Are Our Judge's Elections Really Non-Partisan? And What Does It Come Down to Anyhow? ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Friday, October 8, 2010

Are Our Judge's Elections Really Non-Partisan? And What Does It Come Down to Anyhow?

(For purposes of disclosure, I have been acquainted with Judges Kiessling and Jarashow and their families for many years. I have spoken with but have never met Ms Asti. And in case anyone did not notice, Ms. Asti has an advertisement here on ACP. I tried repeatedly to arrange a public forum with the three judicial candidates. In late September, Ms. Asti claimed she did not have time--although there were no events scheduled on her website calendar. Jarashow promised repeatedly to get back to me with potential dates but repeatedly ignored my requests to provide dates. Unfortunately, they chose not to allow me to make such a forum. So, I am basing the below on conversations and reviews of their web-sites)

Are Our Judge's Elections Really Non-Partisan? And What Does It Come Down to Anyhow? Good questions. Let's see..... they run in the primary on both the Democratic and Republican ballots which was confusing enough. Was anyone else confused about how those votes all worked out?  I went to a fundraiser for Republican Ron Elfenbein where both Judges Jarashow and Kiessling attended, and then I saw them again at a Democratic rally. I saw Alison Asti at a fundraiser for Republican Doug Burkhardt. Asti clearly demonstrates that she is a Republican and was a Republican appointee, gets endorsed by and has her photo with Bob Ehrlich but claims that Ehrlich appointed Democratic and Republican judges while O'Malley has appointed almost exclusively Democratic judges.

I have reviewed lists of appointments provided by Asti that appear to show a high proportion of Democratic judges appointed by O'Malley but did not confirm their veracity. It would require a lot more analysis to draw any conclusions.

A recent ad in The Severna Park Voice shows Asti with Ehrlich and endorsements from two senators and four delegates--all of whom are Republicans!  I am not certain, but I believe that Jarashow and Kiessling, as sitting judges must be much more reserved and circumspect with such matters and cannot behave in a partisan manner.  Asti says  "I have a conservative judicial philosophy and believe in The Rule Of Law."  Okay, she can say she has a conservative philosophy, whatever that means, but I don't think the sitting judges can say that one way or another, but what does it means for one aspiring to be a judge to say you believe in "the Rule of Law."??? That's like running for dog catcher and saying you believe in catching dogs, or am I missing something? Is she suggesting the sitting judges are activists bent on making rather than interpreting the law?

She might be, for on her web-site, she writes "In other words, I do not believe judges should be legislating (or making new law) from the bench. According to both our State and Federal Constitutions, the judicial branch must refrain from invading the duties of the Legislature."

She adds that "I also believe that the citizens of Anne Arundel County deserve to have judges they select--not judges who were selected as a result of compromised partisan appointment." Her web-site adds in "by Martin O'Malley".

Hold on a second. Is she really suggesting that Jarashow and Kiessling and every other judge appointed by O'Malley were selected on that basis and are making rulings based on partisan politics or are trying to create law from the bench?   continued...
Did Asti not have a chance to get selected during Ehrlich's four years? Did she not have a chance to get selected by O'Malley, or did she never event her name? Furthermore, why is she so bent on stating that appointments were "compromised" and "partisan"? What proof does she have? But to then go out and campaign in such a partisan manner, knowing full well the sitting judges cannot do it, is well... you get the point. She is saying we should vote for her because she is Republican but don't vote to re-appoint the sitting judges because they were appointed in a partisan manner.

DOES SHE HAVE ANY EVIDENCE THAT THEY WERE APPOINTED IN THAT MANNER? DOES SHE HAVE ANY EVIDENCE THAT THEY RULE OR ACT IN A PARTISAN MANNER? Can she point to any ruling or decision or dicta emanating from Jarashow or Kiessling or any other judge appointed by O'Malley that would suggest such a thing? Does she really hold the vetting and appointment process in such disregard?  She did not have to go through such a process, that is of course, constitutionally set up that way but Asti believes it has been compromised for political purposes. She chose to go through an election while the sitting judges went through the appointment process and now must be sustained by we the people to maintain their positions. So, is a clearly partisan campaign preferred to a supposedly partisan appointment?

The sitting judges say that they "have years of real courtroom experience" and are committed to fairness, integrity and justice. Jarashow, a well-known local attorney has argued many cases in court and has been on the bench, though for less than a year. According to his web-site,"after law school, he was hired as the law clerk for Chief Judge Richard Gilbert of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals where he assisted in deciding over 100 cases." He was a member and chairperson of multiple Inquiry Panels for the Attorney Grievance Commission. He also served as a Mediator and Settlement Officer for the County’s Circuit Court working to resolve cases through Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Kiessling's web-site says she clerked for the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County prior to joining the State’s Attorney’s Office in 1991.  In her initial years with the office, she served in the Domestic Relations Division where she handled civil matters such as paternity and child support.  Judge Kiessling handled many types of cases as an Assistant State’s Attorney prior to serving the bulk of her career on the office’s trial team dedicated to child abuse and sex offenses.  She was made Deputy State’s Attorney in December 2006.

Asti says she is "The Most Qualified" and lists her lengthy and impressive experiences as a lawyer in private practice and and recognitions she has received as such. However, it's not readily evident from her web-site that she has ever argued a case in court or been involved in a trial.

Asti says that "Too many Anne Arundel County civil cases are reversed on appeal due to judges making faulty interpretations of the law...costing litigants and taxpayers millions of dollars." That may be true, but do we know if that has anything to do with Jarashow or Kiessling, or does it somehow bolster her candidacy? One could argue that a judge with little or no experience in the workings of trial and criminal procedures could also make mistakes and cost litigant and taxpayers millions of dollars. Where is Asti's experience in those areas?

The sitting judges have been endorsed by the County Fraternal Order of Police and although Asti is a past president of the State Bar Association, its endorsement went to the sitting judges. 

From 1979-1990, Asti says she was engaged in general corporate and commercial legal matters including business acquisition, securities, banking and bond work. Asti was the General Legal Counsel of the Maryland Stadium Authority from 1990 to 2004 and its Executive Director 2004-2007, the same period during which Republican Bob Ehrlich served as Governor. Her web-site said she negotiated agreements to keep the Orioles in Maryland, to build Camden Yards, to relocate the NFL Ravens to Baltimore, and to build Ravens Stadium.  Impressive though these accomplishments may be, there is no mention of courtroom or trial experience on her web-site. Furthermore, her stadium position was clearly a political appointment, while the appointment of her opponents, may or may not have been, and even if they were, it may not have any relevance. Yet Asti continues to bring up the supposedly partisan issue, while she was the clear recipient of a partisan appointment, and continues to use the partisan endorsement of Ehrlich to support her campaign.

We the people may find it uncomfortable to vote for judges, and as I have written about in "the Ninth Ward" in The Capital, the sitting judges seem uncomfortable about having to be politicians as well. Justice O'Connor is on a national "crusade" to end such elections. She was a guest here in Annapolis with Attorney General Doug Gansler who has also fought this election process. Considering how judges must behave and what they can or cannot say, it appears that their hands are somewhat tied during the election process to re-appoint them. A candidate who is not a sitting judge appears to be less constrained in how he or she can campaign or what he or she can say.

We are left with a big decision. The two judges will sit for fifteen years. I have tried to fairly lay out some of the issues and concerns and present them before you to decide. As always, comments, with your identity made clear, will be published.

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1 Comment:

Jerry Shandrowsky said...

I don't know why supposedly pro-life legislators would endorse Asti as aggressively as they have. After all, she once donated to a pro-abortion group.

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