In voting for a judge, the priority order for deciding who is most deserving should be the candidates’ qualifications and experience, along with external considerations that are relevant to the composition of the court the candidate proposes to join. This is difficult evaluation work on the part of voters, and so it is rarely done. Most decisions are made from endorsements by others, personal contact with a candidate(s), and marketing in the form of ads and signs. I am endorsing Claudia Barber based on her qualifications, experience, and value in helping to create a diverse, balanced court. Please consider my reasons and how she compares with the current appointed incumbent.
Qualifications: Claudia Barber holds a BA from Goucher College, an MS from Johns Hopkins University, and a JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She is a member of the Bars of the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland and is also admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Court of Federal Claims, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth District of Columbia and Federal Circuits, and the United States District Courts for Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Experience: Claudia Barber has 10 years of judicial experience. From 2005 to 2016, she served as an administrative law judge in the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings. She authored more than 5,000 decisions, receiving top performance evaluations.
Before serving as an administrative law judge, Barber owned and operated her own law firm for more than 16 years. She represented many churches, small businesses, corporations, and individuals in state and federal courts. Her practice was diverse and included personal injury, worker’s compensation, bankruptcy, real estate closings, civil and criminal bench and jury trials, and equal-employment-opportunity and labor-law cases.
For more than 10 years, Claudia Barber taught at area colleges and universities including Anne Arundel Community College, Johns Hopkins University, Towson State University, Villa Julie College, the University of Maryland University College, and Bowie State University.
Comparison: Even though the appointed incumbent, Judge Mark Crooks, has served for less than two years, which also represents the total time of his judicial experience, signs on many lawns throughout the county urge us to “Keep Judge Crooks.” This could be read as meaning he was already elected once, which he was not. . Crooks was appointed to the position by the governor, who employed him. The Maryland constitution requires that every governor-appointed judge must stand for election. By comparison with Barber, he is far less qualified to hold the position.
- Barber has 10 years of judicial experience; Crooks has 1 ½ years.
- Barber has extensive experience practicing in Anne Arundel County circuit court; Crooks has no years practicing here.
- Barber has an extensive public-service history of transitioning ex-offenders back into the community; Crooks has none.
- Crooks has no history of published opinions, whereas Barber does.
- Crooks has no history of a strong affirmance record on appeal, unlike Barber.
Endorsements: In addition to my own backing, others who have endorsed Barber include former Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; Delegate Jocelyn Pena Melnyk; Anne Arundel Councilman Andrew Pruski; Annapolis Alderman Sheila Finlayson; and Annapolis Alderwoman Elly Tierney.
In my 20-year career as project manager in the Executive Office in the Environment and Natural Resources Division, one of six litigating divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice, I learned the meaning of fairness and equal justice under law. Also, I learned that to have justice for all, there needs to be justice by all. This last truth is not operating in Anne Arundel County. In its 367 years of existence, the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court has had only two African-American male judges and no women judges of color, meaning no non-white women judges. This fact speaks to the fairness and justice dispensed in Anne Arundel County and needs to be rectified. The election of the distinguished African-American jurist Claudia Barber will help correct this historical injustice and, going forward, will create a better-balanced and more aware Circuit Court.
Dick Lahn is an environmental activist from Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
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