You Be the Judge: How Hogan Stacks Maryland’s Courts in His Favor

October marks the opening of a new term for the U.S. Supreme Court.  This is the first full term that President Donald Trump’s handpicked ultra-conservative justice Neil Gorsuch will be on the bench deciding cases.

Trump isn’t the only Republican appointing judges that will affect the lives of Marylanders.  Under Maryland law, Governor Larry Hogan has the authority to appoint judges to the state’s countywide Circuit Courts, as well as its Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals.  With the power to nominate judges to Maryland’s core legal institutions, Hogan has the ability to stack the courts with nominees that will rule on cases in direct favor of his administration and policy initiatives spearheaded by Trump’s Republican Party.

Consider the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, for example.  In November 2016, Hogan nominated his deputy legal counselMark W. Crooks to an Anne Arundel seat newly formed by the General Assembly.  Crooks clearly has a penchant for Republican candidates; not six months into his tenure on the bench, he violated the spirit of the Maryland Code of Judicial Ethics by tacitly endorsing Anne Arundel County Council District 3 GOP candidate Nathan Volke.

The governor’s role in appointing judges is especially important for justices on Maryland’s seven-justice Court of Appeals, the supreme court of Maryland.  The Maryland Judicial Retirement Age Amendment, which was slated to appear on the Maryland ballot on November 8, 2016, would have increased the mandatory retirement age for Court of Appeals justices from age seventy to age seventy-three.  The bill, backed by Senate President Mike Miller, was passed by both the House and the Senate but ultimately did not become law.  Instead, Court of Appeals justices are currently required to vacate their seat upon their seventieth birthday or the end of their ten-year term, whichever comes first.

In the next governor’s term, five of the Court of Appeals’ seven justices will be forced to retire when they reach the age of seventy:  Justices Sally Adkins (2020), Mary Ellen Barbera (2021), Joseph Getty (2022), Clayton Greene (2021), and Robert McDonald (2022).  If Hogan wins re-election next November, his influence will last far longer than the four additional years he will be in office; there could be at least one Hogan-appointed justice on the Court until 2032. Imagine another fifteen years under the shadow of Hogan’s influence. 

If you are curious about the qualifications of Hogan’s past nominees to Maryland’s highest court, look no further than Joseph Getty.  In June 2016, Hogan nominated Getty, his former chief legislative officer, GOP lobbyist, and former state senator from Carroll County, to the Court of Appeals.  Getty had absolutely no judicial experience prior to his nomination.  The late Court of Appeals justice Howard Chasanow observed that Getty’s lack of previous judicial experience could be detrimental to the bench, noting that Getty would “have to be an awfully quick study” to compensate for his years of inexperience.  Hogan clearly takes no issue with embedding his allies, regardless of their qualifications, in Maryland’s state courts.

Our judges are responsible for deciding critical cases that establish important precedents in Maryland’s legal system.  These judges are powerful political players, and they wield significant influence over issues that impact the lives of everyday Marylanders.  

Marylanders deserve to have their cases heard by a fair-minded, experienced judiciary, not a group of Hogan’s cronies.  Make your voice heard in the 2018 gubernatorial election and prevent Hogan from appointing further Court of Appeals judges

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  • commented 2017-10-16 11:44:31 -0400
    Good article. Cb.