With one vacancy on the county's District Court bench still unfilled, Judge Robert N. Lucke is creating another opening by retiring.

But the vacancy created when Judge Thomas J. Curley retired two months ago likely will be filled before Lucke's retirement becomes effective May 3, the governor's appointments secretary said yesterday.

The seven finalists for Curley's position had been scheduled to be interviewed yesterday by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, said Robert A. Pascal. The appointments secretary added the governor will likely announce his choice, which is subject to state Senate confirmation, by the end of this week or, at the latest, sometime next week.

"I don't think there will be any delay now that the interviews are being taken care of," Pascal said.

Lucke, 67, of Severna Park, has sat on the District Court bench in Anne Arundel County since he was appointed in 1977. Lucke was reappointed by Schaefer in 1987 after his 10-year term expired.

Lucke said he hoped the governor would act quickly to appoint a replacement for Curley because that unfilled vacancy has contributed to an increasingly tough workload for the remaining judges.

"We've been busy," Lucke said.

Lucke said he felt it wassimply time for him to retire after nearly 14 years on the bench. "I think everybody looks forward to retirement," he said, adding he andhis wife plan to take advantage of the chance to travel, including atrip to China scheduled to begin 10 days after his retirement becomes effective.

"Hopefully I've been able to accomplish some good for the state,"Lucke said. "I've enjoyed all phases of the work."

Lucke, a nearly lifelong resident of Anne Arundel County and a graduate of Annapolis High School, received his law degree from the Universityof Maryland School of Law in 1959. Before earning his law degree, heworked as an agent and inspector for the U.S. Treasury Department. For nine years he was also chief of alcoholic beverages enforcement for the state comptroller's office.

Candidates to replace Lucke include the seven finalists for Curley's job, five who applied for Curley's job but did not make the list of finalists and three new applicants, said Judith C. Levinson, legal officer for the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

The seven finalists for Curley's job are private attorneys Walter S. B. Childs, Vincent A. Mulieri and Robert C. Wilcox; Circuit Court Masters James W. "Jack" Dryden and Essom V. Ricks; Assistant Public Defender James D. McCarthy Jr.; and Assistant State's Attorney Frederick M. Paone.

The five who applied for Curley's position and renewed their application for Lucke's job are: private attorneys Philip T. Caroom and Charles J. Muskin; Assistant State's Attorneys Megan B. Johnson and Eugene M. Whissel II; and Otho M. Thompson, chief of litigation for the Baltimore City law office.

The three new applicants are Assistant State's Attorney Robert David Fordham and private attorneys Lynn T. Krause and Elliott S. Newcomb.

Levinson said the county's 13-member judicial nominating commission will meet April 22 to decide on a list of finalists to send to the governor for consideration.

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