WASHINGTON - Judge William D. Quarles of Baltimore Circuit Court got a friendly reception yesterday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to the federal bench, suggesting that he will easily win confirmation from the full Senate.
Quarles, President Bush's first appointment to the U.S. District Court in Maryland, was nominated in September at the urging of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who was then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. At yesterday's hearing, Quarles was lavishly praised by the state's two Democratic senators, Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski.
Mikulski said she backed the Republican nominee "without reservation and with great enthusiasm," adding, "and we're saying this about a member of the other party." Sarbanes said Quarles would add to the excellent reputation of the federal bench in Maryland.
The committee chairman, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, a Utah Republican, said Quarles "has an impressive record in both the private and public sectors." He said he expected the committee to vote "very soon" to send the nomination to the full Senate.
Quarles, a circuit judge since 1996 and a former federal prosecutor and attorney with the Baltimore firm Venable, Baetjer and Howard, will succeed Judge William M. Nickerson, who is retiring to senior status.
Last week, the president named Richard D. Bennett, chairman of Bush's 2000 presidential campaign in Maryland and a former U.S. attorney, to succeed Judge Frederic N. Smalkin, who is planning to retire to senior status because of health concerns.
This is Quarles' second nomination to the federal bench. In 1992, the president's father named him to a U.S. District Court vacancy. But Congress adjourned before acting on the nomination, which was doomed when Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton then defeated President George Bush.
At yesterday's hearing, Quarles contrasted the overloaded city court dockets with the more relaxed pace in federal court, saying he averages from 15 to 20 cases daily when he sits in criminal court and from 20 to 30 when he is handling civil matters.
"It will be nice to have the greater resources of the federal system and a little more time" for each case, he said.