IF HER NAME had been Katie Smith Jones instead of Katie Curran O'Malley, would the mayor's wife (and the attorney general's daughter) now be a judge on the state's District Court?
There's no simple answer.
The newest District Court judge is a member of the city's political royalty: granddaughter of a beloved city councilman; daughter of former state senator, former lieutenant governor and four-term state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.; related to numerous former or current officeholders; and the wife of Baltimore's popular mayor, Martin O'Malley.
She's not the first from her family to receive a favor from Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Her brother, Max, was placed on the Public Service Commission after he ran a nearly successful primary race against the team headed by state Sen. Tom Bromwell in northeast Baltimore County.
Clearly, the Curran name carries influence in government circles. Being married to Baltimore's mayor doesn't hurt, either.
Others on the judicial selection list had more experience than Judge O'Malley.
Her resume wasn't shabby, though: an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County for the past 11 years.
Still, questions will always linger: Was it her legal qualifications or her pedigree that put her on the bench?
Further stirring matters was Ms. O'Malley's very visible role at the July 8 fund-raiser/birthday party for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. The mayor's wife introduced Ms. Townsend to the crowd of 7,500, in an event that was scheduled as part of Ms. Townsend's 2002 campaign for governor.
Mayor O'Malley had been the center of speculation about running for governor next year, too. His strong poll numbers indicate he may have the best shot at beating Ms. Townsend.
But then his wife showed up in the opposition's camp, singing the lieutenant governor's praises.
Was it a signal the mayor doesn't intend to run?
Five days later, Katie O'Malley got her judgeship.
Just a coincidence? Only if you believe in the tooth fairy.
Ms. O'Malley's quest for a judgeship - she's been passed over by the governor before - raises sticky issues about the role of an elected official's working spouse.
In a sense, it's the Bill and Hillary question:
Can the wife of a powerful elected official have a career in public service, too? Does it create inevitable problems?
Hillary Clinton's role in the White House travel office brouhaha and the health-care debacle shows that an elected leader's spouse can pull strings that affect government decisions.
What role is the current vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney, performing? On Monday, she delivered a speech in Philadelphia on national energy policy for her husband, mutely sitting near her with laryngitis. Will she emerge as the new Hillary?
That sells Ms. Cheney short. She had already established herself as a Washington official in her own right - just as Katie O'Malley had established her professional bona fides on her own through a decade of public office in the prosecutor's office.
But will the mayor now mute his criticisms of the city's District Courts? Was that part of the intended result of Ms. O'Malley's appointment?
There could be some strained moments in the O'Malley household as the mayor looks at the gridlocked courts from his perspective and his wife-judge looks at it from her vantage point.
Will Ms. O'Malley become a messenger for top judicial officials and her husband if he goes on the warpath again over bollixed court practices?
What if the governor uses this judgeship to get the mayor to be more of a team player? Does Mr. O'Malley tell Mr. Glendening to take a flying leap, or does he alter the city's fiscal objectives in Annapolis?
Every spouse of an elected official has the right, especially in this day and age, to a separate career. Yet when those careers overlap, there's always going to be the potential for ethics concerns.
Both O'Malleys will have to guard against even appearing to influence the other's actions. It's not going to be easy. There could be many intersecting points in the life of a big-city mayor and his black-robed wife.
Barry Rascovar is deputy editorial page editor.