Get the rundown on local orphans’ court candidates
Three seats, five in the running
Five candidates are vying for the three judge posts on Calvert County’s orphans’ court. If elected, they will provide oversight of the county’s probate court system on estates of deceased residents, administrating the estates and hearing contested cases. Each of the three judges elected will serve a four-year term and sit on the bench one day a week. For their commitment, they will be paid roughly $9,000 a year. Each candidate briefly spoke with The Calvert Recorder and stated their case for why they should be elected or re-elected as judge of orphans’ court. Below are their responses in alphabetical order.
Republican Leslie Downs is the longest-serving sitting judge on Calvert’s orphans’ court with 16 years on the bench. Downs was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to the post of chief judge for Calver t’s orphans’ court and previously served on the Conference of Orphans’ Court Judges. Downs is a homemaker and also has a jewelry business called Bay Beads.
“I have more experience on the bench. I’ve been there longer than anyone else and I have built a rapport with the register of wills,” Downs said. “I feel I use good judgment with every case that comes before us.”
“People are under the impression we make random decisions. Not true. We are not a policy making branch. We follow the letter of the law and use common sense on the more difficult issues,” Downs said.
Democrat and Prince Frederick area attorney Tammy Fowler is also running for the bench.
Fowler shares a law practice with her husband and delegate candidate for District 27C Jason Fowler. In practice since 2014, she said her area of expertise is family law and estate planning.
“It is important to have someone on the bench with a legal experience,” Fowler said. “My specific experience with estate planning gives me a unique experience and makes me knowledgable about what the laws are and how to deal with complex legal issues. Dealing with probate during a difficult time is difficult enough to deal with, let alone having someone on the bench that doesn’t understand the legal ramifications of probate.”
Republican Ted LeBlanc is up for re-election and is finishing his first term. LeBlanc is also a Prince Frederick area attorney and has been in practice for 23 years.
Auto accidents, criminal defense and business matters are his areas of practice.
“I am currently on the bench and I am doing a good job as judge. I was appointed by Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, to serve on the Conference of Orphans’ Court Judges in 2016,” LeBlanc said.
He still sits on the conference and meets quarterly with other judges in the conference to develop best practices and procedures for the profession that he calls a “public service.”
“I’m an attorney. I think it is important to have attorney on the bench because the people have lawyers representing them — you need to know civil procedure, you need to know evidence. You need to know Maryland Rules,” LeBlanc stressed.
Also up for re-election is Democrat Thomas Pelagatti, another Prince Frederick area attorney who has a general practice and conducts real estate closings as well as handles some trial work.
Pelagatti has been on the orphans’ court for 12 years, eight years consecutively.
“I was the first attorney in Calvert County to be on the orphans’ court in 1998. Prior to being on the court, I did probate work and I am a former assistant state’s attorney for Prince George’s County,” Pelagatti said, noting he also teaches Intro to Paralegal at the College of Southern Maryland.
“My experience, education and training, along with having the compassion and understanding when dealing with individuals who have lost a loved one — I feel I am most qualified to be on the bench,” Pelagatti added.
Running for election is Republican Derek Sabedra, a teacher at St. Leonard Elementary School.
Sabedra is also a schoolbased psychotherapist for both middle and high school. He is the varsity girls basketball coach at Patuxent High.
“In doing my job I have the ability to mediate, to negotiate and to listen to those individuals involved with the orphans’ court process of wills and estates,” Sabedra said. “I have the ability to make sound judgments and decisions based on analyzing the data.”