For the first time in eight years, Baltimore's judges face a challenger at the polls, a former city prosecutor who aims to knock veteran judge Alfred Nance from the bench.
Page Croyder, 58, said she is running for election because of what she sees as Nance's lack of decorum on the bench and poor treatment of women who come into his courtroom.
"I'm running because I care about the judiciary and I think people deserve judges who are going to treat them respectfully," Croyder said.
But Croyder in effect is taking on all seven city judges, because her name is among all of theirs on primary ballots — and the top seven of the eight will go on to the November election.
Croyder says her target is Nance, who once received an official reprimand for his treatment of women.
Nance declined to comment for this article. He regularly says from the bench that he expects respect and good manners from the people in his courtroom as well as strict compliance from defendants who are on probation.
There are two routes to a Maryland Circuit Court bench. One is to run an election campaign, as Croyder is doing.
The more common way is to be appointed by the governor. But even those judges must face voters in the first election after their appointment.
In an attempt to protect sitting judges from having to play politics, they are represented by a committee that speaks for all of them and urges voters to shun challengers.
The names of the judges and Croyder appear in alphabetical order on both Republican and Democratic primary ballots. If the same seven people win both primaries, the general election will be a formality.
A campaign flier for the judges' committee features a mock ballot with the names listed as they are expected to appear at the polls. On the flier, Croyder's last name is covered by red letters that read "SKIP — NOT A JUDGE."
The sitting judges declined to comment individually, asking H. Mark Stichel, the chairman of their committee, to talk on their behalf.
He declined to address Croyder's claims about Nance, but said the sitting judges "are the best qualified of the Baltimore City judicial candidates and deserve to be retained."
Stichel added that without the protection of an electoral slate, talented attorneys would be unwilling to give up their jobs and put their names forward for judicial appointments, only to risk losing at the election.
"The real issue is getting good people to apply," he said. "Supporting the sitting judges is part of that."
Eight people are seeking Baltimore Circuit Court judgeships in the June 24 primary. All but Croyder, a former city prosecutor, are sitting judges.
Melissa Kaye Copeland, 45
Page Croyder, 58
Jeffrey M. Geller, 42
Philip S. Jackson, 57
Alfred Nance, 66
Christopher Panos, 55
Melissa Phinn, 59
Julie Rubin, 41