Five Nominees for Cecil County Circuit Court Sent to Governor

June 8, 2011

A judicial selection panel has recommended five candidates to Governor Martin O’Malley for potential appointment to a vacant Cecil County Circuit Court judgeship, according to the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts. One previous candidate withdrew and another did not receive the panel’s recommendation.

Initially, there was a field of seven candidates for the post. But Harry D. Barnes III withdrew his name from consideration and the panel declined to recommend John H. Buck to the governor. Both Barnes and Buck ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 election for another vacant seat on the Circuit Court.

Whoever is selected by the governor will have to defend the seat in the next election, presumably in 2012, if the governor makes an appointment this year. And that could be a hotly contested race if Del. Michael D. Smigiel (R-36) runs for a judgeship as is widely expected. Smigiel did not apply for an appointment to the court.

The current vacancy was created by the retirement of Judge O. Robert Lidums. It is the last seat on the local Circuit Court bench that will turn over. Last December, Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Keith Baynes to the seat previously occupied by the late Judge Richard Eli Jackson. (See previous Cecil Times report here:

Baynes, a Republican, will have to defend his seat in the 2012 election, and he recently formally announced he is an election candidate for the judgeship. He named Earleville resident Ralph Young, a well-known community leader and volunteer with many organizations, as his campaign committee treasurer.

With two court seats potentially on the 2012 ballot, there could be a multi-candidate free-for-all. Judicial elections are considered non-partisan and candidates run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. If a candidate wins both primaries, he/she runs unopposed in the general election, but if different candidates win the primaries there is a face-off in the general. With two vacant seats, there could be multiple candidates emerging from the primaries.

Meanwhile, the third seat on the local circuit bench will not be at stake. Judge V. Michael Whelan, who was appointed last year by Governor O’Malley to the seat vacated by retiring Judge Dexter Thompson, successfully defended his seat in last year’s elections.

The candidates for the former Lidums seat, as submitted to the governor by the nominating panel on Monday, are:

—Kevin Urick, 59, is a career prosecutor who has specialized in prosecuting child abuse cases and sex offenses as an assistant states attorney for Cecil County since 2005. Previously, he served for 13 years as a prosecutor with the Baltimore States Attorney’s office, handling felony cases, including homicide prosecutions. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s law school and lives with his wife in the Charlestown Manor area. He is a Democrat but said he is not a “partisan.”

—Thomas Klenk, 57, a veteran assistant Public Defender in Cecil County who has served in that office since 1984. He represents criminal case defendants who cannot afford private legal counsel. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and received his law degree from the University of Baltimore. He is a Democrat but said he is “not really a political person” and decided to apply for the judgeship after receiving much encouragement to do so from fellow lawyers in the county. He and his wife have two adult children and live in the Fair Hill area

–Jason L. Allison is a newer name in county legal circles. The 40-year-old lawyer has mostly practiced civil law during his seven years as an attorney in Cecil County, including work as the Chesapeake City town attorney and his current post as legal counsel to the county Board of Appeals. He is a graduate of the Widener University Law School in Delaware and received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in education from Ohio State University. He is a Democrat.

The Columbus, OH native came to Cecil County when his wife, Dr. Cydney Teal, accepted a position at Union Hospital, where she practices internal medicine and serves as director of medical quality at the hospital. They have two young children.

The remaining nominees on the list were previously selected for a “pool” of lawyers recommended by the nominating panel but passed over by the governor for past appointments. They are Jane Cairns Murray, currently a court master and a former public defender, who is a Democrat; and Edward D. Ellis Rollins III, who was elected Cecil County State’s Attorney in last year’s election. Rollins is a Republican.

Circuit Court judges earn $140,352 annually and serve a 15-year term after they are elected to the position.

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