Battaglia sworn in on state top court

Former U.S. attorney wins confirmation easily after debate

January 27, 2001|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Lynne A. Battaglia was sworn in yesterday as a judge on Maryland's highest court after winning easy confirmation in the state Senate, despite concerns among some Republicans about her "temperament."

Earlier in the day, Battaglia resigned as U.S. attorney for Maryland, a post she has held for seven years.

The Senate confirmed Battaglia by a 40-3 vote, with Republicans casting the negative votes.

"Words can't convey how honored I am to be here today," Battaglia told a roomful of supporters gathered in the State House for her investiture. She joins one other woman, Judge Irma S. Raker, and five men on the seven-member Court of Appeals.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who appointed Battaglia, praised her abilities and said her selection is evidence of his commitment to increasing the representation of women and minorities in state judgeships.

"It's the first time for the state to actually have two women on the court at the same time," the governor said. "It is a change long past overdue, in my mind."

Battaglia, who once served as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, won confirmation in the Senate after a brief debate.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, a Frederick Republican, said Battaglia would prove too liberal and "activist" to serve on the high court.

"This isn't the type of people we want on the court," Mooney said.

Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, argued against her confirmation and read from a 1998 order written by a federal appellate judge criticizing Battaglia's handling of a discrimination case.

In the strongly worded order, the judge accused Battaglia of playing politics with the sensitive case.

"I'm not a lawyer, but this is pretty scathing," Harris said. "And I think it deals directly with the temperament of the nominee."

Battaglia addressed the judge's order at her confirmation hearing Monday, defending her office's actions in the case and saying she had been surprised by the judge's tone.

During the debate yesterday, three Democrats came to Battaglia's defense.

Sen. Robert R. Neall, an Anne Arundel Democrat, said he often disagreed philosophically with Battaglia but called her a "very capable person."

"She has a lively intellect," Neall said. "She is practical and she is fair."

Battaglia's top deputy in the U.S. attorney's office, Stephen M. Schenning, was sworn in yesterday to replace her temporarily. President Bush is expected to name a permanent successor in coming weeks.

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