Nineteen local attorneys and sitting judges have tossed their hats into the ring for two newly created judgeships in Prince George's County. The deadline for applying was last week, and speculation on who the governor will choose has become a hot topic in county legal circles.
The new judgeships -- one for circuit court, where felony cases are tried, and one in district court, where less serious offenses are heard -- were approved last year by the state legislature to help ease the increasingly heavy load of cases in the county.
The county's 14 circuit court judges and nine district court judges handled about 300,000 criminal and civil cases in fiscal 1984, a caseload second in the state only to Baltimore's.
Applicants for the new jobs include prosecutors, county administrative attorneys, defense lawyers, domestic relations masters and hearing examiners.
Several contenders have applied for both positions.
Absent from the list is State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr., who unsuccessfully challenged circuit court Judges Arthur M. Ahalt and G.R. Hovey Johnson last November in the general election.
After the governor appoints a circuit court judge, that person must run in the next general election to secure the seat for a 15-year term.
Marshall has said that although he wants to become a judge, he does not approve of the process by which nominees are chosen -- by a 13-member committee of local lawyers and residents.
He said he prefers to rely on the voters.
Following his defeat in November, Marshall annnounced that he might challenge the newest circuit court candidate in 1986.
Facing a contested election appears to be a major deterrent to circuit court applicants.
"It's a terribly demeaning thing," said E. Allen Shepherd, a respected defense attorney.
He maintained that judges should not be forced into the role of politician, and he is applying only for district court, which is a 10-year appointment. He said the lower court is "where a judge can do great things -- it's the people's court."
Marvin Miller, a defense lawyer who has applied for circuit court judgeships several times, said he was willing to take his chances in an election if he gets the job.
"They need experienced trial lawyers on the bench," Miller said, adding, "I've paid my dues."
Several attempts have been made in the state legislature to change the law and allow an uncontested confirmation vote for circuit judges.
Despite a last-minute compromise among several state senators last week, the bill is not expected to survive the session this year, because a House of Delegates committee is planning to kill the measure.
Each of the candidates will be interviewed this month, and three names for each post will be forwarded to Gov. Harry Hughes by the end of the month, commission chairman Ben Wolman said.
The county bar association asks its members to rate the applicants to assist the commission in its decisions. Those results should be available next week.
Last week the J. Franklyn Bourne Law Club, representing black lawyers in Prince George's, voted to support district court applicants William Missouri, a county prosecutor, and Elvira White, a public defender.
Club president Alexander Williams said the group did not endorse a candidate for circuit court because there are no blacks in the running.
* District court: Thurman H. Rhodes, attorney for The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission; Timothy J. Paulus, chief attorney for Legal Aid Bureau Inc.; Richard A. Romine, zoning hearing examiner; William D. Missouri and Margaret N. Nemetz, assistant state's attorneys; David K. Rumsey, Ann R. Sparrough and Theresa A. Nolan, domestic relations masters; C. Philip Nichols Jr. and Steven J. Platt, orphans court judges; Sherrie L. Krauser, associate county attorney; Elvira M. White, public defender, and private attorneys Franklin Henderson, E. Allen Shepherd, John F. Kelly and Albert Lochte.
* Circuit court: Joseph S. Casula, district court judge; Darlene G. Perry, public defender, and private attorneys Marvin B. Miller, Kelly, Nichols, Rumsey, Nemetz and Nolan.