An article in the Metro section yesterday incorrectly reported Montgomery County District Court Judge Douglas Moore Jr.'s political affiliation. He is a Democrat.
Five judges on the Montgomery County District Court bench and two private lawyers have applied for nomination to a $63,300-a-year judgeship on the county Circuit Court.
Yesterday was the deadline for filing for the seat, which opened up when Judge John F. McAuliffe was appointed March 1 to the Court of Appeals.
The seven county residents, who also are seeking endorsement from the Montgomery Bar Association, are District Court Judges Edwin Collier, Louis Harrington, Stanley Klavan, Douglas Moore Jr. and Paul H. Weinstein, and lawyers Karl G. Feissner and Peter J. Messitte.
The district judges are banking on the fact that circuit judges, who rule on major criminal and civil cases, frequently have been drawn from the lower District Court -- an unofficial tradition on which the county legal community is divided. Of Montgomery's 11 sitting Circuit Court judges, nine have served on the District Court, which currently pays $55,100.
"Nowhere is it written that things should be that way," Messitte said. "The problem with this tradition in Montgomery County is that it would preclude qualified people who don't want to serve what has become an apprenticeship in District Court."
Messitte, a 43-year-old lawyer and former Peace Corps volunteer, has defended tenants' rights groups, female victims of sexual crimes who have sued over lax security in public buildings, and the Montgomery County Community Psychiatric Clinic, among others.
Feissner, 53, said his experience as a defense lawyer in more than 300 jury trials has taught him that "the number one thing for a judge is to listen." Feissner, who practices in both Prince George's and Montgomery counties, last month defended Jerry Lee Beatty, one of two men convicted of murdering college freshman Stephanie Ann Roper, on a charge of raping Roper in Prince George's.
District Court Judge Klavan, 59, would not discuss his aspirations to Circuit Court.
But State's Attorney Andrew L. Sonner, the county's chief prosecutor, gave Klavan the highest marks among the five District Court judges competing for the seat. "From the point of view of my assistants who have practiced before him, he is by far the best judge on the District Court. He applies the law fairly and he's an expert on evidence." Klavan was appointed to the lower court in February 1975 after practicing law in Montgomery for more than 20 years.
Collier, 61, went to law school at George Washington University with Gov. Harry Hughes and was appointed to the lower court in July 1983, after 24 years in private practice. He also would not discuss his possible nomination.
Weinstein, 51, also was appointed to the District Court in July 1983 after practicing civil and criminal law in the county for 24 years. A graduate of George Washington University law school, he could not be reached for comment.
Harrington, 45, a former District of Columbia prosecutor and private lawyer who has served as District Court judge since July 1972, said that predictability is an important component of judicial temperament. "Justice doesn't mean that the judge be in a good mood today," he said. "You deserve to have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen to you and not be taken by surprise."
Moore, one of two juvenile case judges in District Court, has 17 1/2 years' experience on the bench and tries major criminal cases that would go before Circuit Court if the defendents were adults. Moore, 59, the only Republican among the candidates, said his experience and "even temperament" make him a good choice.
Early next month the commission will nominate a field of five to seven candidates from which Gov. Hughes will choose one to sit on the Circuit Court.
What does the nominating commission look for in a candidate? "First of all, integrity and intelligence," said Devin Doolan, commission chairman. "A judicial temperament is very important -- someone who will generate respect from the bar and the community and who will retain a sense of humility.