Judges and attorneys in Prince George’s County will have another opportunity to apply to fill the seat on Maryland’s top court left vacant when Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. reached the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70 last month.
Only two people had applied for the Court of Appeals vacancy when the application deadline came at 4:30 p.m. Monday: Court of Special Appeals Judge Michele D. Hotten and Judge Sean D. Wallace, of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Under Gov. Larry Hogan’s February executive order on judicial nominating commissions, a court vacancy must be “automatically readvertised” if fewer than three candidates apply.
“If, after readvertisement, there remain fewer than three applicants, then the commission may proceed with evaluating the applicants,” the order states.
The need to re-advertise will likely delay the appointment of Harrell’s successor beyond the Sept. 2 start date for the Court of Appeals’ 2015-2016 session. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera said last month that she would specially assign Harrell to hear cases until his successor is named.
The 17-member Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission had planned to interview the judicial candidates and meet Aug. 7 to decide which names to send to Hogan for his consideration and appointment. That schedule will likely have to be changed due to the re-advertisement.
Under the Maryland Constitution, Harrell’s successor must be an attorney or judge residing in Prince George’s County and be at least 30 years old. Harrell represented the 4th Appellate Judicial Circuit, which covers Prince George’s County.
Besides the Harrell vacancy, Hogan will have at least one more opportunity to fill a high-court seat during the first term of his governorship, which ends in January 2019.
Lynne A. Battaglia, now the high court’s senior judge in terms of longevity, will hit the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 70 in April. Battaglia represents the 3rd Appellate Judicial Circuit on the high court, which covers Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Howard and Washington counties.
The governor will also have a chance to name a new chief judge on the intermediate Court of Special Appeals. The current chief, Peter B. Krauser, will turn 70 in May 2017.
Hogan, who has not yet had the chance to appoint a judge, is no stranger to the judicial-selection process. He served as appointments secretary for Maryland’s previous Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Hogan will be somewhat constrained by custom in his selection of appellate court judges.
Since 1970, Maryland governors by their own executive orders have chosen to select judges from the list of candidates submitted to them by the Appellate Judicial Nominating commission. The commission reviews the candidates’ records, interviews them and submits a list of qualified candidates to the governor.
The governor, however, is not required to select a judge from that list.
Hogan issued his executive order in February, just weeks after taking office.
In what is widely viewed as a nod toward bipartisanship, Hogan named retired U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. chair of the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission. Williams, who sat in the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, was appointed to the bench in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
The other commission members are Howard Blackwell Bowen, chief executive officer of Ewing Oil Co.; James T. Brady, former secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development; attorney Douglas M. Bregman, of Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday LLC in Bethesda; attorney Augustus F. Brown, of Brown, Brown & Young P.A. in Bel Air and Elkton; attorney Carville B. Collins, of DLA Piper in Baltimore; Janet Moye Cornick, an educator and member of the Howard County Republican Central Committee; attorney C. Carey Deeley Jr., of Venable LLP in Towson; attorney Katrina J. Dennis, of Saul Ewing LLP in Baltimore; attorney David B. Hamilton, of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP in Baltimore; Renee McDonald Hutchins, a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; attorney Timothy F. Maloney, of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A. in Greenbelt; attorney Kathleen Howard Meredith, of Iliff, Meredith, Wildberger & Brennan P.C. in Pasadena; Robert E. Warfield Sr., of the Maryland Economic Development Corp.; attorney Tracey Parker Warren, president of the Anne Arundel chapter of the Women’s Bar Association; former Del. John F. Wood Jr., D-Charles and St. Mary’s; and attorney Tara Sky Woodward, of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Washington, D.C.