Qualifications, money and diversity: More on the judges...

LETTERS

February 25, 1996

Qualifications, money and diversity: More on the judges' 0) race

At last count, we have had several judges allow the murder and manslaughter of two women to receive minimum sentences (a chloroform death in Howard County and a domestic infidelity murder in the city) and one judge has been brought upon charges that include the services of a prostitute while in his chambers. These judges have been approved by their legal and local community as "experienced and qualified."

Are the critics of Judges Donna Hill Staton and Diane Leasure willing to admit that being qualified and experienced does not guarantee that wisdom and integrity -- those skills necessary for judgeship -- will be employed? Have these same critics ever prosecuted a case of cultural bias? I think they protest too loudly.

heila Jennifer

Columbia

The majority of your coverage of the election campaign for the Howard County Circuit Court judgeships has focused on the unusual amount of money raised by some of the candidates, and, not surprisingly, also on the four candidates who have by far raised the most money. The voters of Howard County would be better served if your coverage focused on the experience and qualifications of the candidates, and not on the money raised by each.

Your recent coverage has done no more than occasionally mention the fact that there is a fifth candidate in the race. This candidate, who has more experience in the legal profession (35 years) than any of the others, and who has resided in Howard County for the past 26 years, is Jay Fred Cohen. His experience includes an extremely wide variety of legal affairs in county, state and federal courts. Instead of relying on money to win the election, Mr. Cohen is counting on the support of people who believe that experience and qualifications, not money, should win.

Jeffrey S. Caplan

Columbia

Over the past few months, much has been written about the challenge to Howard County's newest Circuit Court judges, Diane Leasure and Donna Hill Staton. It is truly unfortunate that judges who are appointed after a long and deliberate process are required to embark upon a political campaign in order to retain their seats on the Circuit Court.

The judicial selection process in Maryland is one that should induce the most qualified and respected members of the bar to (( seek appointment. The part of the process that includes judicial election is to be certain that unqualified persons do not occupy the position of judge.

Fortunately, in Howard County, we are not faced with that issue. All of the persons whose names were on the list that was presented to the governor were determined by local and state commissions to be qualified for the position, after a protracted process of reviews, interviews and recommendations. From that list, the governor selected Judges Leasure and Hill Staton, both of whom have now resigned from their private practice of law, and as "sitting judges" serve with distinction and have received high praise in the legal community.

Our newest Circuit Court judges have been hard at work for several months. They have already demonstrated a fine judicial temperament, a strong work ethic and a firm grasp of the law, and are entitled to be retained as judges of the Circuit Court for Howard County.

Richard B. Talkin

Columbia

As an attorney who lives and practices in Howard County, in addition to having offices in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, I wish to express my endorsement of Judges Diane O. Leasure and Donna Hill Staton. Moreover, I would like to express my grave concern over the letters which claim that these judges are not qualified simply because they have had offices outside Howard County.

Both Judge Leasure's and Judge Staton's qualifications and experience are unquestionable. Judge Staton clerked for a federal judge before becoming a partner in the litigation department of a major Baltimore law firm. I worked with Diane Leasure at the firm where she was a partner and head of the litigation section. I always respected her hard work, intelligence and contribution to the community. An attorney's choice of office location in no way diminishes his or her ability to practice law or serve the community.

Jolie Gelman Weinberg

Columbia

xTC Lawyers are justifiably fussy that the record should be clear and complete. This letter is an effort to address some of the matters raised in The Sun editorial of Feb. 13, regarding election of Howard County judges.

In 1970, the voters of the state rejected a referendum that would have had Circuit Court judges appointed. A further effort was made in 1986 to have the matter again placed on the ballot. Apparently, based on the 1970 rejection, this effort was killed in the Judiciary Committee of the state Senate. Our citizenry, our legislature and our forefathers all recognize the value of making Circuit Court judges directly responsible to the voters.

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