Glendening says bench too limited

Balto. Co. selection of judges denounced

September 15, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening says that Baltimore County's Circuit Court - with a single black judge scheduled to be replaced in November - is so dominated by white males that minorities are discouraged from seeking judgeships.

"It's an old boys' network in Baltimore County, and the old boys' network has put the word out on the street that only white males will be appointed," Glendening said. "It's like they've put out a sign that says only white males need apply."

Glendening, in a brief telephone interview this week, said he "cannot accept" that the county Circuit Court bench will have 14 white males and one white female by January. The numbers place Baltimore County near the bottom for minority and female Circuit Court judges among the state's large metropolitan counties.

"If you're going to have an open, fair and inclusive system, it has to be open to everyone," he said.

Baltimore County's population, 724,000, is 21 percent minority, according to Census figures.

Alexander Wright Jr., the Circuit Court's only African-American judge, was defeated in the March 7 primary and is due to be replaced in November by Judge Robert Dugan. Judge Barbara Kerr Howe, one of only two women, plans to retire Jan. 12.

Wright said yesterday that he plans to apply for vacancies on the county District Court, Circuit Court and state Court of Special Appeals.

Glendening stopped short of saying that he would appoint Wright to one of those openings. But he emphasized that diversity has been one of his main goals in judicial appointments. Of the 125 judges he has named, 46 are women and 27 African-Americans.

"When a person walks into a courtroom and they see only white males all around them, they have to wonder, `Does the system really represent me?'" Glendening said.

Glendening also wrote a letter sharply criticizing the group charged with screening Baltimore County's judicial candidates for the list of nominees it provided for an appointment earlier this year.

Glendening wrote that while his choice, District Judge Robert Cahill, will be an "excellent" judge, the list overall was "unacceptable," given the county's minority population. It was made up of one white woman and six white males.

"The group did not reflect the great racial, ethnic and gender diversity of Baltimore County," Glendening told the 13-member Judicial Nominating Commission. "In making these and all future appointments, I will not make my selection from a list similar to the most recent one I received."

The letter stung some commission members - nine of whom are appointed by the governor.

"I couldn't believe the governor wrote what he did," said Warren Mix, a Timonium lawyer and one of four commission members elected by the county bar association.

Mix said that the commission has given Glendening lists in the past two years that included two African-Americans - Wright and District Judge Vicki Ballou Watts - who were appointed, as well as Kathleen G. Cox, who was named a Circuit Court judge.

"We're doing what we can, but we're not like the city, we don't have a large pool of minority candidates," Mix said.

The commission includes four women and two black men.

Glendening said that the county's legal community should do more to recruit African-Americans.

Makeup of bench

Circuit court judges in area jurisdictions:

..............Black ...........Female ..............Total

Balto. Co. .....1* ............. 2 ................. 16

A. Arundel ....1 ...............2 ..................10

Baltimore .....14 .............10 ..................29

Howard ........0 ...............2 ...................5

Harford .......0 ...............0 ...................5

Carroll ........ 0 ...............0 .................. 3

P.George's .....7 .............. 6 ................ 22

Mont........... 2 ...............4 ................ 17

*Scheduled to be replaced in November.

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