Category Archives: Judicial Elections

How Many More Votes Will be Counted?

By Adam Pagnucco.

As of right now, here is the status of key election results in MoCo.

School Board At-Large: Lynne Harris 53%, Sunil Dasgupta 46%

School Board District 2: Rebecca Smondrowski 60%, Michael Fryar 39%

School Board District 4: Shebra Evans 66%, Steve Solomon 33%

Circuit Court Judge: Bibi Berry 23%, David Boynton 21%, Michael McAuliffe 21%, Christopher Fogleman 20%, Marylin Pierre 14%

Question A (Authored by Council Member Andrew Friedson, freezes property tax rate with unanimous council vote required to exceed): For 62%, Against 38%

Question B (Authored by Robin Ficker, would limit property tax receipt growth to rate of inflation and remove council’s ability to exceed): For 42%, Against 58%

Question C (Authored by Council Member Evan Glass, changes county council structure to 4 at-large seats and 7 district seats): For 61%, Against 39%

Question D (Authored by Nine Districts for MoCo, changes county council structure to 9 district seats): For 42%, Against 58%

You can see the latest results here for school board and judicial races and here for ballot questions.

But all of this is subject to a HUGE caveat: not all the votes have been counted. How many more remain?

Three batches have yet to be counted. First are the remaining election day votes. As of right now, only 3 of 40 election day vote centers in the county have reported 80% or more of their results. At this moment, 6,474 election day votes have been cast for president. That suggests tens of thousands of votes more could come in.

Second are the remaining mail votes. According to the State Board of Elections, MoCo voters requested 378,327 mail ballots. At this moment, 177,628 mail votes have been cast for president. This suggests that roughly 200,000 mail votes are out there. Not all of them will ultimately result in tabulated votes but it’s still a lot.

Third are provisional ballots. How many are out there is not known right now. However, this will be by far the smallest of these three categories and they will make a difference only in tight races.

So let’s put it all together. At this moment, 312,452 total votes for president have been tabulated. (I don’t have an official turnout number, but since the presidential race has the least undervoting, this figure is probably reasonably close to turnout so far.) This suggests – VERY roughly – that 55-60% of the votes have been counted, with the vast majority of outstanding votes coming from mail ballots.

What does that mean for the results above? To determine that, we need to examine how different the election day votes and the mail votes were from the total votes tabulated so far since those two categories are where most of the remaining votes are coming from. And of those two categories, mail votes will be far larger than election day votes.

President

MoCo’s votes for president (as well as Congress) are not in doubt but the differential results by voting mode are suggestive of a pattern affecting other races. Former Vice-President Joe Biden has received 79% of total votes as of this moment. However, he has received 51% of election day votes, 65% of early votes and 90% of mail votes. That illustrates a strong partisan pattern associated with voting, with election day votes most friendly to Republicans and mail votes most friendly to Democrats. Keep that in mind as you proceed to the races below.

Circuit Court Judges

Challenger Marylin Pierre has so far received 14% of early votes, 14% of election day votes, 15% of mail votes and 14% of total votes. Each of the incumbent judges cleared 20% on all of these voting modes. This is a non-partisan race so the partisan pattern noted above has minimal effect here. With little reason to believe that the next batch of mail votes will be different than the mail votes already tabulated, it’s hard to see Pierre pulling ahead.

School Board

The district races are blowouts. Let’s look at the at-large race between Lynne Harris and Sunil Dasgupta. Harris has so far received 53% of early votes, 60% of election day votes, 53% of mail votes and 53% of total votes. These are not big leads but they are fairly consistent. For Dasgupta to pull ahead, he would need to pull at least 55% of the outstanding votes yet to be counted, more than flipping the outcome of the existing votes. Unless the next batch of votes – especially mail – is somehow fundamentally different from what has already been cast, it’s hard to see that happening.

