Baltimore County Courthouse Picks

August 30, 1994

In the primary elections for court-related offices in Baltimore County, only one position will not be contested. That's the office of state's attorney, occupied by tough-talking Republican Sandra O'Connor. Unopposed not just in the Sept. 13 primary but also in November's general election, Ms. O'Connor is thus guaranteed another four years as the state's chief lawyer in Baltimore County.

Incumbent Clerk of the Circuit Court Suzanne Mensh faces Kenneth N. Frederick in the Democratic primary. We prefer Ms. Mensh. Republican Joyce Grimm, director of assignments in the clerk's office, has no competition in the primary.

Peter J. Basilone, the county's longtime Register of Wills, gets our nod over his sole Democratic primary opponent, Bonnie Lou Leisure. Of the Republicans seeking the job -- L. Wayne Flora, Patrick L. McDonough and William J. Withers Jr. -- our choice is Mr. Flora, an employee of the county's Department of Community Development.

A crowded field of 14 Democrats and seven Republicans want to sit on the county's Orphans' Court, which handles the assets and liabilities of the deceased. No specific qualification, not even a legal degree, is asked of a candidate. Setting aside for now the debate over whether the Orphans' Court should be absorbed by the Circuit Court, we endorse among the three Democrats sitting chief judge Grace G. Connolly and two lawyers who have specialized in handling wills and estates, G. Mitchell Austin and Ernest A. Sciascia. Our GOP picks are sitting judge Sandra L. O'Connell-Hughes and party activists Victoria C. Chambers and Beverly E. Goldstein.

The necessity of the county sheriff's department has also been questioned by critics who say its main duties -- serving legal papers, guarding the courts and transporting prisoners -- could be managed by a private firm or the police, rather than by a popularly elected official of the state. In addition, incumbent sheriff Norman M. Pepersack Jr. has alienated county officials by overreaching for police-like powers for himself and his deputies.

Mr. Pepersack, a Republican, will face no opposition in the primary election. Two Democrats aim to unseat him -- attorney and former deputy sheriff Jack McClernan and former county police captain Charles W. Norris, currently the chief of security at Eastpoint Mall. We select Mr. Norris, who distinguished himself during a varied 23-year career with the police department.

Tomorrow: Baltimore City Courthouse races.

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