Diverse group vies for court vacancy

List of 5 nominees for District judgeship sent to governor

January 23, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Five nominees with diverse and varied backgrounds have made it to the short list of candidates forwarded to Gov. Parris N. Glendening to fill the Howard County District Court vacancy created by Judge James N. Vaughan's promotion to chief judge of the statewide District Court system.

The list of nominees selected by the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission for Howard County includes four women, one of whom is black, and one African-American man - in line with Glendening's push for diversity on the bench - and candidates with job titles ranging from administrative law judge to master in chancery.

But while the list of nominees - selected from a candidate pool of 23 lawyers - is varied, commission Chairwoman Ann M. Balcerzak said commission members did not use diversity as a "guiding principle." Rather, she said, they looked for the most qualified lawyers during a whirlwind round of interviews Jan. 16.

"We had a really good list of people to choose from," said Balcerzak, a Columbia lawyer. "The people who were chosen are, I think, wonderful people and the county will be well-served by any one."

Commission member Sherman Howell, who also serves as a vice president for the African-American Coalition of Howard County, said it was important to him that candidates understand the county and the socio-economic challenges facing it.

"Given that District Court is where 95 percent of us have a first contact with the court system, it's imperative to have judges that understand and know their community," he said.

It was unclear yesterday when Glendening would make his appointment to the five-judge Howard District Court bench, which has been one short since Vaughan's promotion in September. The governor does not traditionally make judicial appointments during the legislative session.

The candidates nominated by the commission are:

Wayne A. Brooks, 44, an administrative law judge for seven years with the state Office of Administrative Hearings. Brooks is also the president of the Howard County Waring Mitchell Law Society, a society of black lawyers.

Pamila J. Brown, 47, principal counsel to the state Department of General Services for the Attorney General's Office. Brown is chairwoman of the Hickory Ridge Village Board and a member of the executive council of the American Bar Association's Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division.

Mary V. Murphy, 37, a senior assistant Howard County state's attorney and team captain in the Circuit Court division. Murphy was one of two prosecutors who tried the case of Paul Stephen Riggins, who was convicted of murder last summer though his wife's body has never been found.

Elaine Patrick, 48, a master in chancery who has heard child support cases in Howard County since 1995. Before that, she served in the Attorney General's Office as counsel to the commissioner of Labor and Industry.

Deborah L. Robinson, 45, a partner in Robinson Woolson P.A., a civil litigation firm based in Baltimore. Robinson, who previously worked with the now-defunct Frank, Bernstein, Conaway and Goldman law firm, has been a member of the adjunct faculty at University of Maryland School of Law for 11 years.

The five nominees include three of the four candidates - Brooks, Brown and Robinson - who were endorsed last month by the Howard County Bar Association.

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