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Hogan seeks more applicants for high court vacancy, cites need for diversity

Judges and lawyers residing in Harford and Baltimore counties who desire to serve on Maryland’s top court have less than four weeks to submit their applications after Gov. Larry Hogan said an initial slate of seven applicants did not satisfy the breadth of “diversity and outreach” he seeks on the bench.

Citing Hogan’s request to reopen the application process, the Maryland Judiciary this week extended until Nov. 18 the deadline to apply for the Court of Appeals seat that will become vacant Feb. 23 when Judge Robert N. McDonald reaches the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.

A spokesperson for Hogan declined to elaborate on what the governor means by diversity and outreach, stating via email that “I think it speaks for itself.”

The seven current applicants for the coming Court of Appeals vacancy include six white men and a white woman. A recent national survey of state supreme courts noted that the Maryland Court of Appeals has no Latino or Asian American judge.

The Brennan Center for Justice’s April 2021 report did find that the ethnic and gender diversity on Maryland’s seven-member top court exceeds  the national average regarding Black and women state supreme court judges.

The Court of Appeals consists of two Black women, Shirley M. Watts and Michele D. Hotten; a white woman, Brynja M. Booth; and four white Men, Joseph M. Getty, Jonathan Biran, Steven B. Gould and McDonald.

Maryland, at 28%, exceeds the national average of 17% of state supreme court judges who are people of color and, at 42%, bests the national average of 39% of seats held by women. Maryland had reached 57% for women before then-Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera stepped down last month upon reaching age 70.

Hogan subsequently elevated Getty to chief judge and selected Gould for the high court.

The seven current candidates for the coming Court of Appeals vacancy met the initial Oct. 19 application deadline. They are Court of Special Appeals Judges Daniel A. Friedman and Douglas R.M. Nazarian; Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Robinson Jr.; and attorneys Robert S. Brennen, of Miles & Stockbridge in Baltimore; Irwin R. Kramer, of Kramer & Connolly in Reisterstown; Jason D. Medinger, of the U.S. attorney’s office for Maryland; and Julie M. Reamy, a Baltimore solo practitioner.

All applicants for the vacancy will be vetted by the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission, which will winnow the list and submit recommendations for selection to Hogan. The governor’s nominee will be subject to Senate confirmation.

McDonald holds the seat on the seven-member high court reserved for an attorney or judge who resides in Baltimore County or Harford County.

“Readvertisements” to fill judicial vacancies have been requested during the Hogan administration but generally when too few people have applied. The governor has an executive order calling for court vacancies to be “automatically re-advertised” if fewer than three candidates apply.

The last readvertisement for a Court of Appeals vacancy occurred in 2015 after only two people applied for the seat left vacant when Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. retired. The readvertisement attracted three more candidates.

Hogan subsequently appointed Hotten to the seat.