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Washington County District Court vacancy yet to be posted by state

August 31, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

The elevation of Dana Moylan Wright to the Washington County Circuit Court bench last month leaves a vacancy on the county’s two-judge District Court that has yet to be officially posted by the state.

A date for when the vacancy will be posted has not been announced, but it should be soon, said Terri Bolling, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Judiciary.

There are two positions on the district court bench, the other held by Judge Mark D. Thomas. Wright’s former seat is currently being filled by visiting judges.

Judges are selected by the governor and confirmed by the Maryland State Senate to 10-year terms. Judges can be reappointed for additional 10-year terms up to the mandatory retirement age of 70, according to the Annotated Code of Maryland.

Applicants must be members of the Maryland Bar, at least 30 years old and live in the county in which they would sit as judge.

Once the vacancy is posted, qualified attorneys will be able to send letters of interest to the Judicial Nominating Commission, according to the Maryland Judiciary website. The commission then forwards a list of nominees to the governor for his selection.

“It’s like an emergency room if this were medicine,” Wright said at her circuit court swearing-in to describe her experience in district court. “It is busy. It is moving at a fast pace.”

In the 2011 fiscal year, 4,165 criminal cases were filed in Washington County District Court, along with 10,184 landlord-tenant cases, 6,509 civil complaints and 1,080 domestic violence cases, according to Maryland Judiciary records. More than 23,000 motor vehicle citations were filed, according to the statistics.

District Court is the starting point in the judicial system for most criminal cases. It is where initial charges are filed for many felonies, as well as misdemeanors and motor vehicle violations.

Bond reviews and preliminary hearings are held in district court, as well as bench trials before a judge for misdemeanor offenses. A defendant charged with a misdemeanor can be tried in district court or can request a jury trial in circuit court if the charge is punishable by more than 90 days imprisonment.

Those charged with felonies have a right to a preliminary hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support the charges against them.

Additionally, district court handles civil matters such as landlord-tenant disputes, small-claims civil suits and issuing of peace and protective orders.

The annual salary of a district court judge is $127,252, according to Maryland Judiciary.

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