Courthouse lacks space for judge set to be picked

April 16, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

The process leading to the appointment of a fifth Circuit Court judge in Harford County moves forward Tuesday, when the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission is scheduled to interview 23 applicants and send a short list of nominees to the governor.

That's the easy part. Where the fifth judge is going to hold court, considering the lack of space in the Circuit Court building, is another matter.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has no deadline for conducting his interviews and appointing the new judge, Michael O'Malley of the Administrative Office of the Courts in Annapolis said last week.

All of the applicants must be attorneys who reside in Harford County, but they need not have practices in the county, said John B. Kane of Smith & Kane, one of three Bel Air attorneys will be on the interview panel Tuesday. The other two are Michael E. Leaf of Leaf, of Mahoney & McCarthy and J. Richard Moore III, who is in private practice.

The three lawyers were elected to the Harford commission by members of the Harford Bar Association, Mr. O'Malley said.

The Harford commission, which has not met in four years, has nine members, down from 13 because four panel members have resigned recently, Mr. Kane said.

The six lay members are Chairman R. Lee Mitchell of Havre de Grace, James Bogarty of Jarrettsville, T. Scott Cushing of Abingdon, John J. Hofstetter Jr. of Belcamp, Ann Shilling of Joppa and Marjorie Warfield of Aberdeen, Mr. O'Malley said.

The lay members were appointed by William Donald Schaefer when he was governor, Mr. O'Malley said.

Each applicant will be interviewed for about 20 minutes, Mr. Mitchell said.

Members of the Harford County Bar Association already have been polled by secret ballot, and the list of that group's preferences has beenturned over to the commission.

The results of the poll are "another piece of the puzzle in arriving at the list for the governor," Mr. Kane said.

The commission may submit up to seven names but must present at least three, he said.

Whoever is appointed to the Harford Circuit Court bench might not have a courtroom and chambers to call his or her own.

Harford's Circuit Court houses four judges, their chambers and courtrooms, along with offices for clerks and court reporters.

Only three of the courtrooms are large enough for jury trials. The judges frequently must shift to one of the larger courtrooms to select a jury and hold trials, or move to the smallest courtroom for nonjury trials.

All of that is accomplished by creative and cooperative scheduling, which a fifth judge will complicate.

Joanne Parrott, president of the County Council, which conducts its business in the Circuit Court building, said last week that she and other county officials have met twice with Judge William O. Carr, the administrative judge for the Harford Circuit Court, to discuss where to put a fifth judge.

Judge Carr prefers that the County Council move, turning over the large council chambers and council members' other office space on the A Level in the Circuit Courthouse.

The chambers and offices, which take up about half of the A Level space, could be renovated to accommodate the needs of the judges at an estimated cost of $230,000.

The County Council doesn't want to move, however, and one member, Robert S. Wagner, the District E councilman, opposes the move for financial reasons.

The cost of moving the County Council would exceed $500,000 when the cost of leasing another property is added, he said.

"One-half million dollars would be far better spent on a school roof, added police protection, or reducing classroom size, Chapter I funding or almost any other more pressing need," Mr. Wagner said in a letter last month to Judge Carr.

"It's a lean year in lean times," Mrs. Parrott said last week. "We'll probably have a council work session soon to discuss what should be done, but nothing has been decided yet."

Judge Carr said he thought the matter had been decided and that the council was going to move from the courthouse. He said he had not heard anything recently from Mrs. Parrott indicating otherwise.

APPLICANTS FOR JUDGESHIP

The applicants for Harford Circuit Court judge are: H. Edward Andrews III, Diana Andrea Brooks, Arthur Francis Carven III, Michael Gerard Comeau, James E. Edwards Jr., Janet Marie Bush Handy, Patrick Dean Haskins, Frederick J. Hatem Jr., Michael Clifford Hickey Jr. and William Davis Hooper Jr.

Also, Charles Edward Kearney Jr., John E. Kelly, William H. Klumpp Jr., Thomas E. Marshall, Jay Elliott Robinson, Stuart Jay Robinson, Elzbieta Adamska Scheid, Steven J. Scheinin, Carl Ridgeley Schlaich, Betty Stemley Sconion, Patrick Preston Spicer, Saundra Louise Warner and Allen George Windsor.

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