- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the voters in St. Mary’s will have the opportunity to select one of our circuit court judges — a matter of significant importance.
Maryland has in place a well-conceived process for the selection of judges: Individual candidates submit a detailed application to the judicial nominating commission, which reviews the individual applications and conducts individual interviews. The commission consists of a mixture of attorney and nonattorney members and its purpose is to vet the individual candidates and based on its objective evaluation develop a list of those individuals determined to be the best suited, based on legal experience and temperament, to serve as a judge.
The list is then submitted to the governor, from which an individual is selected and appointed. If an individual not so appointed desires to be a judge, he/she can challenge the appointment and the voters are then given the opportunity to confirm or reject the appointed judge.
It is my view that of the two choices before the voters, Judge David Densford is the better choice. I state this, not as negative expression against Mr. Stanalonis, but rather as a positive confirmation of Judge Densford based on several pertinent factors:
ź About 24 years ago I served for a term as the chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission for Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties. It was my experience that the commission took its role quite seriously. Given its responsibility of vetting the individual candidates, the determination of the commission is of some significance and should not be taken lightly or discounted. Obviously, Judge Densford was determined by the commission as being a worthy candidate for circuit court judge and was placed on the list submitted to the governor. Mr. Stanalonis did not make the list for the circuit court judgeship, nor did he make the list two years earlier when there was an opening on the district court for which he also applied.
ź A comparison of the legal experience of the two individuals: Judge Densford has practiced law for 27 years, five years as a public defender and 22 years in private practice in which he has been involved in thousands of cases dealing with criminal, civil and domestic matters. Mr. Stanalonis’ 17 years of legal experience has been limited to solely that of a prosecutor in criminal cases, with the exception of some juvenile cases.
ź Cases before the circuit court involve many matters that are not criminal in nature. In fact, the overwhelming majority of cases heard by the circuit court in St. Mary’s involve noncriminal civil and domestic matters, as opposed to criminal cases.
While the above can be considered objective factors, I also offer two subjective reasons for my view:
ź While I cannot personally attest one way or the other about the nature of Mr. Stanalonis’ temperament, I can state that I am personally comfortable with the temperament of Judge Densford, whom I have known for many years. Each individual who appears before a circuit court judge has the right to expect that his/her case will be heard by a judge well versed and experienced in the law, but also who will be nonpartisan, objective, fair, even-minded and respectful — judicial temperament, if you will.
ź We voters are being asked by Mr. Stanalonis to reject Judge Densford, not on any objective basis that he is performing poorly as a judge, rather because Mr. Stanalonis decided to exercise his right to run for judge — having failed to make the recommended list of the judicial nominating commission, which in a sense was a “jury” of his peers. It seems to me that a qualified individual performing well in a public office should not be turned out of office simply because someone else wants the job.
Finally, I have heard it expressed that a reason one should not vote for Judge Densford is that he was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, or that he is the “liberal” candidate while Mr. Stanalonis is the “conservative” candidate. With all due respect, one’s like or dislike of Gov. O’Malley has absolutely nothing to do with the qualifications and reasons that support the continuation of Judge Densford in the position.
And as far as labels are concerned, I consider my personal political philosophy to be that of a moderate with conservative leanings, but similarly that has nothing to do with the selection of Judge Densford or Mr. Stanalonis.
The selection of a judge should be on a nonpartisan basis based on the comparative qualifications, experience and temperament of the individual candidates.
Ford L. Dean, Mechanicsville