Douglas Colbert’s recent op-ed piece regarding whether Gov. Larry Hogan or Ben Jealous would make better judicial appointments demonstrates that Mr. Colbert is knowledgeable about neither the judicial appointment process in Maryland nor the judicial appointments which Governor Hogan has made over the last three and a half years (“Maryland's highest court will turn over during next governor's term; whom do you trust to make the appointments?,” Sept. 27).
Governor Hogan, as have all governors since 1970, established Judicial Nominating Commissions consisting of members of the Maryland State Bar Association, practicing attorneys and lay people who vet all persons who apply to be Maryland judges. These commissions, under the supervision of the Administrative Office of the Courts, interview all of the candidates and send to the governor those they find to be legally and most fully professionally qualified to be judges. The commissions receive input from not only the Maryland Bar Association but also the many local and specialty bar associations such as the Women’s Bar Association of Maryland, the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association, the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association, the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys, the Monumental City Bar, the LGBTQ Bar Association of Maryland and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association, among others.
The nominating commissions are directed by the governor to consider each applicant’s integrity, maturity, temperament, diligence, legal knowledge, intellectual ability, professional experience, community service and other qualities before deciding whether to forward the candidates to the governor. The commissions are asked to send at least three names for each vacancy. The governor interviews the commission recommended candidates and makes an appointment.
Contrary to Mr. Colbert’s partisan view, Governor Hogan’s judicial selections have been consistently viewed as outstanding by both the bench and the bar. Moreover, his appointments have mirrored Maryland’s diverse citizenry. Forty-five percent of his judicial appointments have been women and thirty percent have been minorities. Among his appointments, Governor Hogan appointed the first African-American judge to the Cecil County Circuit Court and the first African-American female judge to the Circuit Courts in Charles and Anne Arundel counties. Governor Hogan appointed Judge Melanie Shaw Geter who now sits as the only African-American woman on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Governor Hogan also appointed the first African-American — Judge Michele Hotten — to ever represent Prince George’s County on the Court of Appeals of Maryland, our state’s highest court. Judge Joseph Getty, Governor Hogan’s other appointment to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, singled out by Mr. Colbert, presented with both private practice and legislative experience including service in the Maryland General Assembly and as chief legislative officer in the office of the governor — a critically important position also held by two former Maryland judicial appellate giants: Judges Jack Eldridge and Alan Wilner.
It has been my honor to advise Governor Hogan on the qualities he should look for in judicial appointees, and to serve as the chair of the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission. I know first-hand that his judicial appointments have been outstanding. The citizens of Maryland can continue to trust that Governor Hogan will appoint highly qualified men and women to serve with distinction as judges to serve on Maryland’s highest court, and on all of the courts of our state.
Alexander Williams Jr.
The writer is a retired United States District judge and chairman of the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission.