Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. (The Daily Record/Rich Dennison)

Md. Court of Appeals vacancy awaits action by Hogan

Governor received commission's list in late August

Gov. Larry Hogan has yet to fill a vacant seat on Maryland’s top court despite having been given a list of three candidates for the vacancy two-and-a-half months ago.

In late August, the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission forwarded to Hogan the names of intermediate Court of Special Appeals Judge Michele D. Hotten, Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Sean D. Wallace and attorney Michael J. Winkelman, a partner at McCarthy & Winkelman in Lanham.

“Governor Hogan takes these issues very seriously and is doing all the needed and appropriate due diligence to make the decision that is best for the people of Maryland,” Douglass Mayer, the governor’s spokesman, said in an email message Monday. “The Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission sent the governor three fantastic candidates and the final selection process is currently underway.”

Hogan has yet to fill any judicial vacancies since becoming governor. Other vacancies awaiting action by Hogan include seats on the circuit courts of Montgomery, Harford and Baltimore counties and the district courts in Howard County and Baltimore City.

Nominating commissions are still vetting candidates for vacancies on the Court of Special Appeal and circuit courts in Anne Arundel and Wicomico counties.

Hogan’s choice for the state’s top court will succeed Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. who reached Maryland’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70 on June 27.

Harrell has continued to sit on the bench via special assignment from Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. The assignment will end when Harrell’s successor takes the seat.

Hogan is not required to select a name from the commission’s list but such selections have been gubernatorial practice for the past 45 years. Hogan’s pick will be able to take the bench but will be subject to Senate confirmation when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, who chairs the Senate Executive Nominations Committee, said Monday that he has “not heard from the governor’s office about plans to nominate anyone yet.”

Raskin added he is not concerned by the lack of a gubernatorial pick, noting Harrell’s continued service on the court by special assignment.

“I think it will work fine until the governor submits his nominee,” said Raskin, D-Montgomery.

In filling the most recent high-court vacancy in July 2013, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley took less than two weeks after the nominating commission’s sent its recommendations to name Court of Special Appeals Judge Shirley M. Watts to the seat left vacant by the mandatory retirement of Chief Judge Robert M. Bell. In the same July 2, 2013, announcement, O’Malley elevated Barbera, already a judge on the Court of Appeals, to be chief.

Political science professor Todd Eberly of St. Mary’s College of Maryland said “it does seem strange” that the governor has left the Court of Appeals without an active judge for more than two months.

“It does seem to be taking a while,” added Eberly, who has lectured and written extensively on Maryland politics. “You would assume there would be eagerness to fill a vacancy.”

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.