- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
As soon as it became apparent that the voters of St. Mary’s County would elect the next circuit court judge who would serve for 15 years, the lawyers of this county were asked to give their opinion as to which candidate would best serve the public interest. Forty-two lawyers did sign a statement endorsing the candidacy of Judge David W. Densford. I want to explain why that lawyer endorsement matters.
This is not the first time that the local lawyers have endorsed a candidate for an election of this sort. When our current state’s attorney, Richard Fritz, successfully ran for the office of the state’s attorney, the local lawyers gave their overwhelming vote in support of his candidacy. Candidate Fritz saw to it that the endorsement by his fellow attorneys was publicized ahead of his election. As a member of the bar association and a former bar association president, I was actively involved in gathering the majority of those votes for candidate Fritz.
In this election involving Judge David Densford and Joseph Stanalonis, the local attorneys once again were asked to express their support for one candidate or the other. I approached attorneys who live in St. Mary’s County; most of them practice here but some practice in neighboring Charles and Calvert counties. I made an exception and approached three former judicial law clerks from the St. Mary’s County courthouse, two of whom left their clerkships to work in the office of the state’s attorney with Mr. Stanalonis. Retired judges that are still semi-active were not approached. Neither current members of the state’s attorney’s office nor current members of the public defender’s office nor members of the county attorney’s office were approached because of their positions.
The lawyers who endorse Judge Densford include a former delegate from the Maryland House of Delegates, a former public defender, at least six former judicial law clerks (lawyers whose prior experience involved assisting sitting judges in the courthouse). Most importantly, our list of supporters includes six former assistant state’s attorneys, lawyers who prosecuted criminal cases working side by side with Mr. Stanalonis.
The lawyers on this list have handled just about every type of legal matter imaginable from family law, estate planning, real estate, personal injury, criminal prosecution and criminal defense, bankruptcy, business law, arbitration, adoptions and everything in between. Collectively, we have spent decades working in this county and have represented tens of thousands of the citizens of this county.
We are expected to know the law. We know how the legal system works and how the other attorneys in the system work. That is why we think our observations of the two candidates made in a professional setting is so significant. Just as we would in any other case, we are analyzing the facts before we reach a conclusion. And our analysis leads us to agree that Judge Densford is the best candidate for this judgeship.
As a group, the 42 of us do believe that “experience matters.” We know the experience both candidates have had during their careers. Both of them have been focused on criminal law, but that is essentially all that Mr. Stanalonis has done. Judge Densford left the public defender’s office after five years and then had a 23-year career in private practice doing not only criminal defense work but also the same kinds of civil cases that we as a group handle. He was even recommended by Mr. Fritz to serve as a special prosecutor in a criminal case when Mr. Fritz’s office could not get involved because of a conflict of interest.
That gives him far greater breadth of knowledge and experience, and that experience matters because as a judge, he is regularly dealing with the kinds of civil cases that we as attorneys have to deal with in representing clients just like you.
And it is important to us that Judge Densford is both “independent and impartial.” The last thing an attorney or a client wants is to come into a courtroom where the judge is perceived as having an agenda. The justice system only works when a judge will wait to hear the evidence before making a decision. That does not make Judge Densford a “liberal.” That makes him fair and impartial. Trying to tie this judicial race in with the personality of a sitting governor or a prior governor is both ridiculous and reckless.
When the citizens of St. Mary’s County need a lawyer to assist them in a legal matter, chances are that they have or will come to one of the 42 lawyers on this list who have endorsed Judge Densford. Having come to us before for important legal advice, we believe it is relevant that we give this advice — cast your vote to keep Judge David Densford on the bench in St. Mary’s County.
Samuel C.P. Baldwin Jr., Lexington Park