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15 vie for Circuit Court judge's seat


Fifteen applicants - including a District Court judge, a master in chancery and a district public defender - are vying to fill a Howard County Circuit Court judgeship vacancy that will be created by the Jan. 7 retirement of Judge James B. Dudley.

It is the first vacancy on the five-member Circuit Court bench since 1996, when Judges Lenore R. Gelfman and Diane O. Leasure were chosen after a contentious election.

Dudley, 67, has been on the bench since 1989.

The applicants, whose names the Maryland Judiciary released after Monday's application deadline, are scheduled to be interviewed by the Judicial Nominating Commission on Jan. 11. The commission will offer its recommendations to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who will select a judge at a time of his choosing, said Deborah Gibson, program services assistant for the Maryland Judiciary's Administrative Office of the Courts.

The appointed judge will then have to run for election in 2006 for a 15-year term. The Circuit Court recently filled two masters in chancery positions left vacant by Bernard A. Raum and Nancy L. Haslinger, who retired in the fall. Masters Mary M. Kramer and William V. Tucker are set to begin their new positions today.

The applicants for Dudley's seat include District Court Judge Louis A. Becker; Howard Master Elaine Patrick; Carol A. Hanson, district public defender for Howard and Carroll counties; Mary V. Murphy, a prosecutor in Howard's state's attorney's office; JoAnn C. Woodson Branche, a prosecutor in Prince George's County's state's attorney's office; and Richard S. Bernhardt, an assistant attorney general.

Other applicants are lawyers Robert W. Guth, Michael J. Jack, Gary S. Peklo, Barry Silber, Jonathan S. Smith, David A. Titman, Paul M. Vettori, G. Randall Whittenberger and Ricardo D. Zwaig.

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