Ballot Questions

There are two things to note here. First, none of these results are close at this moment. Second, while these are technically non-partisan, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party endorsed in opposite directions and both sides worked hard to make their views known. The partisan split seen in the presidential election had an impact on the ballot question results.

First, let’s look at election day voting. Judging by the presidential race, this was the most favorable voting mode for the GOP. Here is how election day voting (so far!) compares to total voting (again, so far).

Question A For Votes: Election day 51%, total 62%
Question B For Votes: Election day 60%, total 42%
Question C For Votes: Election day 52%, total 61%
Question D For Votes: Election day 60%, total 42%

This looks like good news for supporters of Question B (Robin Ficker’s anti-tax question) and Question D (nine districts). After all, there are probably tens of thousands of election day votes yet to be counted.

However, the big majority of outstanding votes are mail ballots. Joe Biden received 90% of mail ballot votes tabulated so far, a sign that Democrats dominated this voting mode. Here is what the mail votes (so far) look like.

Question A For Votes: Mail 68%, total 62%
Question B For Votes: Mail 34%, total 42%
Question C For Votes: Mail 65%, total 61%
Question D For Votes: Mail 33%, total 42%

The mail votes uphold the winning margins of Questions A and C and depress the results for Questions B and D. That’s not a surprise if 1. Democrats voted disproportionately by mail and 2. Democrats stuck with their party’s position on the ballot questions. Indeed, we know here at Seventh State that this post on the Democrats’ statement on the ballot questions got huge site traffic.

As a matter of fact, one could even go so far as to say that once the ballot questions turned partisan, it may have been the beginning of the end.

Plenty of votes remain to be counted so let’s respect that. We may know a lot more by the weekend.

Share

Top Seventh State Stories, October 2020

By Adam Pagnucco.

These were the top stories on Seventh State in October ranked by page views.

1. MoCo Democrats Issue Statement on Ballot Questions
2. Sitting Judges Get Temporary Restraining Order Against Pierre
3. Harris Blasts MCEA Over School Reopening
4. Progressive-Backed Judge Candidate Courted, Donated to Republicans
5. Teachers Respond to Lynne Harris
6. Elrich Vetoes WMATA Property Tax Bill
7. State Audit: Thousands of MoCo Homeowners Overcharged on Property Taxes
8. Reopening Plans – MCPS is Behind
9. Why Montgomery County Ballot Questions B and D Are Truly Bad Ideas You Should Vote Against
10. Ballot Question Committee Scorecard

The number one post by far was MoCo Democrats Issue Statement on Ballot Questions. In fact, that post was one of the most well-read in the history of Seventh State. Most folks who saw it probably found it through Google – and that’s a meaningful piece of intelligence. If people are googling terms like Montgomery Democrats and ballot questions, then not only are they finding content here, they may find similar content at Bethesda Beat, the Democratic Central Committee’s website, the various ballot issue websites and elsewhere. This means that MoCo voters want to know what the county Democrats think about the ballot questions. That’s good news for supporters of Questions A and C and not such good news for supporters of Questions B and D.

The two posts about circuit court judge candidate Marylin Pierre and her opponents, the sitting judges, are being aggressively circulated on social media. This is the fiercest MoCo judicial race in a loooooong time. Can Pierre break through?

One story that was big with readers and off the radar of politicians was State Audit: Thousands of MoCo Homeowners Overcharged on Property Taxes. It’s a massive scandal that state math errors resulted in overcharging of property taxes for thousands of MoCo homeowners and that the state is refusing to offer refunds. In addition to Seventh State, Fox 5 and WMAR (ABC) Baltimore covered it. As far as I know, no state or county politician has made a public statement about this. Maybe I will ask them!

Share

Pierre Responds to Sitting Judges

By Adam Pagnucco.

Yesterday, the sitting judges slate filed for and were granted a temporary restraining order against the campaign of their opponent, Marylin Pierre, after they alleged that one of her volunteers inaccurately told voters that she was a judge. Pierre sent us the following response.

