Four judges from Montgomery County were recommended yesterday to Acting Gov. Blair Lee III for appointment to a vacancy on Maryland's highest court.
The nominees are Rita C. Davidson and John P. Moore, both members of the Court of Special Qppeals, and Joseph M. Mathias and John F. Mc-Auliffe, who currently sit on the Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The state commission that screens candidates for appellate positions recommended the four to Lee, who said he will make the appointment next week to the Court of Appeals.
In legal circles, Davidson, a longtime friend of Lee and a member of the state's second highest court since 1972, is considered to be the front-runner. In the 1960s, Davidson was a leader of the liberal wing of the Montgomery County Democratic Party and served as a zoning examiner and planning board member. She served in now suspended governor Marvin Mandel's cabinet as seecretary of employment and social services, and he appointed her to the special appeals judgeship.
Lee has prided himself on naming minorities and women to high state postions. In his 20 months as acting governor he has doubled the number of women on the bench statewide and named the first black to the state's highest court.
Lee has said that the choice among the nominees will be "difficult. Not only are they all qualified, but they are all old friends," he said recently.
A poll last month of county lawyers conducted by the Montgomery County Bar Association found all four judges qualified for a post on the seven-member high court, according to bar officals.
Moore, 62, served for four years in the House of Delegates, was appointed to the county Circuit Court in 1966, and elevated to the Court of Special Appeals in 1973.
Mathias, 64, a former newspaper editor and member for the Maryland Tax Court, was appointed to the county Circuit Court in 1965 by Gov. J. Millard Tawes.
McAuliffe, 46, was in private practice before he was appointed to the bench in 1972. He has never been active in politics himself, but carries a name well known in political circles. His father was chief of the Montgomery Country Police Department and his brother, now also a judge, was a member of the state Senate.
The vacancy on the Court of Appeals arose in October when Judge Irving A. Levine died. It must be filled with a lawyer from the appellate district that includes Montgomery and four western Maryland counties.