Augment role of judges before raising their pay

According to The Sun, the state has been asked to significantly increase the salaries of judges over the next several years because of a shrinking "talent pool" ("Assembly considers raising judges' pay at all levels in Md.," Feb. 5).


However, many able lawyers would jump at the chance for the six-figure income, six weeks' personal leave, 12 state holidays, unlimited sick time and a pension of two-thirds their salary after 16 years of service that state judges receive. But without the necessary political connections or the stomach to cultivate them, they don't apply for the job.

Our legislators could do taxpayers a favor before they throw another $15,000 at the District Court judges: Let them be real judges.


Why do they handle parking tickets and red-light violations when administrative law judges hear more serious matters with far less handsome compensation? And the district criminal courts mostly serve as postponement and plea courts.

Most defendants who do not like a prosecutor's plea offer can simply take their case to the already overburdened Circuit Court. There, the plea offers are often reduced, and many witnesses, already victimized by multiple postponements, fail to show up.

Even if a trial occurs in the District Court, a defendant can appeal and get a whole new trial in the Circuit Court.

Many efforts have been made to make the District Court more useful, but they have failed - perhaps because the defense lawyers in the legislature like things the way they way.

But it is time for the other legislators to lessen the burden on the Circuit Court by allowing District Court judges to make a difference.

Page Croyder


The writer is deputy state's attorney for Baltimore City.


President struggled to justify his war

Sun reporter David L. Greene and I were not watching the same Meet the Press interview of President Bush on Sunday if he feels that Mr. Bush "deftly" (as the headline said) answered questions and provided effective responses about his war with Iraq ("Bush deftly answers critics in interview," Feb. 9).

David Folkenflik's commentary in the Today section was on the mark ("Bush tries to dampen concerns," Feb. 9).

Although Tim Russert did an adequate job of questioning Mr. Bush, what could Mr. Russert or anyone say to someone whose justification for a war goes something like this: "I was right, even though I was wrong. I had proof, even though there is none. But trust me, because I just know I'm right."

Unlike Mr. Greene, I saw a weak president who was struggling to make sense of the situation himself.

Jo-Ann Pilardi



Was David L. Greene watching the same interview with President Bush that I was?

Where Mr. Greene saw Mr. Bush "deftly" answering questions with a "straight-shooting assertiveness," I saw a man stuttering while trying to formulate answers in his head to questions he should have expected. Tim Russert's "tough questions" were follow-ups to evasive, unclear or unrelated answers by Mr. Bush.

It is clear after witnessing this performance why Mr. Bush holds so few press conferences.

Tim Kerr



Flimsy basis for war is reason to impeach

Those who listened to President Bush on Sunday's Meet the Press now know that we did not go to war in a pre-emptive strike ("President defends decision on Iraq," Feb. 9). The reason for the invasion of Iraq, it turns out, was a pre-emptive hunch (and a wrong one at that).

A president who takes this nation into war on such flimsy and dishonest grounds deserves to be impeached. President Bill Clinton was impeached for far less.

Julian S. Stein Jr.

Union Bridge

Finding any reason to attack president


The Sun complains that the public service announcements about the changes in Medicare are nothing more than a television advertising campaign paid for by the government for the re-election of President Bush ("Not on our dime," editorial, Feb. 8).

I hadn't noticed any criticism from The Sun of other government-sponsored TV ads from other presidents. What about all those ads for the Internal Revenue Service or food stamps? Were they re-election ads for presidents as well?

I think the editors of The Sun have such a great dislike for this president that they can't miss any opportunity to criticize him for just about anything.

Murray Spear


Don't blame drugs for teen-age suicides


I was very disturbed by The Sun's article about suicides and antidepressant drugs because I fear that parents will delay getting help for their children because of this article ("Medicines suspected in youth suicides," Feb. 3).

The logic is like giving a patient a cholesterol-lowering drug and then blaming the patient's subsequent heart attack on the drug.

All antidepressants we currently have take six to eight weeks to be effective, so a seriously ill patient is at high risk of suicide during that time period and should be followed closely by his or her doctor.

Suicide is a symptom of severe depression; the worse the depression, the more suicidal a patient is likely to be. But in this country, only about one-third of those who need mental health treatment receive it, and the percentage is even lower for adolescents. It is clear, then, that someone ill enough to have contact with a mental health provider is generally very ill indeed.

Having a family member commit suicide is a terrible tragedy. I am truly sorry for families that have had this experience. But the medication is not to blame. It is the horrible, excruciatingly painful, destructive, potentially fatal disease of major depression that is the culprit.

Dr. Laura A. Pratt



The writer is a psychiatric epidemiologist.

Douglass monument a tribute to liberty

In reference to the controversy surrounding plans to honor abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Talbot County, I ask: When will the frozen minds of the New World thaw enough to realize that the front-line soldiers of human liberty will forever outshine and be of greater influence to thinking people than the obedient servants of militaristic agendas or puppets of political protocol ("Plans to honor abolitionist prove divisive in Talbot Co.," Feb. 9)?

Frederick Douglass deserves a statue anywhere one can be erected on this soil ever-tarnished with racism and ignorance.

Eric James


Havre de Grace

Ceding moral ground to the critics of slots?

I see that state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller is calling those of us who oppose slot machines "moralists" ("Foes of slots change tactics," Feb. 5).

So what does that make Mr. Miller?

John Patterson