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Despite courthouse space issues, Harford moves ahead with selecting additional circuit judge

Nine lawyers have applied for a new Harford Circuit Court judgeship, joining three candidates from the last judicial nominating process.
Nine lawyers have applied for a new Harford Circuit Court judgeship, joining three candidates from the last judicial nominating process. (Aegis file photo / Baltimore Sun)

Nine lawyers have applied for a new Harford Circuit Court judgeship, joining three candidates from the last judicial nominating process, as the move to fill the post goes forward without any imminent improvements in court facilities to accommodate a sixth judge.

The Harford County Judicial Nominating Commission announced the applicants Tuesday: William Guy Cristoforo, Anthony Guy DePaula, Alison Marie Healey, Paul W. Ishak, William Henry Klumpp Jr., Robert Scott McCord, Kerwin Anthony Miller, State Sen. Howard Wayne Norman Jr. and Gavin Malachi Patashnick. The holdover candidates are District Court Judge David Earl Carey, Diane Adkins Tobin and Martin Eugene Wolf.

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Carey, Tobin and Wolf were finalists for the last Circuit Court vacancy which was filled in December when Gov. Larry Hogan selected Judge Kevin Mahoney.

The nominating commission is required to send at least three nominees to the governor, more if it wishes. The governor is bound by executive order to select from the commission's list of nominees. He can, however, request the commission submit additional names.

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The commission is soliciting signed, written comment on the latest group of applicants, which should be received by Sept. 30, addressed to: Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission District 4 – Harford County c/o Administrative Office of the Courts, Human Resources Department, Maryland Judicial Center, 580 Taylor Ave., Building A, First Floor, Annapolis, 21401.

The commission is scheduled to meet on Sept. 30, according to a schedule posted on the Maryland Courts website. In addition to soliciting comments about them, it will interview each applicant.

The sixth Harford Circuit judgeship was approved last winter by the Maryland General Assembly, which provided funding for the new judge's salary. Circuit judges are paid $154,433 annually. In recent years both sitting judges and some local lawyers have pushed for expanding the bench because of increasing case loads.

The responsibility for providing courtroom and office space for the new judge falls to the county government, which owns the circuit courthouse.

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"The county executive previously expressed concerns about the lack of additional space" for the sixth judge, Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said Wednesday. "The judges, however, pushed ahead and said they would make do with what they have."

When there was talk last winter of the likelihood of Harford getting an additional judge, the county commissioned a feasibility study of the cost of retrofitting the courthouse to accommodate the new judge and his or her staff.

The study estimated the cost at $1 million, Mumby said. The county in turn said it would fund $500,000 and asked if the state would match it. Even so, she added, nothing could be done until after July 1, 2017, when the next fiscal year starts, as there is no funding in the current budget for the retrofit.

There's been no agreement from the state to put up any of the money, either, Mumby said.

"There's no capital project at this time," she said. "The judges have a plan and they are going forward."

In addition to the three holdover candidates, Norman, who represents northern Harford and western Cecil counties in the State Senate, and Miller have previously applied for judgeships. Miller, who formerly was a deputy state's attorney in Cecil County, was a finalist for Harford judgeships in 2011 and 2013 but was not selected by then-governor Martin O'Malley. Tobin, a deputy state's attorney in Harford, has been a finalist for the past three Circuit Court vacancies.

Ishak, who practices law in Bel Air, is also the attorney for the City of Havre de Grace. Christoforo is a former Harford prosecutor. McCord served as the Harford government's top attorney for 11 years before joining the Maryland State Department of Planning last year.

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