Applications are due today from lawyers interested in replacing Harford County District Court Judge Victor Butanis, who retired earlier this year.
Butanis, 62, who was appointed to the bench Aug. 30, 1996, retired Jan. 31 but has continued working during the process to pick his successor, according to a court spokesperson.
Butanis, who declined to comment on his retirement, is still hearing cases as a senior judge, a court official said Tuesday.
The Harford Judicial Nominating Commission is seeking applications for Butanis’ replacement to be named by Gov. Larry Hogan.
The deadline for applications is 4:30 p.m. today.
The 13-member nominating commission is scheduled to meet Thursday, July 26, and Friday, July 27, to interview candidates.
Tim Braue, chairman of the nomination commission, said he expects numerous applications for the position.
“My belief is we will have a lot of candidates interested in serving on the district court,” Braue said. “If someone is interested in being a judge, they can start with training at the district court and move up.”
Being a district court judge does not require running for office, unlike those in circuit court who have to run for 15-year terms after being appointed.
District court judges serve 10-year terms and are paid $141,333 a year, according to the Maryland Manual Online.
Judge Mimi Cooper’s term expires in 2019, Judge David Carey’s in 2023 and District Administrative Judge Susan Hazlett’s in 2028.
After two days of interviews, the commission will make three recommendations to Gov. Larry Hogan, who will make the appointment which must then be confirmed by the Maryland Senate, according to Braue.
In addition to having the right temperament, a good background in terms of understanding the law and someone who is looked up to in the community, Braue said the most important criteria for him in a judge is the ability to make decisions.
“Because there are a lot of cases and not a lot of time to slow down the process,” Braue said.
State of the courts
The group of nominating commission members has nominated three circuit court judges in the last three and a half years, but no district court judges, Braue said, but he also pointed out there is a “real interplay” between the two courts.
Before Hogan made his recent judicial appointments, including a sixth judge, the circuit court had a “very large” backlog of cases, Braue said.
“When Hogan came into office, I started looking into the best way to get the judiciary system working better, therefore what kinds of candidates should be in office,” Braue said.
He cited a management issue at the circuit court level, with five judges and only four hearing cases.
“Some of them [cases] were lingering for years before being resolved,” he said, adding there were some personality issues among the judges, who didn’t all work well together.
“We have a new administrative judge [Angela Eaves] who is working on developing a system to make the court more efficient,” he said.
The judges who are there now are working “exceptionally well together,” Braue said. “They work hard and when there’s a problem, someone is behind, they pitch in to help out. That wasn’t happening before. Everyone was their own island.”
The Circuit Court is cutting down on that backlog, he said, and he’s happy with how the bench is working in terms of service to the citizens.
Part of that backlog has been created by the number of cases that start in District Court being moved to Circuit Court, Braue said, which is happening in “an abnormally large” number of cases.
“The perception among criminal defense attorneys is that certain judges on the district court and certain kinds of cases are more likely to result in very harsh criminal sanctions,” Braue said. “A quote from the defense bar is that ‘It’s malpractice to try certain kinds of cases in front of district court judges.’ ”
Many of the defense lawyers are moving their cases out of district and into circuit, creating more of a backlog “where they already had too many cases,” Braue said.
Any lawyer interested in appointment to this vacancy should complete the personal data questionnaire, available as a downloadable document on the Judiciary’s website, www.mdcourts.gov/judgeselect.
Any applicant who reapplies to a commission with whom they have filed a personal data questionnaire within the past 24 months need not file a new questionnaire.
The candidate may submit a letter stating that he or she is reapplying and submit any changes that have occurred since the submission of the earlier questionnaire.
Any questions about the application process should be directed to Debra L. Kaminski or Jennifer A. Miller at the Administrative Office of the Courts at 410-260-1271, 410-260-1211 or Maryland Relay Service (TTY/Voice) 1-800-735-2258.
The completed personal data questionnaire and two writing samples (at least 17 copies – see questionnaire as to additional copies) must be received by Debra L. Kaminski or Jennifer A. Miller in the Administrative Office of the Courts, Human Resources Department, Maryland Judicial Center, 580 Taylor Avenue, Building A, First Floor, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401. Late applications will not be accepted.
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Butanis served as district administrative judge from Nov. 19, 1999 to May 26, 2010. He presided over the Adult Drug Court Program from 2002 to 2005 and 2008 to 2017.
He also applied for recent Circuit Court vacancies and made it through the nominating committee, but was not picked by the governor.
Butanis’ other activities include member, Civil Law and Procedure Committee, Maryland Judicial Conference, 1998 to 2001; member, Drug Treatment Court Commission, 2002 to 2005; member, Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, District Court of Maryland, 2003 to 2007; and member, Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Council, Harford County, 2004 to 2015.
Butanis was a Harford County assistant county attorney from 1983 to 1986; deputy county attorney from 1986 to 1988; and county attorney from 1988 to 1991.
He has been a member of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission, 1987 to 1991; assistant attorney general, 1991; attorney to Harford County Council, 1995-1996; and member of the Harford County Charter Review Commission, 1995 to 1996.
Butanis attended Parkville Senior High School, received his bachelor of arts from Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola College, in 1976; and his law degree from University of Baltimore School of Law in 1980. He was admitted to Maryland Bar in 1981 and has been a member of the Harford County Bar Association and Harford County Bar Foundation (executive committee, 1999-2000) and received the Governor's Salute to Excellence, 1989.