Maciarello among contenders for Circuit Court judgeship

Following a meeting of the Judicial Nominating Commission scheduled next week, names of nominees for a new Circuit Court judge will be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan, who will make the appointment.

Among the seven nominees who want to replace the retiring Judge W. Newton Jackson III is State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello, who has had the prosecutor’s position five years.

Other contenders are lawyers Jeffrey E. Badger, Robert A. Benson, Melvin J. Caldwell Jr., Connie L. Godfrey Marvel, W. Seth Mitchell and Mark A. Tyler.

Caldwell was a ballot candidate last year and opposed Judge Jimmy Sarbanes; Mitchell challenged Maciarello for the state’s attorney’s post in 2010.

To become an applicant, it’s necessary to be a lawyer and to live in Wicomico County, explained Attorney John Phoebus, chairman of the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission for Commission District 1 — Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties.

Phoebus said the commission will recommended at least three names to Hogan after candidates are interviewed next week. Jackson, he explained, reached the mandatory retirement age of 70, creating the vacancy.

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.”

Hogan doesn’t have to make an appointment by any specific date.

The successful applicant 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,” Phoebus said.

“The JNC is of the belief that we have an incredibly qualified slate of seven applicants and that we will have no difficulty in sending to Gov. Hogan a list of several qualified applicants from whom he can chose the next judge of the Circuit Court for Wicomico County. We expect to announce our nominees on Dec. 16, following our interview with the candidates and meeting,” Phoebus said.

“It is an honor to be named a judge,” he continued.

“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.

“There’s an old saying that a judge can’t have ‘black robe-itis.’ It’s important not to  have that, not to overinflate that position or to be egotistical.”


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