Baltimore's sitting judges send warning letter to challenger Jim Kraft

The Baltimore sitting judges slate sent a warning letter last week to challenger James B. Kraft, trying to prevent him from using the judges' names in campaign literature.

Kraft, a City Councilman, said he plans to promote in campaign documents the endorsements from community groups that he and some of the six sitting judges have received. But the judges warned Kraft against pursuing those plans.


"It has come to our attention that you intend to distribute or cause to be distributed campaign literature and/or election day ballots that will include endorsements of one or more of the sitting judges along with your name for seats on the Circuit Court of Baltimore City," the letter states. "The Baltimore City Sitting Judges Committee will take any and all recourse available to it against you for any unauthorized use of any sitting judge's name."

The letter is signed by H. Mark Stichel, who is chairman of the Baltimore City Sitting Judges Committee.


Kraft said the letter is an attempt to intimidate. He forwarded a copy to The Baltimore Sun.

He said the judges have been pressuring others around the city, as well, to stop them from endorsing some sitting judges, but not others.

"It's not only intimidation. It's a voter suppression activity," Kraft said.

Kraft said the judges have no good legal argument, either. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech in America.

"The average person, if they get that letter, they are going to think: The judges are coming after you," Kraft said. "The worst part about it is this: They're judges. They're the very people you look to to enforce fairness."

Stichel said he wasn't sure what the judges would do if Kraft proceeds with the literature.

"We don't authorize anyone to split the slate up," Stichel said. "I can't speculate without seeing what he does. I would hope he doesn't do it."

The sitting judges up for election are Shannon E. Avery, Audrey J.S. Carrion, Michael A. DiPietro, Karen Chaya Friedman, Wanda Keyes Heard and Cynthia H. Jones. They are running as a ticket. Challenging them are Kraft, who has represented Southeast Baltimore on the City Council since 2004, and Todd Oppenheim, who has worked as a public defender in Baltimore for more than a decade.