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Washington County Circuit Court returns to full set of judges

March 05, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

Washington County Circuit Court is back to a full complement of five judges with the recent returns to the bench of Judges W. Kennedy Boone III and John H. McDowell.

Boone returned Jan. 17 from a leave of absence and McDowell was back on the bench two days later after undergoing hip-replacement surgery in early December.

“It’s good to have everyone back. It helps to get things resolved,” Administrative Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. said.

Boone, appointed to the bench in 1997, was placed on a leave of absence in April 2011 by the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities. In 2010, Boone pleaded guilty to a 2009 driving-under-the-influence charge and later reached a deferred disciplinary agreement with the commission.

During his leave of absence, Boone said he continued to work in his office, to fulfill judicial committee commitments and to complete required judicial training.

McDowell, who was appointed in 1993, said he was scheduled to return Jan. 23, but his recovery progressed faster than anticipated.

“My doctor told me I had the fastest recovery he’d ever seen,” McDowell said.

“I think it’s an exciting thing to have them back on the bench,” attorney Bernard W. Semler II said. “The trouble is we haven’t had backup judges” to handle pleas and other dispositions on some trial days, he said.

“I’m very happy to see Judge Boone return ... and I’m glad to see Judge McDowell back,” Assistant Public Defender Charles Bailey said. “It’s good to have a full complement of judges.”

Along with Long, Boone and McDowell, the court’s other judges are Daniel P. Dwyer and Donald E. Beachley.

Boone’s return to the bench came just weeks before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Wednesday, but he expects to be hearing cases beyond that date.

“The customary thing is you continue to sit until your vacancy is filled,” Boone said recently.

That process can take a few months.

“After that, I’d be on the same status as Judge (Frederick C.) Wright ... where retired judges can come back at the call of the administrative judge for various reasons,” Boone said.

The vacancy has to be advertised in The Daily Record at least six times, as well as in local papers, Debra Kaminski of the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts said. Applicants would have a deadline to submit applications to the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission for Commission District 6, which includes Washington County, she said.

The nominating commission interviews applicants and votes which candidates it would nominate and forward to Gov. Martin O’Malley, Kaminski said. Those receiving votes from at least half of the commissioners present would have their names forwarded to the governor, who would then make the appointment, she said.

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