Balto. Co. Orphans' Court race draws big field

August 26, 2002|By Brendan Kearney | Brendan Kearney,SUN STAFF

Serving as an Orphans' Court judge may be low-profile position, but this year's contest in Baltimore County has attracted 11 candidates.

Eight Democrats and three Republicans have lined up to run for the three seats open on the Orphans' Court. The position pays $30,000 a year.

Orphans' Court judges do not need law degrees. They sit together hearing cases to determine the authenticity of wills and resolve family disputes over assets.

The challengers in this year's race charge that a backlog of cases has accumulated under the current trio of judges.

But Theresa A. Lawler, the court's chief judge, dismissed those claims.

"I think that is flagrantly untrue," said Lawler.

She said an increased volume of estates opened during her term has taxed the panel, but that there is no backlog.

"In spite of the volume, we've accomplished a lot of things," she said.

Lawler is running on a Democratic ticket with the two other incumbents, Gloria J. Butta and Julie L. Ensor. The three are sharing a campaign fund and appearing in public and on posters together.

Butta, 65, was appointed to the court after her husband, Salvatore Butta, a longtime Orphans' Court judge, died in October.

Gloria Butta, a Rosedale resident, worked for 20 years in the court clerk's office before joining the court. She said her assets include "maturity, familiarity with court procedures and one-year experience on the bench." She also said she wants to continue serving as a way to honor her late husband.

Ensor, 41, of Parkton, has been an Orphans' Court judge since 1994 and says her experience distinguishes her from the challengers.

"I enjoy helping people," she said. "This is a position where I can do that on a daily basis."

Lawler, 52, of Timonium, is the only lawyer on the current panel. She was elected in 1998, became chief judge in 1999 and is a member of the National College of Probate Judges and the American Bar Association.

She said before she was elected, she spent 20 years as a lawyer, much of it in estate administration and planning.

"It's good to have an anchor with that kind of legal background," she said.

The incumbents have endorsements from the Maryland Council of the AFL-CIO; Baltimore County Firefighters Local 1311; Maryland State Troopers Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 76; and numerous Democratic clubs in Baltimore County.

The team has spent approximately $10,070 since they filed in March and still has $17,425 in its treasury.

The challengers in the race for the three Democratic nominations are Carol A. Andreone, Gordon Boone, Ronald J. Burdynski, Clyde R. Goodrum and Marlene Pianowski.

Andreone, a registered nurse and resident of Parkton, believes her medical experience and long-standing interest in law make her a good candidate.

"I know I'm qualified. I'm just going to take the chance," she said.

Boone, 44, is a Monkton resident and owns a video e-mail company. He ran unsuccessfully for clerk of the Circuit Court in 1990 after working for the clerk's office for six years.

"They just need someone with common sense up there," Boone said.

Burdynski, 59, of Nottingham, has been doing research and investigation work for Hodes, Ulman, Pessin & Katz, a Towson law firm for the past 2 1/2 years. He was a Baltimore City police officer for 26 years, retired in 1992 and then spent six years as a bailiff in District Court.

"I decided to take on the task to see how I could assist families with their wills and their estates," said Burdynski. "I plan to administer the duties in a more significant and expedient manner than now."

He has the endorsement of Baltimore City Benevolent Association, a group of retired police officers, as well as Baltimore City Firefighters, Local 734 and Baltimore City Fire Officers, Local 964.

Goodrum, 61, is a golf pro who owns a golf instruction facility in Randallstown. He said he is running because he believes there should be more diversity on the panel of judges.

"The demographics of the county have changed over the years," said Goodrum, "and I think the court should reflect the community."

Marlene Pianowski, 63, of Sparks, has worked as chief auditor at the Register of Wills office for 20 years. Appointed to the Maryland State Central Committee as a member at large in 1988, Pianowski ran in 1990 and was elected to the committee.

"I work at the court on a daily basis," she said. "I just feel like I could do a good job."

She has endorsements from three local Democratic clubs and the Baltimore County Sheriff's Deputies, FOP Lodge 25.

Three Republican candidates for the judgeships are unopposed in the primary. They are: Ray Allen, John Bunch and Louis Luperini.

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