MARYLAND

Chief Judge Targets 'Culture of Conflict'

Maryland's chief judge told the General Assembly yesterday that he hopes to relieve the court system of "a culture of conflict" by promoting alternatives to litigation.

In his annual State of the Judiciary address to lawmakers, Chief Judge Robert M. Bell laid out his plan to establish a state office that would promote ways to resolve disputes out of court, using arbitration and mediation.

"There are productive ways to manage conflict, both within and outside the legal system," he said. "These techniques, if effectively used, enhance civility in our society, improve relationships, save time and money, and ease the burden of our courts."

Several state officials, including Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D), said afterward that they welcomed the approach and would seek funds to make it work.

On Snow, Almanac Beats Weather Service

Score one for the almanac.

The East Coast snowstorm that eluded National Weather Service forecasters until it was nearly upon them was predicted four months ago by J. Gruber's Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack, the nation's second-oldest almanac.

"Every now and then I nail one," said prognosticator William O'Toole, a mathematics and computer science professor at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg.

O'Toole issued his storm warning for Jan. 24 in September, when the booklet's 203rd edition was published. He also predicted last week's snowfall and the dates of cold temperatures felt across the area since mid-January.

O'Toole's record for the season so far is spotty, though. He correctly predicted nine precipitation events in Hagerstown beginning Nov. 20, but missed 15 others.

VIRGINIA

Judge Orders Visits With Switched Girl

Paula Johnson, the Stafford County mother of one of two babies switched at birth at the University of Virginia, must allow visits between the child she raised and the girl's biological relatives in Buena Vista, a judge has ordered.

Johnson has raised 4-year-old Callie Marie Conley since the baby switch occurred in the summer of 1995. Her biological child, Rebecca Grace Chittum, was raised by Kevin Chittum and Whitney Rogers until the couple was killed in an auto accident July 4, 1998.

Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge J. Martin Bass said Kevin Chittum's relatives will be allowed to take Callie one weekend each month and a week during the summer. Johnson had opposed visitation, saying she does not trust the Chittum family.

Custody of the two girls has been embroiled in the courts since the switch was discovered in the summer of 1998. A Buena Vista judge rejected Johnson's request for full custody of Rebecca. Johnson also has filed to adopt Callie, a move that could sever all ties between the girl and her grandparents. A hearing in that case is scheduled for April.

MacArthur's Wife Is Mourned in Norfolk

About 100 mourners attended a private service in Norfolk yesterday for Jean MacArthur, the widow of Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Jean MacArthur died Saturday in New York at age 101. Her funeral took place at Norfolk's MacArthur Memorial on the 120th anniversary of the birth of her husband. The memorial is a domed building dating from 1850 that once served as Norfolk's city hall. Jean MacArthur is to be entombed there in a crypt next to her husband. The building is part of a complex that includes the Jean MacArthur Research Center, which houses her husband's archives.

An honor guard from Fort Monroe in Hampton carried her casket past a statue of the general and inside the memorial for the service. The general was born in Little Rock, but his mother, Mary Pinkney Hardy MacArthur, grew up in Norfolk. Douglas MacArthur died in 1964, the year the research center opened.

THE DISTRICT

Mayor Delays Neighborhood Action Forum

The District's continuing snow cleanup has led Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) to postpone the latest forum in his Neighborhood Action program, designed to give residents a chance to help set spending priorities in the D.C. budget.

The forum, originally scheduled for tonight, now will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the main gymnasium at the University of the District of Columbia, 4200 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Aides to Williams said residents participating in the forum, like those at a similar gathering in November, will be seated in discussion groups and will be able to register their opinions on various issues through computerized keypads. More than 3,000 residents attended the November session at the Washington Convention Center; administration officials say there could be 1,500 at Saturday's forum.

City Trash Collection to Resume Today

Municipal trash collection will resume today after being halted for a week because of last week's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and recent snowstorms, Public Works Director Vanessa Dale Burns said yesterday.

THE REGION

Gas Station Chain Offers Scholarships

Local affiliates of a national gas station chain are offering $1,000 college scholarships to high school seniors in the District and Montgomery, Prince George's, Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Students may pick up applications for the Amoco Dealer Community Scholarship program from area Amoco stations now through Feb. 18, or while copies last. Since 1997, 64 scholarships have been awarded. Recipients are chosen based on financial need, academic performance and a desire for higher education. For more information, call Dan Dykstra at 410-494-3723.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We have no idea what [Sally Hemings] said to [Thomas Jefferson] or what he said to her. But what we do know is that each of her children who lived to adulthood lived out their lives as free people and they were the only African American family, nuclear family, at Monticello to do that."

-- Dianne Swann-Wright, director of special programs at Jefferson's Monticello estate, who said there is incontrovertible evidence of special treatment for Hemings--one of Jefferson's slaves, who may have borne him one or more children--and her family.