Judgeship process on the table Bill would alter confirmation timing

February 25, 1993|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Staff Writer

In the aftermath of the Arnick hearings, leaders of the state Senate introduced a constitutional amendment yesterday to prevent would-be judges from taking office before their confirmation.

If passed by the legislature and approved by Maryland voters, future appointees would not be put in the position of quitting their jobs and becoming a judge -- as former Del. John S. Arnick did -- before finding out if they would be approved by the Senate.

Judges now can be sworn in and hear cases before being confirmed.

Many lawmakers felt sorry for Mr. Arnick because he gave up his law and legislative careers to become a judge Jan. 27 -- only to lose the job a few weeks later when charges of sexism derailed his confirmation.

At his confirmation hearing before a Senate panel Feb. 8, a woman lobbyist testified that Mr. Arnick used vulgar and racist language during a 1992 meeting at an Annapolis restaurant.

That and other allegations caused a public uproar, and Mr. Arnick withdrew his name from consideration last week. Under state law, he can remain a District Court judge for Baltimore County until the legislative session ends in April. He then must step down.

"It's patently unfair that someone should give up his law practice and political livelihood and wait in suspense for Senate confirmation," said Sen. John A. Pica Jr., a Baltimore Democrat.

On the other hand, some senators say that the current system enables the governor to fill vacancies that occur from mid-April through December, when the legislature is not in session.

In the vast majority of such cases, the General Assembly routinely confirms the new judges when it convenes the next January.

If passed, the amendment to the state constitution would be placed on the November 1994 ballot for voters' approval or rejection.

In the House, Del. Kumar P. Barve, D-Montgomery, introduced a somewhat different constitutional amendment that would prohibit any state appointee from taking office before his approval by a legislative committee, at the least.

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