The new chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court, Fred B. Ugast, who has been a member of that court since 1973, is an excellent choice. Judge Ugast was picked for this post by a seven-member committee composed of lawyers, one U.S. District Court judge and two laymen. It is an unusual selection mechanism, but in this case, at least, it worked well. chief judge, who succeeds the late Carl Moultrie I, has strong administrative and courtroom credentials and enjoys the respect of his colleagues.
Any of the other nominees -- judges Gladys Kessler, Ricardo Urbina and Paul Webber -- could have ably led the court. But Judge Ugast had the benefit of his experience as acting chief judge in Judge Moultrie's absence. He also has been presiding judge of the court's criminal division and has chaired the committee developing sentencing guidelines. In deference to the spirit of home rule, Judge Ugast has announced that he will move from his home in Chevy Chase to the District after he assumes his new duties, though it is not required by law.
Superior Court is one of the busiest and perhaps the most complex forum in the public life of this city. Each day there is drama, conflict and pressure, and every decision made there affects citizens lives, property and personal freedom. It is the responsibility of the chief judge to see that everything runs smoothly, and that is no small task. Judge Ugast should continue the good work begun by his predecessor in forwarding reforms, especially in the areas of jury service and sentencing guidelines. He must also address continuing problems of calendar control and backlog by seeking ways to reduce delay and to encourage cooperation by lawyers and litigants. He is well qualified to lead his colleagues in their critical work.