By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Two members of a judicial commission that nominated the son of Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) for a District Court judgeship said yesterday that they are resigning in protest over what they call political interference in the process.
Family law attorney Paula J. Peters and land-use lawyer Eileen E. Powers, both of whom practice in Annapolis, said they plan to send letters of resignation to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Tuesday.
The lawyers said they could not support the decision of the Judicial Nomination Commission in Anne Arundel County to recommend Thomas V. Miller III to the governor for a seat on the District Court bench. Peters said Miller, who has served 12 years on the Maryland Parole Commission, is not qualified to be a judge because he has practiced law only for four years.
"It's difficult to imagine that someone with such a short tenure as a lawyer could be a good judge," Peters said. "The whole process makes me very sad. It's really upsetting." Peters has served since 1985 on the judicial panel that vets candidates for the District Court and circuit courts.
The Senate president, his son and a spokesman for the governor denied any political interference in the nominating process.
The senator said he has not spoken with O'Malley about his son's candidacy. "That's the governor's decision," he said.
Peters said she received several phone calls from "political people" lobbying her to nominate the younger Miller for one of three vacancies on the Anne Arundel bench. She declined to identify them.
The commission sent a list of five names to the governor in February; Miller did not make the cut. The governor then addressed a shortage of nominees for judgeships in several counties with an order mandating that three names be submitted for consideration for every vacancy.
When the Anne Arundel panel met Wednesday to augment its pool, it voted by majority to add five names, including Miller's. The commission has 13 members; 11 participated in Wednesday's vote. Powers and Peters voted against Miller.
Powers, who was appointed by O'Malley last year, said she was not lobbied directly to support Miller but is resigning out of concern that the second round of nominees is unqualified. "Our commission did not make the decision in a fair and impartial way," she said.
Powers said the panel is required to consider a range of qualifications, including legal knowledge, diligence, temperament, maturity and integrity. "The list we sent up on the second go-around was lacking," she said.
Miller, 41, said he submitted his application "like everyone else" and urged lawyers and judges with whom he has worked to write letters on his behalf -- a common practice by candidates for the bench to distinguish themselves. He said he knows of no political figure who lobbied commission members.
He said his tenure on the parole commission, which involved conducting revocation hearings for parolees who violate the terms of their release, should count as legal experience.
"We have mini-trials within the prison [system], and we've got to make some really tough decisions," Miller said.
He previously worked as an assistant public defender in Prince George's County.
O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the governor "will conduct an intense interview process" to vet the 10 candidates before him. "The governor was simply looking to increase the applicant pool," Abbruzzese said.
District Court judges are appointed to 10-year terms.