*****

Mr. Pagnucco,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the allegation.

Let me be clear, I have never referred to myself as an incumbent judge at any time during this campaign or during my previous campaign. I am proudly a candidate for Circuit Court judge in Montgomery County and have endeavored to conduct this campaign with the highest standards of professionalism and civility appropriate to the office.

Instead of engaging voters on the issues that I have raised during this campaign, my opponents have resorted to uncivil personal attacks and frivolous legal intimidation tactics to try and win the race. This allegation and their social media and television ads seek to damage my reputation and call into question my professional experience and service to the bar and our community.

The other candidates made a choice. They could have reached out to my campaign to let us know a volunteer misspoke. Instead, they are using litigation to harass & intimidate while wasting taxpayer money.

Montgomery County deserves judges who will do what is best for our community, use the taxpayer’s resources wisely, and show dignity and respect for all.

While my opponents continually attempt to smear me and my 30 years of experience, I know who I am. I am a dedicated lawyer, a former military police officer in the United States Army, a former chair of the Montgomery County Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission, a winner of the Leadership in Law Award, a three-time winner of Maryland’s Top100 Women Award, and a winner of numerous other community service and pro bono awards.

I am the only candidate endorsed by Progressive Maryland, Progressive Neighbors, Progressive Legacy, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC, the Association of Black Democrats of Montgomery County, Our Revolution Maryland, Our Revolution MoCo, MoCo Students for Change, the Montgomery County Green Party (MD), and Mayor Jeffrey Slavin.

I am a progressive and compassionate candidate for judge.

Share

Sitting Judges Get Temporary Restraining Order Against Pierre

By Adam Pagnucco.

Here’s something you don’t see every day in MoCo: a group of candidates obtaining a temporary restraining order against an opponent. As strange as that might be, the details are even stranger.

The incident that gave rise to the temporary restraining order occurred on Monday, October 26. According to a complaint filed in circuit court, sitting judge and candidate Bibi Berry and one of her volunteers encountered a volunteer for Marylin Pierre, who is running against the sitting judge slate, at the Silver Spring Civic Building. The civic building is an early voting location and Monday was the first day of early voting. Berry and her volunteer allegedly heard Pierre’s volunteer tell voters that Pierre was “the only progressive judge on the ballot.” Berry then claims to have corrected Pierre’s volunteer, telling voters (accurately) that Pierre is not a judge. According to the complaint, Pierre’s volunteer “continued to repeat the same phrase to prospective voters, ‘Ms. Pierre is the only progressive judge on the ballot’ louder and with greater conviction.” The sitting judges then filed for a temporary restraining order against Pierre’s campaign prohibiting her and her surrogates from referring to her as a judge. Judge Julia Augusta Martz-Fisher granted the temporary restraining order today.

This is the third strange incident involving Pierre that has been reported on Seventh State. The first occurred when Pierre tweeted that the defendants accused of killing George Floyd in Minnesota should be locked up with the burden of proof placed on them to show their innocence, a clear departure from basic criminal law. Pierre blamed the tweet on a volunteer. The second incident occurred when the former chair of the county Republican Party alleged that Pierre told GOP leaders in 2018 “she would be a ‘law and order’ judge who would be tough on bail.” Pierre is running as a progressive this year. Pierre admitted to attending GOP events and to contributing to the GOP but did not specifically address the allegations about what she said to party leaders.

Appearing below are the excerpt from the sitting judges’ online case file (accessible here) showing the issuance of the temporary restraining order as well as both the motion for temporary restraining order and the complaint filed by the sitting judges.

Share

Top Seventh State Stories, September 2020

By Adam Pagnucco.

These were the top stories on Seventh State in September ranked by page views.

