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As Long as We Remember...

February 27, 2004

Keep Judge Adams

Craig Wolf

People often question the value of their vote - whether their vote actually can make a difference in an election. This is especially true in primary elections.

But that is not the case this year: On March 2nd, voters have the chance to influence the quality of justice that is available to citizens in Frederick County for the next 15 years.

In December, Gov. Robert Ehrlich appointed Theresa M. Adams to the bench of the Circuit Court for Frederick County. She is an experienced and seasoned attorney who is extremely well qualified for the position.

Unfortunately, she must now run a race to retain that position because Lenny Thompson has placed his vanity and cynicism above the interests of the citizens of Frederick County. He is counting on voters' apathy, ignorance of the importance of this position, and the value of name recognition to overcome his obvious lack of qualifications and temperament for the job.

Mr. Thompson attempts to justify his gambit by slandering the Governor of Maryland, our State delegation, the Bar Association of Frederick County, the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission, and by misrepresenting the nature of the process and the influence of the players involved. Mr. Thompson is quoted in Wednesday's News-Post as stating that "If elected, I would be the first Circuit Court judge in Frederick County in over 30 years that got the nod directly from the people and not from the super-secret judicial Nominating Commission, secret ballots from the Frederick County Bar Association, trial lawyers, lobbyists and the backroom Annapolis political operatives." That statement - if taken apart and analyzed - speaks volumes about his ignorance of the judicial selection process, his tendency to misstate the facts (a fatal flaw for one entrusted by the people to be a fact finder), and to his lack of judicial temperament.

First, Mr. Thompson would not be the first judge to get the nod from the "people" of Frederick County as he has alleged. Every judge on the Circuit Court must face election after appointment or reappointment and had therefore been subject to the will of the "people." The most recent example is that of Judge Julie R. Stevenson Solt, who was appointed and faced a retention election herself. The "people" wisely kept her on the bench where she continues to serve with distinction.

Second, there is no "super-secret" anything involved in the selection process, a fact that Mr. Thompson would know if he had actually gone through it, as I did. The process is actually quite simple and open: you fill out an exhaustive form, supply recommendations to the commission, and go through interviews with such disparate groups as the Maryland State Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar Association, the Women's Bar Association, the Maryland Defense Counsel Association, who then all make recommendations to the commission. Surely, Mr. Thompson does not believe that each of those organizations somehow colluded with the "trial lawyers," the "lobbyists," and the "backroom Annapolis political operatives" to corrupt the selection process?

Third, the commission itself is comprised of quite a diverse group of individuals. Once again - something that Mr. Thompson would know if he had gone through the process. And because of its diversity, there is simply no possibility that a particular group or interest (for instance, the evil "trial lawyers," "lobbyists," and "backroom operatives" that Mr. Thompson cavalierly accuses of asserting improper influence without any evidence in order to create unfounded paranoia in potential voters) can rig the process.

The commission is comprised of Republicans and Democrats, men and women, liberals and conservatives. There are civil lawyers, criminal lawyers, ex-cops and non-lawyers on the commission. Although appointed by the governor, the group is obviously not beholden to a particular political party, nor does it have a hidden agenda.

How do I know this? Look at the results of its work.

The two candidates with perhaps the best political connections in Annapolis did not make the final cut this time around. Of the four candidates (out of 12 who sought the nomination) who made it through the process, two were Republicans, two were Democrats, one was a woman, three were men, and each of the finalists had substantially different types of legal practices.

The one thing they all did have in common was a wealth of trial experience - an essential skill for a trial court judge - and a skill that Mr. Thompson lacks. You simply can not learn the position of judge "on the job." The errors made by a judge "learning as he goes" will affect the administration of justice in Frederick County - and that means that innocent persons could be convicted and lose their liberty, guilty persons could be set free, and injured persons entitled to compensation might be left to suffer.

Fourth, Mr. Thompson's wild allegation concerning the influence of "backroom Annapolis political operatives" - once again without putting forward a shred of evidence - simply can not withstand scrutiny. Governor Ehrlich picked Judge Adams because of the breadth of her support in the community and her experience. Judge Adams had previously been recommended for a judicial opening by a different commission appointed by a Democrat governor. Again, surely Mr. Thompson can not believe that the Parris Glendening "backroom political operatives" and the Ehrlich "backroom political operatives" share the same agenda? The obvious answer is that Judge Adams was picked on both occasions because she was - and is - eminently qualified to serve.

Finally, the very fact that Mr. Thompson resorts to unfounded and unjustified fear mongering and defamation is perhaps the best case for his disqualification for the position. A judge must exhibit restraint and good judgment and must have an open mind. A person who makes reckless charges and baseless allegations for his own personal political gain does not belong on the bench.

The person that Frederick County elects for judge on March 2nd will sit on the bench for the next 15 years. It is an important election - an election that will determine the quality and measure of justice in our county for some time to come - and one that the "people" of this county should take seriously.

For that reason, Judge Adams should be retained.

Editor's Note! Craig Wolf is vice chair of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee.

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