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November 3, 2003

Slim Pickings for Circuit Court Opening

John P. Snyder

When it came to judicial nominations, Maryland Republicans have been on the outside looking in for roughly two-and-a-half generations. Democratic governors rarely, if ever, appointed Republicans to the judiciary.

So, when Mary Ann Stepler announced her retirement, area Republicans rubbed their hands in glee anticipating having one of "our guys" get the nod.

Recommendations from the Trial Courts Nominating Committee certainly threw cold water on that possibility. The result leaves States Attorney Scott Role in quite a predicament and opens the door for Lennie Thompson.

It is customary for the governor to appoint one of the persons recommended. It can be said with some certainty that the Governor will seek the advice and consent of his golfing partner, Scott Rolle.

Of the four, two are Democrats. While in previous circumstances this fact would be a benefit, in today’s world it is unlikely that a Republican governor would appoint a Democrat right off the bat.

James Clapp and William Nicklas may be, for all we know, in the same league with Solomon, but they are members of the wrong party.

Also nominated are Theresa (Terry) Adams and Oliver John Cejka.

From my experience, Terry Adams is a great lady. One can't help but like her. Regrettably, she never quite got over being given the heave ho when newly elected States Attorney Rolle cleaned out former States Attorney Tommy Dorsey’s house.

She ran against Mr. Rolle in the’98 primary and lost. She then went on to support the Democratic nominee in '98 and again in 2002. She shouldn't count on Mr. Rolle’s willingness to bury the hatchet in order to make her a judge. Further, no one was surprised to see her name next to a hefty $1,000 donation to the Sue Hecht campaign.

That leaves John Cejka. Many were no doubt surprised to see him calling himself a Republican. After all, it wasn't long ago that he was the point man in Frederick for one Parris N. Glendening. He was rewarded for his efforts with an appointment to the FCC Board of Trustees.

Now Republicans can fully understand someone finally coming to their senses and registering Republican. They are usually welcomed with a hardy hand shake and a pat on the back. Seldom are they rewarded with a judgeship shortly after filling out their change of registration form.

Members of the search party were quite pleased with themselves. One even went so far as to discourage Lenny Thompson from running. They, after all, know far better than just regular old citizens who would make a good judge. They insist that the nominee run unopposed.

Should Mr. Thompson run he would have a good case to present. The judiciary needs a little diversity. One good conservative on the bench won't destroy the system.

And, should Mr. Rolle be party to placing a Democrat turned Republican on the bench, Republicans could duly note that Roscoe Bartlett wouldn't nominate a Democrat for the bench.

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