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New Judicial Nominating Commissions ordered

Existing structure largely unchanged; transparency pledged

Pledging a new era of transparency, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. has dissolved the existing Judicial Nominating Commissions and issued an executive order to create new ones — an order strikingly similar to his predecessor’s.

Hogan’s Executive Order No. 01.01.2015.09 rescinds former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s directive, but also calls for a single 17-member Appellate Courts Judicial Nominating Commission and 13-member Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commissions for each of 16 commission districts. As under O’Malley’s order, the governor will appoint 12 members to the appellate courts commission and nine to each of the trial courts commissions; the MSBA president will select five to the appellate courts commission and four to the trial courts commissions.

As under O’Malley, the trial court commissions will review the applicants to fill vacancies on Maryland’s district and circuit courts; the appellate courts commission will review applicants for the Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals.

The commissions will then winnow that list down and submit their recommendations for appointment to the governor.

If the commission forwards fewer than three names to Hogan, he could either select a nominee from those names or tell the panel to re-advertise the vacancy. In this way, Hogan’s order differs from O’Malley’s.

O’Malley’s order called for an automatic re-advertisement of the vacancy if fewer than three names were submitted to fill a vacancy.

The preamble of Hogan’s executive order also differs from O’Malley’s in that the current governor has included an additional “whereas” clause: “Whereas, the process from which a judicial appointment is made by the governor must be respected, be free from political influence and be beyond reproach.”

In announcing his executive order, Hogan said in a statement Tuesday that “judicial commission appointments will be made in a transparent manner, under the highest possible ethical standards while also embracing diversity. Good government and the integrity of the judiciary is not a privilege. It is the right of every Marylander.”