The Maryland Constitution requires that Circuit Court Judges, once appointed or reappointed by the Governor, must run in the next election to be retained. They are often referred to as “sitting judges” which means that they currently hold their judicial office by virtue of gubernatorial appointment. What many people do not know is that each appointed sitting judge has been through a rigorous vetting process that seeks to ensure that only the most qualified attorneys are eligible for appointment to the bench by the Governor.
Since 1970, pursuant to a Gubernatorial Executive Order, the Prince George’s County Judicial Nominating Commission vets and nominates lawyers to fill vacancies on the Circuit Court. Lawyers nominated by the Commission must meet exceptional standards of legal aptitude and must be the “most distinguished for integrity, wisdom and sound legal knowledge” as dictated by the Maryland Constitution.
Judge Carol A. Coderre is the only sitting judge on the ballot in the upcoming election. As a result, she is the only candidate who successfully went through the Judicial Nominating Commission process for this position and subjected her credentials, experience, and background to rigorous scrutiny and vetting by members of the Prince George’s County legal community and important specialty bar associations, including: J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association; Maryland Hispanic Bar Association; Alliance of Black Women Attorneys of Maryland, Inc.; Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Maryland, Inc.; LGBT Bar Association of Maryland; Women’s Bar Association; Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Inc.; Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys’ Association; Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association; Maryland Association for Justice, Inc. Maryland Defense Counsel; Monumental City Bar Association; and Maryland State Bar Association.
The Judicial Nominating Commission process begins with a lengthy and comprehensive application covering all aspects of an applicant’s education, breadth, and depth of law practice, and personal background. All applications are submitted to no fewer than thirteen specialty diverse bar associations in Prince George’s County and statewide, each of which conducts its own investigation and interviews. The results of the specialty bar association interviews are then provided to and considered by the Prince George’s County Judicial Nominating Commission. The Commission then conducts its own independent investigation of all applicants and thoroughly vets and interviews each. At the conclusion of this process, the Commission submits a list of the most highly qualified candidates to the Governor. The Governor interviews the candidates and appoints the best of the best from the list submitted by the Prince George’s County Judicial Nominating Commission.
Judge Carol Coderre is the only judge who has been found by members of the Prince George’s County legal community and the Governor of Maryland to be legally, professionally, and personally qualified to serve in the important position of Circuit Court judge. No other candidate has had his or her credentials, experience, or personal background reviewed or vetted by any member of the Prince George’s County legal community. Instead, these challengers are lawyers who paid a filing fee to run in an election in the hopes that an uninformed electorate may vote them into an office which they have not demonstrated they are qualified to hold. The challengers have chosen to take this shortcut in lieu of allowing their credentials, experience, and reputation in the legal community to be scrutinized by the Prince George’s County Judicial Nominating Commission as part of the process that is in place to ensure that each appointment to our bench is qualified in the eyes of the diverse organizations that make up our legal community.
A Circuit Court Judge presides over cases involving important matters in the daily lives of citizens of Prince George’s County. It is out of respect for the importance of this position that Judge Coderre subjected her credentials to the Judicial Nominating Commission vetting process. Her nomination and appointment demonstrate that she has met the highest standards of legal aptitude and integrity.
The retention of sitting judges in challenged elections is vital to the stability of the bench. This election is about seating the most competent judges and protecting the important vetting process that helps ensure the integrity of the bench.