More diversity among judicial nomineesAs immediate past...

the Forum

June 19, 1995

More diversity among judicial nominees

As immediate past president of the Women's Law Center, I applaud Gov. Parris Glendening's efforts to open up the judicial nominating process in Maryland and make Maryland's judges more representative of the citizens they serve.

As a non-profit organization that works for equality of rights for women in the letter, spirit and practice of the law, the Women's Law Center recommends judicial candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to furthering the legal rights of women and speaks out in situations where members of the judiciary demonstrate lack of sensitivity toward issues affecting women.

Over the last year, the Women's Law Center studied the process of selecting judges in Maryland. We concluded that the powerful judicial nominating commissions that recommend judicial candidates to the governor exclude many qualified women and minority candidates.

Presently, of the 240 state judges only 36 are women and only 29 are African-American. There are no Hispanic or Asian-American judges.

The nominating commissions themselves do not reflect the diversity of the citizens of Maryland. This must be changed.

Of the lawyer members of the commissions statewide, fewer than 20 are women and only one is an African-American male. The commissions tend to view as "qualified" only those applicants having similar backgrounds and interests as the members of the commission.

This absence of diversity in terms of gender, race and ethnicity tends to result in the appointment of judges who do not understand and cannot appreciate the circumstances faced by many of the citizens, particularly women and minorities, who appear before them.

One only need reflect on the recently expressed views of Judge Thomas Bollinger on rape and Judge Robert Cahill on domestic violence to see that a lack of diversity weakens the credibility of the judiciary.

Governor Glendening's new executive order provides the vehicle for diversifying the judiciary as well as the nominating commissions for trial judges that send lists of "qualified" applicants to the governor. That is good news.

The governor's order requires the nominating commissions "to be sensitive to gender and diversity issues." This previously was not a consideration in evaluating whether a candidate was qualified.

The governor will appoint two of the lawyer members to the trial nominating commissions. Under prior governors, all six lawyer members of each trial nominating commission were elected through a system dominated by large law firms.

This appointment process will be Governor Glendening's opportunity to create a degree of diversity on the nominating commissions that might not have occurred through an elective process.

The Women's Law Center made similar recommendations for changing the nominating commissions to the Governor's Task Force on Judicial Nominations.

We are pleased to see that the governor is concerned and committed to creating a fair and unbiased process for the appointment of judges in Maryland.

Joy R. Sakamoto-Wengel


Smoke screen

I've never seen a better smoke screen than the advertisement devised by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

I had to ponder each cartoon, then read the copy to determined whether I might want the "Survival Guide for the 90s."

By the time I got to the last line, "We believe that most smoking issues can be resolved through dialogue and the discussion will help solve the issues without further government intervention," I was incensed.

I phoned the 800 number to explain that I didn't want the free "survival guide" because it was too high a price to pay . . .

Corrine Streich


Sign language

Your article about the kiosk on Lexington Street near Howard Street reminds me of an incident involving another kiosk at approximately the same location long, long ago ("Kiosk is latest weapon against crime," June 7).

This kiosk was a waist-high cylindrical affair on rollers, equipped with a vertical pole and handle at the top of which were semaphores that faced in all four directions.

One pair of semaphores was painted green, with the word "GO" in white; the other pair was red with the word "STOP."

The kiosk was pushed to the middle of the intersection, where a policeman controlled pedestrian and vehicular traffic by alternately turning the semaphores to face one direction, then the other. Baltimore had no traffic lights -- at least to my knowledge -- even at this busy commercial hub in 1922.

This is how my encounter with the kiosk happened: When my mother and I went shopping downtown we got off the streetcar that ran down Eutaw Street at Saratoga Street, then walked south on Eutaw to Lexington and east on Lexington to Howard.

On the north side of Lexington was a shop window that fascinated me -- though I can't recall now what was displayed -- and on each trip we had to stop while I looked.

On this particular trip, however, my mother didn't notice that I was not with her when she walked off.

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