Email to Bar Association of Montgomery County and How Judges are Selected
Dear Fellow Montgomery County Lawyers
This November, four Montgomery County sitting judges will be running in the general election to retain their seats: Bibi Berry, David Boynton, Chris Fogleman and Michael McAuliffe. These four were vetted by their peers, nominated for being the most highly qualified for the position and appointed by the Governor who agreed with that assessment.
They are being challenged by a lawyer whose 9 applications for 14 vacancies, following a thorough vetting process, were rejected each and every time. The four winners in the general election will serve a 15-year term on the Circuit Court Bench. Because the name of the unqualified challenger will appear on the November ballot, an uninformed public COULD elect her to one of those four 15-year terms and one of the vetted sitting judges will be removed from office.
This potential outcome of the general election creates the urgent need for this letter.
If you do not know about the vetting process to be appointed to the Bench, it is important that you take a moment to understand it, so that you may know how vital it is for you, your clients, and our community. Judicial candidates go through the following processes:
- They are independently interviewed and rated by 13 Bar Associations, including the BAMC, MSBA, the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association, Maryland Defense Counsel, Inc., Maryland Hispanic Bar Association, the LGBTQ Bar Association, the Monumental City Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys, the Maryland Association for Justice, the Women’s Law Center, the Simon E. Sobeloff Law Society, and the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys’ Association. These organizations then notify the Trial Court’s Nominating Commission of their assessments.
- They are voted on by referendum to the entire Bar Association of Montgomery County of over 2,000 members.
- They sit for a lengthy interview with the Governor’s 13-member Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission, which reviews and considers the results of all of the prior vetting and the referendum. The Commission, consisting of attorneys and non-attorneys members of the community, also conducts its own extensive investigation.
- They are then vetted by the Governor and his advisors. The process is incredibly intensive, as it should be. The responsibility and faith we place in judges is far too great for it not to be. Many of the attorneys receiving this email donated hours of their time vetting applicants.
Vetting by each of these organizations includes: calls to judges, attorneys and others who might have any knowledge of the person’s acumen, experience, ability, integrity, and character. What is discovered during vetting includes criminal history, Bar complaints, resume and qualification embellishments, poor comprehension and writing skills, and other issues that are not public knowledge, especially regarding temperament. This system keeps unqualified people from becoming judges and keeps politics from affecting our judiciary. In short, this is how potentially bad judges are not appointed.
Did you know that no vetting whatsoever is required to get one’s name on a ballot for a judicial election? Anyone at least 30 years old who is barred in good standing (i.e. no current disciplinary action against them) and meets residency requirements can pay their $50 to get on the ballot. They do not need to have spent one single day in a courtroom. They do not need to have proven integrity. They do not need to be capable. They do not need to be competent. In fact, once an unvetted candidate gets on the ballot, what the voters know about is what that candidate wants them to know (not the other facts that are revealed only through vetting).
Once that person is voted onto the Bench, he or she will spend 15 years there. Many lawyers do not know that, although a judge might be removed for serious unethical conduct, a judge cannot be removed for being incompetent. When a judge is incompetent, it costs you and your clients much time, aggravation, and money. The costs are so much greater when liberty rights are involved. Lives can be ruined; some mistakes simply cannot be fixed by an appeal, especially when money is not available.
It is important that every member of our Bar take seriously the challenge our community faces right now. Some of the voters are informed and care about whether their judges are actually vetted. Many, unfortunately, are not informed, and are unaware of the extreme vetting process described above. It is up to us to inform them. It is up to us to show them why they must care.
This fight is not just that of the Sitting Judges (Berry, Boynton, Fogleman and McAuliffe) who were vetted and now are running in the November election to retain their positions on the Circuit Court. This fight is yours. For yourself, your clients, and this entire County. Know also that this is not just about one unvetted candidate (who applied many times and was never found qualified by the Trial Courts Commissions). This challenge is about opening the floodgates to many more unvetted and unqualified challengers if our legal community does not stop it now.
This is a call to action. There is much to be done. Visit our website at https://www.electsittingjudgesmcs.com/ to know more about the Sitting Judges and the vetting process. If you want to help, let us know by contacting us through the website, or emailing the Chair of the Elect Sitting Judges Montgomery County Slate, J. Stephen McAuliffe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ideas, resources, time–whatever you have to offer to this cause, is vitally needed.
If you have an email distribution list or platform to educate the voters of Montgomery County, please use it. If you have employees, friends, clients, and others willing to work the polls during the election, please sign on. Accept this call to action for the good of Montgomery County.
Right now, today, please commit to contacting ten of your friends, neighbors and relatives. Tell them what you know about this election, and why it’s important to elect the sitting judges.
Thank you. You will hear more from us in the coming weeks. Stay safe and well.
Very truly yours,
J. Stephen McAuliffe III
J. Stephen McAuliffe, III
Elect Sitting Judges Montgomery County Slate
By Authority of Nancy Hosford, Treasurer