Md. senators propose 3 for district judgeships

If confirmed, Ellen Hollander, James Bredar and Charles Day would have lifetime appointments

December 12, 2009|By Paul West | paul.west@baltsun.com

Washington — — Maryland's senators have sent President Barack Obama the names of three nominees for lifetime appointments as U.S. district judges, a source close to the process said late Friday.

Ellen Hollander, 60, of Baltimore, a judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals since 1994, was the pick to replace longtime District Judge Andre Davis, who moved to the federal court of appeals last month. A graduate of Goucher College and Georgetown Law, she became the only woman on the state's second-highest court when then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed her after she served five years as a circuit judge in Baltimore.

James K. Bredar, 52, of Reisterstown, a federal magistrate judge, was recommended for a district judgeship in the Baltimore division. The graduate of Harvard College and Georgetown Law would fill a vacancy created by the decision of Judge J. Frederick Motz, a nominee of Republican President Ronald Reagan, to take senior status.

Motz, 67, whose decision was made public Friday, is the longest-serving judge on the federal district bench in Maryland. Judges who assume senior status don't necessarily retire. They have the option to continue hearing cases, typically in smaller numbers but often for many years. His wife, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, has sat on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1994.

Charles B. Day, 52, of Olney, also a federal magistrate judge, was the senators' choice for a federal district judgeship in the Greenbelt division, which covers the southern part of the state. A graduate of the University of Maryland and its law school, he would replace Judge Peter Messitte, like Davis a nominee of Democratic President Bill Clinton, who took senior status in 2008.

Federal magistrates are trial judges appointed by U.S. district judges. They often relieve the workload on the district court by handling pretrial motions and presiding over non-felony trials.

Obama has the final say on federal judicial nominees, who must be confirmed by the Senate before they can take office. The White House, which received the Maryland names Friday, will review the recommendations with the Department of Justice, a process that can take months.

Selections by home-state senators carry considerable weight in judicial selections, particularly at the district court level and especially when made by senators of the president's party, as is the case in Maryland this year for the first time since 2000.

Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin began the search for new judges last spring. After receiving applications from prospective candidates, they reviewed the names with legal specialists and interviewed the finalists.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said the selections are in line with a pattern that has developed in Obama's first year: the nomination of judges for judicial vacancies, as opposed to lawyers without experience on the bench.

That adds judicial experience to the federal courts and a record of past decisions that makes it easier to gauge their qualifications, but it also reduces diversity in the judicial system.

"The whole notion of a career judiciary," said Tobias, "is a notion that the U.S. has resisted."

There are 10 federal judge positions in the Maryland district, considered one of the busiest in the nation. If all three seats are filled next year, it would bring the court to full strength for the first time since 2008.

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