Committee confirmed his nomination as a District Court judge. The 14-4 vote was a predictable demonstration of how out of touch this General Assembly is with the sentiments and sensitivities of ordinary Marylanders.

Because the Senate committee did absolutely no research on its own into the charges of abusive and sexual prejudice by Mr. Arnick, yesterday's hearing proved very little. A long list of friends and former colleagues of Mr. Arnick, who served 23 years in the House as a power-wielding delegate, made him out to be St. John of Dundalk. The clear implication from top officials was that anyone who testified against the ex-delegate at the hearing did so at great personal peril. Not many did. Not enough to make a difference.

So now the full Senate must consider Mr. Arnick's worthiness to sit in District Court in Baltimore County. Were he not an ex-delegate with influential connections and long association with most senators, his nomination would be in grave jeopardy. He does not possess a judicial disposition. He has a bad temper. He does not have the patience or the tolerance that District Court judges should possess. He has too often hoisted one too many drinks. And he has too often displayed contempt for women during his years in Annapolis. We have serious doubts about his ability to treat women impartially in courtroom settings.

Putting Mr. Arnick on the bench would be a mistake. His every action will be questioned. Requests for a change of venue from female defendants and female lawyers may set records. He is wrong for this job.

No one has acquitted himself or herself well in this tawdry display of legislative camaraderie. People who had privately complained about Mr. Arnick's behavior -- including women lobbyists and women legislators -- refused to do so publicly yesterday. Even a Schaefer administration official, with direct knowledge of Mr. Arnick's sexist behavior, refused to testify in person. With such subtle intimidation in effect, there's little wonder that the Arnick nomination was given lopsided approval.

Will things be different in the Senate next week? Only if Marylanders make their feelings known to their elected representatives in Annapolis. There already is too much documented gender bias in the judiciary. Adding Mr. Arnick to the District Court won't improve the situation; it can only make matters worse.

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