Despite overwhelming opposition from the organized bar in the county, Prince George's Judge Richard V. Waldron has decided to seek another term on the District Court bench.
Waldron, a Republican appointed to the old People's Court in 1967 by then-Gov. Spiro T. Agnew, received a resounding "no confidence" vote in March from the Prime George's County Bar Association. The lawyers voted 326 to 109 with 13 abstensions to "disapprove" his performance on the bench.
"There are many people that believe judges should be selected on the basis of their ability and integrity and not their popularity with the members of the Bar Association." Waldron said yesterday in a prepared statement. "With that I agree."
Waldron is pitted against five lawyers who have submitted their names to the bar association for his seat. The bar association votes, while not legally hinding, have traditionally carried great weight with the politicians who decide such matters.
On May 24, the same day the ballots are counted, the judicial nomination commission for the circuit that includes Prince George's will meet to decide which candidates are "most fully qualified" to become judges. Those so designated will have their names forwarded to Gov. Marvin Mandel who will appoint a new judge or reappoint Waldron after receiving a recommendation from county political leaders.
Waldron is a 60-year-old former FBI agent whose courtroom demeanor has gained him the enmity of many practicing lawyers. Many describe him as abusive and unbending. Waldron responded in part yesterday to these criticisms:
"My insistence on punctuality, on the part of defendants, their attorneys, witnesses, and the state and defense, and the prompt determination of the issues involved, with fairness and without prejudice to the defendant, and undue inconvenience to the witnesses, are the least to which the citizens . . . are entitled. This has been my policy and procedure in the past and will continue to be so in the future."
A Waldron defender, who requested anonymity, said the judge is "sometimes short" with lawyers, "usually when they're unreasonable . . .
"The man, as far as I'm concerned, has been a good judge," said the defender, a lawyer who has practiced before Waldron for several years. "He's fair, works hard and is concerned. It's a matter of personalities. It's hard to win a personality contest when you don't fraternize with people. He's not the kind who will go to the bar association and have one with the guys."
"It's not just personality," asserted Sam Ianni, chairman of the bar's judicial selection committee, although "personality has a lot to do with it. He browbeats the general public . . . He does a number of things which aggravate attorneys and some things which are contrary to law."
Waldron, in his statement, said he has the support in his reappointment bid of Robert S. Sweeney, chief judge of the Maryland District Court system, and James Magruder Rea, administrative judge of the Prince George's District Court.
Sweeney could not be reached yesterday. Rea said judicial canons prevented him from endorsing the candidacy of another judge or anyone else seeking a judgeship.
While Waldron was decisively repudiated by Prince George's lawyers, Rea was overwhelmingly approved for another term. He, therefore, faces no opposition. Lining up for Waldron's seat are Bond L. Holford, a domestic relations court master, assistant state's attorney Bond E. Rhue, Bowie lawyer Robert S. Redding, Hyattsville lawyer Lloyd E. James, and Francis A. Borelli, the only Republican besides Waldron.
A small flap in the judicial sweep-stakes occurred when an announcement appeared April 25 in "The Daily Record," a legal journal published in Baltimore. The announcement noted that Waldron's and Rea's terms expired June 30 and said the "vacancies" would be filled by the governor.
Unlike other notices, however, there was no indication that the judges wished to be reappointed. Waldron and a member of the nomination commission complained, and the announcement was modified in subsequent editions.