Litigation Section

Summary of Report on Judicial Personnel Policy Issues

A comprehensive Report on Judicial Personnel Policy Issues has been approved by the Section on Judicial Administration and forwarded to the MSBA for approval.

A Committee of sixteen headed by Judge Steven Platt and Nell Strachan has compiled a 48-page report that discusses (1) Recruitment, Qualifications, Selection and Appointment of Judges; (2) Their Education and Training; (3) The Evaluation and Selection of Judges; (4) Judicial Compensation and (5) Discipline and Disabilities of Judges.

QUALIFICATIONS

Regarding qualifications, the Committee focused on the qualities needed for a judicial office and

the means of evaluating whether a candidate possessed those qualities.

Criteria was proposed for each of the following categories:

    1. Judicial temperament
    2. Intelligence
    3. Ethics
    4. Courage and integrity
    5. Experience and education
    6. Susceptibility to workload
    7. History of participation in continuing legal education
    8. Ability to communicate
    9. Civic and professional responsibility
    10. Health
    11. Good character

The Committee recommended these standards be incorporated in the Governor’s Executive Order, that more information and background be obtained about the candidates, that candidates be solicited by the Commission, and that careful investigations be done.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

The Committee gave top priority of training of Judges, including substantive APR and improvement of person skills. Each new Judge would have a mentor assigned.

These programs will also be available to incumbent Judges.

EVALUATION AND SUPERVISION OF JUDGE

The Committee called for the proper supervision and monitoring of Judges. In perhaps it most

far-reaching recommendation, it recommended a program of regular, systematic and judicial evaluation, applicable to all Judges, developed and overseen by the AOC.

The Committee recommended initially the results be private and confidential, but that public dissemination be reconsidered after four years of experience. The program would be used both for self-improvement by individual Judges, and a review of potential performance. Evaluations of Judges would be done anonymously by lawyers, by Judges and perhaps by litigants, as well as by the Judge him or herself. It suggested the evaluation be at least every four years.

JUDICIAL COMPENSATION

The Committee supported the Judicial Compensation Commission and believes the recent increases brought Maryland near the top of State Judicial salaries.

DISCIPLINE AND DISABILITIES

The Committee recommended changes now before the Maryland Rules Committee to define sanctionable conduct as:

"1. Sanctionable conduct’ means misconduct while in office, the failure by a judge to perform the duties of the judge’s office, conduct prejudicial to the proper administration of justice. It includes any conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office.

2. Unless the conduct is occasioned by fraud or corruptive motive or raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office, ‘Sanctionable Conduct’ does not include:

    1. failure to decide matters in a timely fashion unless such failure is habitual.
    2. making erroneous findings of fact , reaching an incorrect legal conclusion, or misapplying the law.
    3. matters which can be raised in an appeal of the judge’s decision.
    4. failure to adhere to the Canons of the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct that are neither mandatory nor prohibited."

The Committee also asked for the Commission to develop rules or standards for decision making to abolish private rulings and to have the Commission Chair and Executive secretary or subcommittee supervise the investigator.

The Committee also suggested that the Judicial Disability Commission have its own independent counsel.

Members of the Committee were Judges Sally Adkins, Neil Axel, Theresa Nolan and Cy Whitfill. Robert Bell was a member until his appointment as Chief Judge, and Toni Clarke served as both attorney and Judge.

Attorneys on the Committee were Barry Bach, Gary Barr, Barbara Cook, Julia Evans, JSA Chair Thomas Minton, Professor William Reynolds, Melanie Vaughn and Maureen Webb.

Back to Litigation