A commission is expected to decide Thursday which of the 16 lawyers seeking an Anne Arundel County judgeship should be considered by the governor for appointment to the job.

The panel plans an interview marathon that day, questioning all of the applicants and completing reviews of recommendations and views of lawyer organizations, said Thomas J. Fleckenstein, chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission for the county.

The list the commission will issue is critical, because Gov. Martin O'Malley must select someone from the list, which will include at least three names. The appointee will not have a long tenure in the job before having to win election in 2010 to keep it, as long as the appointment is made before the July 2010 deadline to file for candidacy for next November's election.

There's this wrinkle: Given that in 2004 two Republican candidates ousted appointed judges in the conservative-leaning county in a heated election, whoever the Democratic governor appoints could face a challenge in the fall.

In Maryland, Circuit Court judges are appointed by the governor, but then run for a 15-year-term.

The vacancy on the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court arose in July when Judge Michael E. Loney retired.

Four of the lawyers seeking the judgeship are prosecutors in the county's state's attorney's office. Of the two family and juvenile court masters who applied, one had been voted off the Circuit Court bench in 2004. One is an assistant attorney general. The others are in private practice.

No District Court judge applied, which is atypical. But court observers speculated that for some it may be because of concerns about the possibility of facing an opponent on the ballot. District Court judges are appointed to 10-year terms. They do not run for office.

See the list of applicants at: acancy.html

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