AFTER WEEKS of difficult deliberation and public speculation, H. Carl Moultrie I has been selected to succeed Harold H. Greene as chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court - and the decision is an excellent one. Though Judge Greene is a tough act to follow - for it was he who guided that court to an unprecedented level of respectability - Carl Moultrie has been an outstanding member of the bench. Indeed, the difficulty in choosing the new chief judge was not due to any dearth of judicial talent in Superior Court; on the contrary, the selection commission found the court blessed with a number of highly qualified and respected candidates.
Judge Moultrie certainly brings to his new position a special sensitivity to this community - for he has served it long and well and always with distinction. Before his judgeship, he was an active and effective president of the NAACP's Washington chapter and a leader in a remarkable number and range of civic groups. While that sort of participation doesn't automatically produce a good judge, Mr. Moultrie has drawn on his extensive experience with the judicial system before becoming a judge to improve the court's image in the community.
Now, as Judge Greene moves to the federal bench, Judge Moultrie takes over the administration of a court that in the last few years has been transformed from an old, disorganized Court of General Sessions into a Superior Court of state-court rank - which was estimated last year to have touched the lives of more than 300,000 people in this community. Judge Moultrie says he intends to present a plan to his colleagues for "participatory management" of the 44-judge court, which, given his record on and off the bench, is not expected to be merely a frivolous or obstructionist exercise in citizen "involvement." We'll see. But he is aware of many troubles that still plague the court's operations, not to mention just about any other court of its rank in the nation: backlogs in civil and small-claims divisions, some sharp differences in the way his colleagues dispense justice, and tight budgets. At least as he begins to address those challenges, Judge Moultrie should enjoy strong popular support.