Diversity initiative may dim the caliber of...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Diversity initiative may dim the caliber of state's judiciary

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's latest politically-correct temper tantrum over judicial appointments in Baltimore County is another chapter in the pathetic story of his lack of understanding of the role of the judicial branch of government ("Glendening says bench too limited," Sept. 15).

The governor has two agendas with respect to judicial appointments: political patronage and political correctness. Political patronage is a covert agenda, but it has been painfully obvious in some of Mr. Glendening's appointments.

The governor's agenda of diversifying the bench by appointing more minorities and women to make it "more representative" has created a widely-held perception in the legal community that diversity is taking precedence over quality.

The Maryland Constitution does not require that the judiciary be representative of the population or that it be diverse.

It requires that judges be not less than 30 years of age at the time of their election or appointment; that they be admitted to the practice of law in Maryland; and that they be "most distinguished for integrity, wisdom, and sound legal knowledge."

The governor's intent to diversify the bench has had a chilling effect on persons who, by accident of birth, are white males and who may be most distinguished for integrity, wisdom and legal knowledge -- discouraging them from applying for judgeships.

This policy also encourages others, who are not white males, and who may be of less distinction, to apply for vacancies.

Any time Mr. Glendening reaches too deeply into the talent pool to select a judge who is a member of a certain gender or race or who is a political favorite, he violates his constitutional duty and degrades the quality of the judiciary.

Ernest I. Cornbrooks III, Salisbury

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is advocating advancement to the bench based on race and gender by indicating that he will not make a selection from another list of all-white or male candidates.

This is blatant discrimination, masquerading as inclusiveness.

As Warren Mix, one of the governor's advisers, said, there is not a large pool of minority candidates from which to draw.

Mr. Glendening suggests that more minorities should be recruited.

But in the meantime it appears that judicial appointments will be actively withheld from qualified non-minorities until a minority candidate can be found, which will further clog the system.

Lisa Mitchell, Baltimore

Election requirement blunts judicial diversity

Circuit Court judges are the only members of Maryland's judiciary required to stand for election in the general election that occurs one year after their appointment to the bench.

Efforts to repeal this requirement have for many years failed in the General Assembly.

If the governor wants to attract more qualified applicants and a more diversified ethnic and gender balance of applicants for positions, he should use his influence to repeal the election requirement during the General Assembly's upcoming session.

Leonard S. Jacobson, Towson

The writer is a retired judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

Right to life trumps the right to bear arms

What is wrong with us? Are we so self-centered that we cannot see that easy access to guns kills?

Are hunting, target practice and collecting guns so much more important than human life? Constitutional rights are irrelevant when you are dead ("Unlike owning cars, our right to bear arms is guaranteed," letters, Sept. 16).

I realize that a large percentage of gun crime is committed with illegal weapons, but our children are finding our guns (those for hunting, target practice and collecting) and shooting each other.

Criminals find those same guns during robberies and use them for their continued crime.

I understand the need to protect our constitutional rights. But protecting our society is necessary above all else.

We need fewer guns and more energy devoted to protecting our society and city.

Sarah Buxton, Baltimore

Government should repent for its treatment of natives

The idea of a Native American having to apologize to Native Americans for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) "legacy of racism and inhumanity" is incongruous ("U.S. official apologizes for treatment of Indians," Sept. 10).

White men are responsible for the massacres, forced relocations of tribes and attempts to wipe out Indian languages and cultures that have marred the agency's 175-year history.

Kevin Gover, the Pawnee head of the agency, can lament the ethnic cleansing of tribes, recite the litany of wrongs inflicted by the BIA on Native Americans, and reflect on an outcome of poverty, ignorance and disease and high rates of alcoholism, suicide and violence.

He can indict. The whole federal government must apologize.

Chester Wickwire, Towson

City Council is blessed to have Dixon's leadership

The Sun's recent article on City Council President Sheila Dixon was a breath of fresh air ("Dixon learning new ropes as City Council president," Sept. 8).

How wonderful it was to read a positive story about government officials. We need to know our elected are busy doing the work we elected them to do.

Ms. Dixon has shown absolute professionalism. The council's retreat, which enabled members to learn and come to respect each other, surely was needed.

Her clear view of the need to examine the City Council's structure shows her perception. Her unwavering support of movement on lead paint shows her concern for children, youth and families.

And her support for police Commissioner Edward T. Norris clearly shows Ms. Dixon's interest in reducing crime in a crime-ridden city.

The city and the City Council are blessed to have her as a leader.

Floyd Briscoe Wright, Baltimore

A change in our diet may cure bay's woes

Tom Horton's recent column "Government, business seek to fight pollution," (Sept. 8) notes "This country has developed a marvelous system for producing cheap, abundant food, which has turned out to be unacceptably polluting. It won't cost a lot more to do it cleanly if we spread the price among the culpable parties ... everyone who eats."

The best, easiest cheapest solution to the problem of "unacceptably polluting" food production is for citizens to become vegetarians, preferably ones who consume organic fruits, vegetables and grains.

This change would solve all the bay's environmental problems.

Conscientious organic farming and gardening are sustainable and produce no nutrients run-off into the bay or its tributaries; the excess manure involved in animal production would be eliminated; and, in organic farming, no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are applied to foul the air or water.

Also the cruel conditions under which factory-raised animals are fattened and slaughtered would be eliminated.

And, perhaps most important, vegetarians are, on average, healthier and less obese than meat-consuming individuals.

Rather than subsidize the hauling and burning of chicken manure, the state should finance a campaign that promotes a sensible, cheap (free), healthy solution to our problems of air and water pollution: an organic vegetarian diet for all Marylanders.

Then "everyone who eats" would become an instant winner.

Kirk S. Nevin, White Hall

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