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Some think Long is frontrunner for District judgeship

January 08, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Some local lawyers said this week that Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. is at the top of the list of people they expect to apply for the open Washington County District Court judgeship.

State officials began accepting applications for the position Wednesday, beginning a selection process that can take several months.

Long, contacted at his office Wednesday, wouldn't say whether he would apply for the job.

"I don't have any comment to make about that," Long said.

Others, however, said they were banking on it.

"I think the smart money's on Ken Long," said Jerome Joyce, a private attorney who practices in Hagerstown.

Joyce previously applied to fill a vacancy on the Frederick County bench, and said he likely would apply for the Washington County position.

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Joyce said he expects Long to apply, and furthermore, "I have no expectation of beating Ken Long."

Mary Riley, who heads the Hagerstown office of the Maryland Public Defender's Office, also said she thought Long was the frontrunner.

"Everybody thinks Ken Long is gonna get the judgeship," Riley said.

M. Lynn Williams, a private attorney in Hagerstown, said she intends to apply for the judgeship, but expects to contend with Long and others who have yet to state their intentions.

"Ken's a good man. ... I suspect that there will be many qualified applicants," Williams said.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich will appoint someone to fill the vacancy on the District Court bench created when District Judge R. Noel Spence retired last month. Spence left the bench because of a state requirement that judges retire at age 70.

Candidates must submit a detailed application to the state by Feb. 4 at 5 p.m. The list of names then will be released by the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

On March 30, a judicial nominating commission will interview all the candidates and recommend between one and seven candidates to the governor by the end of that day or the beginning of the next day.

Once the governor makes his choice, the Maryland Senate must confirm the appointment.

A District Court judge's salary is $111,500 a year. Long, 56, said his salary is between $100,000 and $101,000.

One other consideration for those applying for the District judge's position is the possibility Washington County might get a fifth Circuit judge. The District Court position is considered a stepping stone for the Circuit Court job.

The state has recognized a need for a fifth Circuit judge here, but state budget constraints have kept the number of Circuit Court judgeships at four.

Those watching the process said there are several things in Long's favor, including his length of as state's attorney - 22 years - his character, and his party affiliation. He's a Republican, like Ehrlich.

"Ken has paid his dues and deserves (the job) if he wants it," Joyce said.

Private attorney John Salvatore said that while judges are nonpartisan, Long's sharing the same party affiliation as Ehrlich will not hurt his chances. He said state senators' recommendations usually weigh heavily as well, and all three senators representing Washington County are Republicans.

Some attorneys said that should Long leave the state's attorney's job, there are people who would be interested in stepping into the post, but no one said publicly who that might be.

The state's attorney's job is an elected position, but an interim state's attorney would be appointed if Long were to leave.

"There's probably been more talk about that than there has been about judge. A lot of people assume Ken's going to be judge," Salvatore said.

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