The end of the Arnick case?

February 16, 1993

It was a valiant attempt by his supporters, but not even the parade of 40 witnesses rounded up to heap praise on District Court nominee John S. Arnick last Friday could drown the haunting allegations against him. At a hearing on the nomination, Sandra Lynch of Baltimore recalled for the Senate's Executive Nominations Committee her experience with Mr. Arnick. In 1981, she asked him to represent her in a divorce case. According to her testimony, his reply was this: "You have no rights. You're the bitch who left."

However Mr. Arnick wants to explain those remarks, the fact is that more than a decade later, Ms. Lynch still remembers her shock and dismay enough to testify against him.

Legislators don't relish the thought of voting against a longtime colleague -- especially when House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell and Gov. William Donald Schaefer have taken a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" approach to the nomination. But regardless of the politics of the vote, and whatever legislators' own experiences of Mr. Arnick, there seem to be plenty of people -- many of them women -- who have seen a side of Mr. Arnick that makes him a poor choice for a judgeship. That would be true for any judicial position, but all the more so for the District Court, which handles the kinds of messy situations in which the word of a woman is often pitted against that of a man. Given the allegations that have been raised, would any woman in her right mind willingly put her case before Mr. Arnick? Not likely.

There's another kind of risk to legislators. If any of the allegations are true, those same attitudes that got the Arnick nomination in trouble could well cause some outburst or other problem in the future. Legislators could easily find themselves embarrassed by Judge Arnick.

Lawmakers can thank Governor Schaefer and Speaker Mitchell for forcing this awkward vote on them. In trying to find a sinecure for a man who had become a problem for the House speaker, the governor is misusing the courts. The people of Maryland deserve better than that.

Mr. Arnick was passed over for previous judicial appointments because panels charged with evaluating candidates considered

him unqualified. Now, at 59, he is much older than the usual District Court nominee. A single 10-year term would bring him close to the judiciary's mandatory retirement age -- and make him eligible for a much higher pension than he would receive as a legislator.

If those reasons don't persuade members of the Senate to reject this nomination, maybe legislators should consider the obvious one: Voters have long memories, even if Mr. Arnick doesn't.

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