Lawrence F. Rodowsky, a Baltimore lawyer who served as treasurer of Gov. Harry Hughes' election campaign was appointed yesterday by the governor to seat on Maryland's highest court.
The 49-year-old Rodowsky is a partner in one of Baltimore's blue-stocking law firms and, as such, he will be the only lawyer from one of these powerful firms represented on the seven-member Maryland Court of Appeals.
Hughes, who has preached a litany against appointments dictated by politics and even named a former nun to the sensitive job of patronage chief in his administration, denied that the Rodowsky appointment was based on their long-time association.
"The governor has said that everyone knows Larry Rodowsky is one of the best lawyers in Baltimore if not the state," said Regina Friedlander, of the governor's press office. "It would be a shame to pass him up for appointment because he once participated in a political campaign."
Rodowsky and two others were nominated by a judicial nominating commission for the seat being vacated Jan. 1 by Judge Charles E. Orth Jr. The commission sent the three nominees names to Hughes for the final choice.
Rodowsky's competition for the judgeship was Court of Special Appeals Judge Solomon Liss, a former Baltimore city councilman and judge, and Walter E. Black, jr., a former U.S. attorney for Maryland who has been active in Republican politics.
Hughes was required by law to appoint a lawyer from Baltimore -- the same judicial circuit which produced the vacancy.
"It would be a grevious error to say that Rodowsky is not a fine lawyer and fully qualified for the slot," said one longtime observer of the state appeals courts. "But he also had all the plusses going for him," this lawyer said, citing Rodowsky's association with Hughes and with a law firm that produced the state's current attorney general and the president of the Maryland Bar Association.
Rodowsky, whose practice includes a wide range of every type of civil trial work, served most recently as chairman of the governor's Commission on Racing Reform. He was graduated from the University of Maryland Law School, where he attended evening classes while working as a "court crier" for a U.S. judge.
"I was the fellow who kept the water glasses filled and got papers for the judge and lawyers," Rodowsky said yesterday. "The government paid me to listen to lawyers try cases. It was a great way to go through law school."
Orth, known as an expert on criminal law, was most often a member of the court's conservative majority. Several observers said that Rodowsky would likely keep the balance of the court the same.
Rodowsky's former law partner, Attorney General Stephen Sachs, said Rodowsky would be difficult to "typecast." "He's a hardworking, expert technician, who goes where his analysis and head takes him," Sachs said. "He'll be difficult to predict."