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Circuit Court Judge races feature four starters, two challengers

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Editor’s note: With early voting beginning July 7, Bethesda Beat will be hosting election recaps for Montgomery County offices and the General Assembly. Today, we focus on nonpartisan court races.

Four incumbent Montgomery County Circuit Court justices are up for re-election in the July 19 primary. The race, which is non-partisan, also includes two challengers.

In recent years, Circuit Court judges Gary Bair, Ronald Rubin, Cynthia Callahan and Robert Greenberg have retired. To replace them, Governor Larry Hogan appointed:

  • Kathleen Dumais, former state delegate and attorney from Rockville
  • Carlos Acosta, who had previously served as a Montgomery County District Court judge
  • Theresa Chernosky, Montgomery County public defender for 20 years
  • Rachel McGuckian, a lawyer with Miles & Stockbridge for 25 years.

Under state law, governor-appointed judges must run for election for 15-year terms in the next general election to be held at least one year after their appointment to the court.

Dumais, Acosta, Chernosky and McGuckian are on the ballot, along with challengers Thomas P. Johnson III and Marylin Pierre – both lawyers in private practice who ran unsuccessfully in 2020.

Since 1970, Maryland has used a vetting process in which judicial appointing commissions help the governor appoint judges when vacancies occur. After lawyers complete a lengthy application regarding their work experience and other background information, nominating commissions send the applications to bar associations and separate judicial screening committees for review. The judicial selection commissions examine the applications and interview the candidates.

Pierre sparked anger in 2020 when she accused the incumbents of that year’s race of being a “group” and being “tied by marriage”, while the incumbents pointed out that she had repeatedly failed to appear on the list of candidates of the nominating commissions. Then, days before the general election in November, the incumbents obtained a restraining order after one of Pierre’s campaign workers allegedly falsely claimed that Pierre was a judge. Pierre said she had “no direct knowledge” of the incident.

Here are the candidates:

Carlos Acosta

Acosta, 58, of Silver Spring has served as a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge since January, and prior to that served as a county district court judge for four years. He also served as Inspector General of the Prince George’s County Police Department from 2012 to 2018.

Acosta has also served as a United States Special Prosecutor in the Organized Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section, Assistant District Attorney in Montgomery and Prince George Counties, and Associate Professor of Law at American University.

Acosta highlighted in a question-and-answer guide for Bethesda Beat voters the need for the justice system to continue to use technology to conduct certain administrative hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure efficiency and equal access.

Therese Chernosky

Chernosky, 52, of Gaithersburg has served as a Circuit Court judge since December 2021 and was previously an assistant district public defender in the county. She also served as an assistant public defender in the county from 2001 to 2017 and an assistant public defender at the Department of Public Advocacy in London, Ky., from 1996 to 2001.

Chernosky told Bethesda Beat that she worries about a lack of “trust” in the justice system and plans to listen with empathy and compassion if elected and to be fair in her judgments.

Chernosky, at an earlier election forum, said a move by the legislature to revoke the governor’s ability to make the final decision on parole eligibility for inmates serving life sentences would be very significant. . Changes are needed to address the high incarceration rates in the state, she said.

Catherine Dumais

Dumais, 63, of Rockville, has been a Circuit Court judge since December 2021 and a lawyer in private practice for 25 years. Dumais was also a state delegate who represented District 15 in the Legislative Assembly from 2003 to 2021.

Dumais strongly emphasized the importance of the judicial vetting process in his response to Bethesda Beat’s questionnaire, noting that nominating commissions screen candidates for judicial office at the district, circuit, and appellate levels.

A lawyer who is at least 30 years old and lives in Maryland can pay an application fee and have their name put on the ballot without going through the verification process, she noted.

Rachel McGuckian

McGuckian, 54, of Rockville has served as a Circuit Court judge since January and was previously a lawyer in private practice in Rockville for 25 years. McGuckian also served as a lieutenant colonel in the Maryland Defense Force Judge Advocate General Corps of the Maryland National Guard between 2005 and 2016.

McGuckian also highlighted the importance of the vetting process in his responses to Bethesda Beat, noting that judges who applied and were appointed to the bench filled out more than 25-page applications, and 13 bar associations as well as an independent nominating committee reviewed the applications. .

At an earlier forum, McGuckian rejected the premise that sitting judges are a “group,” saying only qualified judges are appointed, but everyone gets a chance.

Maryline Pierre

Pierre, 56, of Gaithersburg, has been an attorney in private practice since 1993 and served as a family law facilitator at the Montgomery County Circuit Court from 2006 to 2016.

In interviews and campaign forums, Pierre has said she is concerned that African Americans, especially young black men, are incarcerated at a disproportionately high rate in Maryland. Pierre says she worries about the pipeline from school to state prison and the excessive sentences.

Pierre has been highly critical of the vetting process, saying in a forum last month that she thought she had applied nine times to be a judge without being selected, but was unsure of the exact number. Pierre said she believed her lack of rapport with members of the nominating committees had hurt her feelings.

Thomas P. Johnson III

Johnson is an attorney who has practiced for 29 years and is licensed in Maryland, Louisiana and Washington, DC, according to his website.

On his website, Johnson says he is committed to judicial and penal reform, and that judges must consider the potential harm of bail and pretrial incarceration for low-income and non-low-income offenders. violent.

Like Pierre, Johnson has also applied several times unsuccessfully to be a judge in Maryland, saying in a forum last month that he had gone through the vetting process six times. He criticized the incumbent judges in the race for running as a slate, saying their platform “is based on their tenure”.

When is the election?

The primary election takes place on July 19. Early voting begins July 7. Absentee ballots will be accepted as long as they are postmarked before 8 p.m. on July 19 or deposited in a ballot box at that time.

[For more information on candidates for local, state and federal races, check out the Bethesda Beat voters guide.]

Dan Schere can be contacted at [email protected]