Davis, Campbell to fill judge open­ings

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CARL HAMIL­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— Gov. Larry Ho­gan has ap­pointed Wil­liam W. Davis, Jr., to a va­cant Cecil County Cir­cuit Court judge­ship and Clara Eva Campbell to an open Cecil County Dis­trict Court judge­ship on Fri­day, just two days after con­duct­ing the ju­di­cial can­di­date in­ter­views in Elk­ton, the gover­nor’s of­fice an­nounced late Fri­day morn­ing.

The cir­cuit court ap­point­ment gives Davis the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first black Cecil County judge. The dis­trict court ap­point­ment, mean­while, makes Campbell the fourth woman ap­pointed to the lo­cal bench.

Campbell’s ap­point­ment also fur­ther skews the gen­der bal­ance of the six sit­ting Cecil County judges, as only two of them are men. Both Cecil County Dis­trict Court judges will be women: Campbell and Bon­nie Sch­nei­der, who, with her ap­point­ment in Au­gust 2008, holds the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first female Cecil County judge.

“After con­duct­ing a thor­ough vet­ting process, I am con­fi­dent that Mr. Davis and Ms. Campbell are the most qual­i­fied can­di­dates to fill these va­can­cies,” Ho­gan said. “Their le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise has pre­pared

ANNAPOLIS

them to be strong ad­vo­cates for the law and for the peo­ple of Cecil County. I of­fer my sin­cere con­grat­u­la­tions and best wishes.”

A pri­vate de­fense at­tor­ney and a con­tracted panel pub­lic de­fender for the past 13 years, Davis, 41, was at work in a dis­trict court­room about 9:30 a.m. Fri­day when, un­be­knownst to him, Gov. Ho­gan called his cell­phone.

Ho­gan then called Davis’ of­fice and reached his as­sis­tant, who, in turn, texted Davis and in­structed him to call the gover­nor.

“I was in the court­room rep­re­sent­ing a client, so I wasn’t able to take the call,” Davis re­called.

After that pro­ceed­ing ended, Davis, who wasn’t sure if good or bad news would be com­ing from the gover­nor, stepped out­side the court­room and called the num­ber that had been texted to him – only to get a recorded mes­sage.

“I got the an­swer­ing ma­chine. I was al­ready tense and ex­cited, all at the same time,” Davis said.

A few min­utes later, Davis’ cell­phone rang and the gov- er­nor was on the line.

“He con­grat­u­lated me,” Davis said. “I in­vited him to at­tend my in­vesti­ture, and he said would come if he was able.”

Then, after thank­ing the gover­nor and say­ing good­bye, Davis fo­cused on his job at hand.

“This af­ter­noon, I’m go­ing right back into court, tak­ing care of my clients,” Davis said.

Re­gard­ing the note­wor­thi­ness of him be­ing Cecil County’s first black judge, Davis opined that “it’s im­por­tant” to make that dis­tinc­tion.

But then he quickly placed that dis­tinc­tion into proper con­text, com­ment­ing, “I be­lieve I am qual­i­fied to be a judge, and I just hap­pen to be black.”

Campbell, 55, was at her Ce­cil­ton home when her phone rang about 9:45 a.m. Fri­day.

“The gover­nor said I’m ap­point­ing you to be the next dis­trict court judge, and I thanked him,” Campbell said, adding, “It’s a great feel­ing.”

Campbell mar­veled over how fast the gover­nor made the two Cecil County ju­di­cial ap­point­ments. Ho­gan had in­ter­viewed Campbell and two other ju­di­cial fi­nal­ists in­di­vid­u­ally in­side a third-floor con­fer­ence room at the Cecil County Cir­cuit Court­house on Wed­nes­day, the first of two days that the gover­nor spent tour­ing the county. It was un­prece­dented be­cause, in the past, gov­er­nors con­ducted ju­di­cial can­di­date in­ter­views at the State House in Annapolis.

“This is the quick­est ju­di­cial ap­point­ment I’ve ever seen,” Campbell said, adding, “It shows the gover­nor is all about tak­ing care of this state.”

