Prominent Baltimore defense attorney Richard D. Bennett, who has served as Maryland's chief federal prosecutor and headed the state's Republican Party, is scheduled to be sworn in today as the state's newest federal judge.
Bennett's appointment is the latest in a series of changes to Maryland's federal bench. Former Baltimore Circuit Judge William D. Quarles was sworn in in March and has begun overseeing criminal and civil cases in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Another judicial vacancy is expected next month, when U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, 66, retires to senior status after more than 13 years as a federal judge. The opening created by Garbis' departure would be the third federal judicial appointment in Maryland under the Bush administration.
After naming two nominees from Baltimore, the White House is widely expected to turn to Prince George's County or Montgomery County to fill the latest post - a judgeship that likely will be based in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, where three sitting U.S. judges juggle a steadily growing caseload.
For now, Bennett said he will divide his time between the federal courthouses in Baltimore and Greenbelt. Bennett was nominated to fill the vacancy created last summer by U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin's decision to retire to senior status.
"It's just a great honor to be nominated," Bennett said. "I've spent my whole career working in the federal system."
For the past decade, Bennett, 55, has been a partner in the white-collar division at Miles & Stockbridge. A native of Baltimore, Bennett served as U.S. attorney for Maryland from 1991 to 1993 as an appointee of President George H.W. Bush.
Bennett has strong ties to the state's Republican Party and twice ran unsuccessfully on the GOP ticket for statewide office - for state attorney general in 1994 and for lieutenant governor in 1998, when Ellen R. Sauerbrey ran on the Republican ticket for governor.
He served as Maryland Republican Party chairman during the 2000 presidential campaign, when he frequently gained notice on the national stage for his resemblance to George W. Bush.
Bennett is a 1969 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and earned his law degree in 1973 from the University of Maryland. He has represented a number of high-profile clients in private practice, including Democratic state Del. Tony E. Fulton, who was cleared in 2000 on federal charges that he had conspired with lobbyist Gerard E. Evans in a scheme to defraud clients.
Bennett's formal swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for June 9. The formal investiture for Quarles is scheduled for May 23.
Quarles' appointment marked a return to the court where his legal career began, as a law clerk for former U.S. District Judge Joseph C. Howard soon after Howard became the first black judge appointed to Maryland's federal court in 1979.
"From virtually the first day meeting him, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, and I wanted to be a judge, and clerking for him prepared me to do that," Quarles said in an interview last fall.
Quarles, 55, has spent the past six years as a Circuit Court judge in Baltimore. He previously was a partner at the law firm Venable, Baetjer and Howard and was an assistant U.S. attorney during the Reagan administration.
Quarles grew up in Baltimore, attended City College and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1976. He earned a law degree from Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law in 1979.
This was his second nomination to become a trial-level federal judge. In 1992, then-President Bush nominated Quarles to serve as a U.S. District Court judge, but the nomination was not approved by the Senate before the Clinton administration took office in 1993.