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Md. judicial selection is actually pretty fair

Maryland Court of Appeals in 2013.
Maryland Court of Appeals in 2013. (State Government Photo)

Todd Oppenheim’s letter to the editor declaring his fitness for judicial office is self-serving electioneering (“Judicial selection system is badly flawed,” Nov. 22). Mr. Oppenheim ran against the sitting judges in the last election and lost. He says he then applied for a judicial appointment, as did each of the sitting judges, and he writes “to no surprise, [he] got nowhere.”

There are six professional qualifications for a judge in Maryland. They include being a U.S. and a Maryland citizen, residing in the state for at least five years, being at least 30 years of age, and the like. It’s the personal qualifications required by the state constitution that hang up many aspiring candidates for judicial appointment. Maryland’s constitution requires they must be lawyers, “distinguished for integrity, wisdom and sound legal judgment.” The constitution provides the governor with limited guidance in fulfilling his role of appointing judges, so he relies on a judicial nominating commission whose primary purpose is to screen candidates for their “integrity, wisdom and sound legal judgment” to help him.

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It’s far better for the citizens of Maryland that this commission vets and nominates qualified candidates for the governor’s consideration instead of a candidate for election self-declaring his qualifications. As to Mr. Oppenheim’s qualifications to sit in judgment of others, even he is not surprised, in his words, that he got nowhere with the commission. He can make up reasons why this is so, some of which are downright insulting to the people that serve on these commissions, but facts are facts — he can’t pass the screening.

Jim Astrachan, Baltimore

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