Annapolis, Md. – Fifth Circuit Judge Mark W. Crooks said he knew very little about Judge Roy Moore prior to attending the September Severna Park fundraiser for the former Alabama Senate candidate.
“I didn’t do my homework to know what he was all about, even remotely,” said Crooks, whose photo with Moore at the event was published Monday. “I try to go to Democratic events, too.”
Crooks asserted his attendance at the Moore event was aimed at meeting Severna Park voters. Crooks, appointed to the bench by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2016, needs to win favor with voters to secure a 15-year judgeship on the Circuit Court in the 2018 judicial election.
A top Democratic official confirmed seeing Crooks this fall at several fundraisers for then candidate for mayor, Gavin Buckley, D.
“I don’t think he should attend any party’s fundraisers,” said Yasemin Jamison. “I think perception matters.” The Anne Arundel Indivisible founder filed an ethics violation complaint this spring with the Commission on Judicial Disabilities against Crooks when his name appeared on a flier as hosting a fundraiser in support of Republican councilmanic candidate, Nathan Volke. The Maryland Judicial Code of Conduct prohibits judicial candidates from endorsing non-judicial candidates and hosting fundraisers for them. Crooks denied endorsing the candidate. The Commission notified Jamison in November the complaint against Crooks was dismissed.
In August 2002, the Maryland Judicial Ethics Committee published an opinion stating judicial candidates can attend non-judicial candidate fundraisers, like the one for Moore, and acknowledges the act itself is not an endorsement of the candidate. The opinion further states: “Judges who chose to attend such events should, however, be mindful of the circumstances surrounding a particular gathering and the risk that their words or actions while attending may be misinterpreted.”
Crooks preempted his ability to comment on his current knowledge and sentiments about Moore or any candidate because of restrictions placed on candidates by the Maryland Judicial Code of Conduct. According to the code, “rule 4.4 (c)(4)…prohibits candidates for election from making speeches on behalf of political organizations or publicly endorsing or opposing candidates for public office, to prevent them from abusing the prestige of judicial office to advance the interests of others.”
Crooks on Tuesday requested an opinion from the Judicial Ethics Committee as to whether or not he can provide public comment on Moore after the conclusion of the Alabama Senate race.
Crooks spoke in general terms about his own record. “I spent the balance of my career prosecuting child exploitation crimes and police corruption, and I abhor any conduct that approximates or includes those things,” said Crooks.
When asked for his general opinion on a judge violating a U.S. Supreme Court order Crooks replied, “A judge’s obligation is to apply the law as it is given from the higher court, and we live in a land of the supremacy clause. … A judge has to apply the law.” The supremacy clause of the Constitution states that federal laws have jurisdiction over state laws when there is a conflict.
Moore was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court bench twice for violating orders from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Moore was defeated by Democratic candidate Doug Jones Tuesday.
Brenda Wintrode is a freelance journalist from Anne Arundel County.
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