Two attorneys who sued the state following unsuccessful bids for Anne Arundel County judge in 2016 are running again.
Claudia Barber of Laurel and Rickey Nelson Jones of Glen Burnie, African-American attorneys who both ran as Democrats, have filed to run for a single position on ballot this year, according to state records.
The two will run in the June primary against incumbent Judge Mark Crooks, who is seeking retention after being appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan last year. Crooks is one of two Republicans who has filed to run so far, joining Robert Burton of Crofton.
Barber lost in the 2016 general election in a race that pitted her against four judges running for retention as Republicans. Nelson lost in the primary, as only the top five candidates made it through to November.
Both argued during their campaigns that the court does not represent the county’s racial make-up. There are no African-Americans on the bench, while about 17 percent of the county population is black.
After their losses, each separately sued state officials unsuccessfully.
Barber, the only African-American woman to reach the general election for a county judicial race, claimed the State Board of Elections improperly ordered her to pay back $8,746 to her campaign. She spent the money to appeal her dismissal from her job as an administrative law judge in Washington, D.C., something she claimed was a legitimate campaign expense. An internal review found she’d violated her employer’s code of ethics by running in the partisan judicial election.
Last month, a judge dismissed the lawsuit ruling that she filed it in the wrong court.
Barber said Wednesday that the appeal of her dismissal in Washington is ongoing and that she remains convinced she will prevail.
Asked about her decision to run for judge again, she wrote in an email: “We’re overcomers. We will win.”
In his lawsuit, Jones claimed the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which recommends candidates to the governor for judicial appointments, treated him unfairly in its vetting process for previous vacancies. He applied twice but was not recommended.
He claimed the commission discriminated against him by raising a previous discrimination complaint against the Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Barbera. A court-appointed arbiter dismissed the complaint against the commission.
Friday, Jones filed an appeal of that decision in the Court of Special Appeals, claiming the ruling ignores the “racially exclusionary process and appointment of judges to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County ...”
In an email, he wrote his decision to run was based on “the need for a righteous, uniquely qualified Judge on the Circuit Court.”
“The absence of diversity on the bench in a diverse county in 2018 is both shameful and unjustifiable,” Jones wrote.
Barber and Jones have been fixtures at marches and protests outside the courthouse in Annapolis calling for more diversity on the court.