Editors' Pick

So Much for Order Outside the Court

Circuit court judgeship elections in Montgomery County historically have been genteel, often uncontested affairs. Then came 2020, when a race for four judicial seats turned into a bare-knuckle political brawl. Rockville attorney Marylin Pierre won a general election slot to take on four “sitting judges” initially placed on the bench by gubernatorial appointment after a lengthy “vetting” process. Pierre sought to put that process on trial, contending that the sitting judges “are an in-group. Most of them have worked at the same law firm, go to the same church, and are related by marriage.” The infuriated incumbents counterattacked, suggesting sour grapes on the part of Pierre—who had applied for 14 vacant judgeships over a five-year period and been passed over by the county’s Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission. But as the incumbents disputed Pierre’s claims of being the victim of a local insider empire, the county’s legal establishment struck back—as the incumbents’ campaign committee, generously funded by leading law firms, took aim at Pierre’s experience and past statements. Before it was over, Pierre faced an investigation by the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland and was hit with a temporary restraining order after a member of her campaign inaccurately portrayed her as an incumbent at the polls during early voting. In the vote count, she finished far behind the incumbents—Bibi Berry, David Boynton, Christopher Fogleman and Michael McAuliffe. The episode seemed certain to intensify a perennial debate in the Maryland Legislature over the wisdom of allowing those charged with maintaining order in the courts to be drawn into election-year free-for-alls.