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Charles County’s judicial nominating commission is accepting applications from attorneys wishing to fill an approaching vacancy on the county bench brought about by the mandatory Sept. 17 retirement of longtime Circuit Judge Robert C. Nalley.

The state constitution requires that judges retire before their 70th birthday. Nalley, a Charles County Circuit Court judge since 1988, turns 70 on Sept. 18.

Applications for the vacancy are due by Sept. 4 to the state Administrative Office of the Courts. The 13-member commission is scheduled to meet Nov. 5 to select nominees from the pool of applicants, from which Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) will choose the county’s next judge.

The list sent to the governor automatically will include three names — Deputy County Attorney Elizabeth D. Theobalds and private attorneys Patrick J. Devine and Thomas R. Simpson, who were among the four nominees to fill the vacancy left by the March 2012 retirement of former circuit judge Steven G. Chappelle. O’Malley ultimately appointed the fourth nominee, current Circuit Judge Jerome R. Spencer, who had previously served as a county prosecutor.

Judicial nominees who are not appointed by the governor are considered automatically for vacancies that occur within two years of their nomination.

State law requires that appointed circuit court judges stand for election in the first general election that follows by at least one year of the vacancy they were selected to fill.

Because Nalley is retiring, and thus creating the vacancy, more than 13 months prior to the 2014 election, his replacement could face little turnaround time between being sworn in and appearing on the 2014 ballot; Spencer took his oath in November, eight months after Chappelle’s retirement.

Nalley graduated from the Georgetown University School of Law in 1969 and, after serving two years in the U.S. Army, became a Charles County prosecutor in 1971. He was elected Charles County state’s attorney in 1974 and again in 1978, before being appointed to the circuit court for the first time in 1980.

However, six weeks later, he lost the election for his spot on the bench and was appointed in 1981 to a vacancy in the Charles County District Court, where he served until being sworn in as a circuit court judge in 1988.

In 2009, he pleaded guilty to deflating the tire of a car parked illegally at the county courthouse. He received probation before judgment, but was ordered to pay a $500 fine and write a letter of apology to the car’s owner. The incident also led to Nalley serving a five-day suspension from the bench in 2010 as part of an agreement with the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities.

jnewman@somdnews.com