The gover­nor passed over the re­main­ing “short list” can­di­date, E.B. Fock­ler IV, an as­sis­tant pub­lic de­fender, who, like Davis, had ap­plied for both open judge­ships and emerged as a fi­nal­ist for them.

Cecil County State’s At­tor­ney Ellis Rollins III also had made the “short list” after go­ing through the nom­i­na­tions process but on June 30 – five days be­fore the sched­uled gu­ber­na­to­rial in­ter­views – he with­drew his name amid a scan­dal. Davis ul­ti­mately was ap­pointed to the cir­cuit court judge­ship that Rollins had sought.

Rollins was ar­rested on June 22 in Ocean City while at­tend­ing a Mary­land pros­e­cu­tors con­ven­tion, after he al­legedly was spot­ted nude on his ho­tel bal­cony. Then on June 27, Worces­ter County State’s At­tor­ney Beau Oglesby charged Rollins with two counts each of in­de­cent ex­po­sure and dis­or­derly con­duct in con­nec­tion with the in­ci­dent.

Many in the le­gal com­mu­nity con­sid­ered Rollins a fron­trun­ner for the cir­cuit court seat, in­clud­ing Campbell who praised Rollins’ le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence in a Whig in­ter­view more than a month ago.

As a con­se­quence of his with­drawal from the “short list,” Rollins likely missed out on his best chance to sit on the cir­cuit court bench, as both his grand­fa­ther and fa­ther had done. At age 60, Rollins only has 10 more years of el­i­gi­bil­ity to serve in a judge­ship be­fore the manda­tory state re­tire­ment age of 70, and the ma­jor­ity of the county’s judges are younger than he is.

In an in­ter­view with an East­ern Shore TV sta­tion prior to Rollins’ with­drawal, Ho­gan said he would “prob­a­bly not” ap­point the state’s at­tor­ney to the po­si­tion due to the scan­dal.

Ho­gan ap­pointed Davis to a judge­ship that opened in Jan­uary, when V. Michael Whe­lan re­tired after turn­ing 70, which is the age of manda­tory re­tire­ment for Mary­land judges. Whe­lan, who re­ceived his gu­ber­na­to­rial ap­point­ment to that cir­cuit judge­ship in June 2010 and then re­tained the po­si­tion in the next elec­tion, now sits as a re­tired cir­cuit court judge.

After he takes his oath as judge – a date had not been set, as of Fri­day af­ter­noon – Davis must run in the next elec­tion against all chal­lengers, if any, to re­tain the judge­ship. If elected, Davis would serve a 15-year term as cir­cuit court judge.

The gover­nor ap­pointed Campbell to a dis­trict court judge­ship that opened in Oc­to­ber when Stephen J. Baker, 60, re­tired. Baker, who re­ceived his gu­ber­na­to­rial ap­point­ment in May 2007, still pre­sides as a re­tired dis­trict court judge.

Campbell will serve a 10year term as dis­trict court judge. Dis­trict Court judges must be reaf­firmed by the Mary­land Se­nate ev­ery 10 years.

A North East-area na­tive, Campbell, started out as a Cecil County Cir­cuit Court law clerk, serv­ing un­der the late judges Don­ald­son Cole Jr. and E.D.E. Rollins Jr. After pass­ing the bar in 1987, Campbell worked with sev­eral other Elk­ton-based lawyers.

In 2012, Campbell ex­panded her own prac­tice lo­cated at 190 E. Main St. It is the largest law of­fice in Elk­ton, with four other lawyers on staff that prac­tice nearly all man­ners of law, in­clud­ing mu­nic­i­pal, fam­ily, traf­fic, crim­i­nal and wills and es­tates. She also serves as le­gal coun­sel to the county’s plan­ning com­mis­sion, board of ap­peals, depart­ment of per­mit­ting and in­spec­tions, and depart­ment of plan­ning and zon­ing.

Campbell had made one other bid for a judge­ship, mak­ing the “short list” in 2013, when the gu­ber­na­to­rial ap­point­ment for the newly cre­ated fourth Cir­cuit Court judge­ship went to Brenda Sex­ton, who went on to win a 15-year term in the next elec­tion.

CAMPBELL

DAVIS

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