Panel selects 3 nominees for Wicomico judgeship

State’s Attorney Matthew Maciarello is among nominees chosen to fill the seat of retiring Circuit Court Judge W. Newton Jackson III.

Maciarello was among three Wicomico County lawyers selected from a list of nominees following interviews and deliberation Thursday  by members of the Judicial Nominating Commission, headed by Salisbury and Crisfield attorney John Phoebus.

Also nominated were Jeffrey E. Badger of the law firm Long & Badger and Mark A. Tyler, an enforcement attorney with the Department of Social Services.

Their names were sent to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office.  Phoebus said Hogan will interview the three and decide whom to appoint, probably before the 2016 Maryland Legislative Session begins in mid-January.

Other contenders were local attorneys Robert A. Benson, Melvin J. Caldwell Jr., Connie L. Godfrey Marvel and W. Seth Mitchell.

To become an applicant, the lawyer had to live in Wicomico County, Phoebus said. He explained Jackson’s position as judge became vacant because he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

The appointee will become one of four Circuit Court judges in the county, and split duties between Wicomico and Dorchester counties, or, as those in the law profession say, “ride circuit.”

The man appointed will be a full-fledged judge, then stand for election in 2018, and be elected to a 15-year term. Judges are paid $154,433 annually.

Circuit Court judges must run for re-election every 15 years until they reach 70, but District Court judges are appointed for life, Phoebus said.

“We on the nominating commission interview them and vote, then the governor will interview them as well. The JNC is of the belief that we have an incredibly qualified slate of seven applicants,” Phoebus said before deliberations began.

“It is an honor to be named a judge,” he said. “The position of judge of the Circuit Court in any county is an extremely important position. The Circuit Court is a court of general jurisdiction. The judges handle everything from adoption to zoning and every letter of the alphabet in between – criminal cases, land disputes, civil cases.

“There are going to be, on the Lower Eastern Shore, at least four Circuit Court judge positions coming open under Gov. Hogan’s term, so there will be a lot of new faces,” Phoebus said.

In 2017, he said, three vacancies will occur on the Circuit Court for Worcester and the Circuit Court for Somerset when judges turn 70.

“The most important thing the Judicial Nominating Commission is looking for is knowledge of the law and equally important is temperament. It is so important because judges have to deal with very highly contested cases that are being zealously represented by both sides. As a fact-finder and referee, a judge has to have a good temperament,” he said.


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