Local Choices

Endorsement 2004

October 27, 2004

Anne Arundel County judges

IN ANNE ARUNDEL County, voters face an unusual situation - six candidates for three Circuit Court judgeships. It's a closely contested race and an unusually partisan one. In this campaign, the rhetoric is flying and the legal community is cringing. Perhaps most absurd has been one challenger's crusade against leniency - an appropriate theme for a candidate for state's attorney, perhaps, but coming out of the mouth of a prospective judge, one that sounds downright injudicious.

Fortunately, the best choices are clear. They are David S. Bruce, Michele D. Jaklitsch and Rodney C. Warren. They are the incumbent judges who already have served two years on the bench and deserve to be given full 15-year terms. They have earned this distinction not because they are incumbents, but because they are the most qualified candidates for the job. They have the requisite legal background, the judicial temperament, the independence, thoughtfulness and experience. And unlike the challengers, they have been endorsed by judicial nominating commissions, nonpartisan panels appointed to review the professional credentials of judicial appointees.

That these judges were appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat who is not particularly popular in increasingly Republican Anne Arundel County, is immaterial. Mr. Glendening sought to diversify the white-male-dominated bench. Judge Jaklitsch is female and Judge Warren is black. But that is not their sole qualification. Judge Warren is a former public defender and assistant state's attorney. Judge Jaklitsch is a 15-year veteran of the county attorney's office. Judge Bruce is a former District Court judge and juvenile and domestic relations master.

How have they performed in those jobs and as Circuit Court judges? Exceedingly well - so skillfully, in fact, that their challengers have not criticized their individual job performances. Instead, much of the criticism voiced during this campaign has been directed at unpopular decisions by other county judges - a dishonorable attempt to slander the incumbents by association.

Choosing Circuit Court judges is too important to be allowed to descend into partisan demagogy. Not even Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the first Republican governor in decades, has chosen to make party affiliation a condition of judicial appointment. Anne Arundel voters need to judge their judges on merit alone. By that standard, the best choices are Judges Bruce, Jaklitsch and Warren.

Howard County school board

Wracked by a leadership crisis this year that saw the departure of the superintendent, the county school system has been returning to an even keel. Three thoroughly qualified candidates - Diane B. Mikulis, Frank J. Aquino and Mary Kay Sigaty - are vying for two open seats, and any of them would be a satisfactory choice. We opt for Ms. Mikulis, who would bring a wealth of experience with the PTA and with several school system committees (and who once contributed as a community correspondent to this newspaper), and Mr. Aquino, a lawyer who for the past year has tackled the difficult questions of school districting as co-chair of the Howard County Boundary Line Advisory Committee.

Carroll County school board

In a county where school construction, overcrowding and all-day kindergarten are significant issues, two school board members will be chosen from among four candidates. We favor incumbent Thomas G. Hiltz, a project manager for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Cynthia L. Foley, a self-described stay-at-home mom who seems to have a good grasp of the specific problems facing the system.

Clarification

Yesterday's endorsement of the Baltimore bond issues neglected to include Questions P and Q, loans for improvements to the Baltimore Museum of Art and Walters Art Museum that The Sun heartily supports.

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