Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed a Worcester County prosecutor embroiled in a highly publicized racial discrimination lawsuit to become a circuit court judge on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
The Dec. 28 appointment has provoked the ire of the General Assembly's Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, whose leader said the group will discuss it at an executive committee meeting on Thursday.
"We can do a whole lot better than this," said Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City), who chairs the Black Caucus. "This is not 1950s Mississippi."
State's Attorney Beau Oglesby (R) was accused three years ago of creating a racially hostile work environment by allegedly repeating the n-word over and over in front of several law enforcement officers, some of whom were African American. The allegation is part of a broader group of complaints about how African American police officers were treated on the job in Pocomoke City, Md., and in Worcester County.
A federal lawsuit against the city, the state's attorney's office, the Worcester County Sheriff's Office and the Maryland State Police is pending.
The judge in the case dismissed Oglesby as an individual defendant but refused to dismiss his office. Both of those rulings are under appeal.
Oglesby, who did not return a call for comment Wednesday, has said he used versions of the racial epithet when reviewing two letters that were seized as evidence in connection with a criminal investigation.
The letters "were read verbatim with no inflection," Oglesby wrote in a statement dated Nov. 24, 2014. "The content was not redacted as the letters would not be redacted if introduced in trial. As a result, the words 'nigga,' 'niggas' or 'niggaz' were read eight times."
Oglesby wrote that at some point while reading the letters, "in recognition that the words might be offensive to anyone in the room, I offered for anyone offended by these words the opportunity to leave the meeting without needing to offer an explanation as to why."
Franklin Savage, the Pocomoke City police officer who later filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Oglesby over his use of the language, did not leave the meeting, Oglesby said.
In addition to Oglesby, Hogan also appointed Mary Kent, a domestic relations and juvenile causes magistrate for the First Judicial Circuit, to a judicial seat. Kent is the first female circuit court judge in Worcester County.
"After a careful and thorough vetting process, I am confident that Mary Kent and Beau Oglesby are the most qualified candidates to fill these vacancies," Hogan said in a statement late last month. "Their dedication to the practice of law and history of involvement in the Worcester community will serve them well in these new positions."
Hogan spokesman Amelia Chasse said Oglesby was vetted by a judicial nominating commission and has the support of prosecutors, judges and elected officials from across the state.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, claims that Savage and two other African American police officers "were mocked, threatened, demeaned, demoted, punished, falsely accused of misconduct, ostracized and humiliated because of their race."
The Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic sent a letter to the nominating commission in October raising concerns about Oglesby as a judicial candidate.
"Even assuming . . . that he were to prevail in all aspects of the appeals and to establish his complete immunity from civil damages liability, we nevertheless believe that the conduct underlying the claims at issue should be considered relevant to Mr. Oglesby's worthiness for appointment as a member of Maryland judiciary," wrote Ajmel Quereshi, supervising attorney for the Civil Rights Clinic.
Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George's), first vice chair of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, said he was "outraged" over the appointment and wants the black caucus to send a strong message to Hogan about the selection.
Del. Erek Barron (D-Prince George's), a member of the caucus, said he found it "outrageous that somebody with [these allegations] hanging over their head would be given such a prestigious judicial appointment."
Oglesby served as the Worcester County state's attorney for about seven years. Before becoming state's attorney, he worked as the deputy state's attorney in Caroline County and was a prosecutor in Dorchester and Wicomico counties.
He received his law degree from the University of Baltimore, served as a law clerk in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County and worked as an attorney in private practice.