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Nominations open for new judge

September 27, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Monday was the first day nominations were accepted for a new Washington County circuit judge position, which will be the county's fifth.

During its last session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill creating new circuit and district judgeships in certain localities. Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed the bill into law.

Nominations for the new Washington County position will be accepted until Oct. 25.

A committee is scheduled to meet Nov. 30, according to Rita Buettner of the state's Court Information Office. The committee will send its pick to the governor, who will make the appointment.

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It is not clear yet when the new judge would start working.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III, the circuit's administrative judge, said it depends largely on when a courthouse renovation, with a fifth courtroom and judge's chamber, will be done.

In a recent interview, Wright said the project was scheduled to be finished in December but is behind schedule.

In an e-mail statement Monday, Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer wrote: "There are a number of issues driving the milestones on the construction schedule due to some latent conditions on the project and the new prisoner transport elevator. At this point, we anticipate the availability of Court Room #5 and the associated Judge's Chambers to be (in the) late April to May 2006 time frame."

Also, Wright said the governor tends to wait until after the General Assembly session to appoint judges. The annual session runs from January to April.

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Ehrlich, said there is no prohibition from making an appointment during the session, but the governor probably will follow the "established precedent" and wait until the session is over.

A Maryland circuit judge's salary is $123,352. It will go up to $128,352, then $134,352, then $140,352 in the next three years.

The qualifications for being appointed, listed on the Maryland Judiciary's Web site, include being a state resident for at least five years, a resident of the geographic area of the vacancy for at least six months, at least 30 years old and a member of the Maryland Bar.

A confidential questionnaire for applicants is posted at www.courts.state.md.us. It asks about personal history, education, law practice, business and civic involvement, and conduct.

After the Oct. 25 nomination deadline, a list of applicants will be posted on the Maryland Judiciary Web site, Buettner said.

During an interview this month, Wright said the number of criminal, civil and juvenile cases in Washington County Circuit Court rose about 54 percent from fiscal year 1994 to fiscal year 2004.

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