1. Free-For-All
2. Why Montgomery County Ballot Questions B and D Are Truly Bad Ideas You Should Vote Against
3. Harris Blasts MCEA Over School Reopening
4. Harris Apologizes for Comments on School Reopening
5. Progressive-Backed Judge Candidate Courted, Donated to Republicans
6. Changing the Reopening Timeline: A Recipe for Confusion and Anxiety
7. Ballot Question Committee Scorecard
8. Post Editorial: Vote Against All Charter Amendments
9. Judge Candidate on Floyd Cops: “Lock Em Up”
10. Why Progressives Should Support the Friedson Amendment

Free-For-All, which called into question the county’s strategy for dealing with the police department, was the runaway leader this month. That suggests that there is considerable unease about the county’s approach to MCPD which goes far beyond the groups the county hears from regularly. School board candidate Lynne Harris’s criticism of MCEA, for which she later apologized, produced a flood of site traffic. The two posts about circuit court judge candidate Marylin Pierre were circulated by her opponents on the sitting judge slate. The rest of the posts were mostly about MoCo’s charter amendments, on which voting has already begun.

Share

Pierre Responds to Bush

By Adam Pagnucco.

Circuit court judge candidate Marylin Pierre, who is backed by a number of progressive groups, has responded to an article by former county GOP chairman Alexander A. Bush describing her efforts to court Republicans. Pierre’s response appears below.

*****

Thank you, Mr. Pagnucco, for the opportunity to comment on this article. I am proud to be a candidate for judge in the Montgomery County Circuit Court in the 2020 Presidential election. As you know, the election for Judge of the Circuit Court is non-partisan, and I have and will, continue to seek the support of all voters — Democrats, Republicans, third-party voters, and independents.

My conversations with the MCGOP members were about me appearing on the Republican primary ballot. I was reaching out to voters in both parties because I am running for a position where I would appear on both the Republican and the Democratic ballot in the primary. I paid to attend some events that were sponsored by the Republican party. I also paid to attend some events that were sponsored by the Democratic party.

As a United States Army veteran with more than 28 years of legal experience practicing civil and criminal law in Montgomery County, past President of the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association, and former Chair of the Montgomery County Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission, I have been recognized for my work by the Montgomery County Bar Association, the Montgomery County Bar Foundation, the Daily Record, and the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. Let me be clear, I am committed to excellence, dignity, and justice for members of all parties who would come before me as a judge.

Marylin

Share

Progressive-Backed Judge Candidate Courted, Donated to Republicans

By Adam Pagnucco.

Marylin Pierre, whose insurgent campaign for circuit court judge is backed by some progressive groups, has courted the county Republican Party for support. At least that’s what the former chairman of the MoCo GOP is claiming. And he has a picture and campaign finance records to prove it.

Maryland judicial elections are strange birds. In most elections, candidates run in partisan primaries to get their party nominations. The party nominees then face off against each other along with any write-in or unaffiliated petition candidates in a general election. In elections for circuit court or orphan’s court judges, candidates may run in any party primaries, including more than one party at a time, and whoever wins those primaries appears on the ballot in a non-partisan general election. For the most part, judicial candidates are those who emerge from a rigorous vetting process by judicial nominating commissions and receive temporary appointments to the bench pending election. However, other candidates who are age 30 or older, have been a state resident for 5 years and are a member of the Maryland bar may also run for judge.

Pierre has tried but failed to make it through the state’s vetting process before. Nevertheless, she has run for circuit court judge as is her right under state law. This year, four seats are on the ballot, each occupied by a vetted appointee (a sitting judge) seeking election. In the Republican primary, all four slots were won by the four sitting judges. In the Democratic primary, Pierre won one of the slots with three of the four sitting judges taking the others. Pierre is now facing the four sitting judges in a contentious general election. The top four vote-getters will win.

This is not the first time Pierre has run for judge. She ran in both the Democratic and Republican primaries in 2018 too, losing both and failing to advance to the general election. In evaluating Pierre’s current campaign, former MoCo GOP chairman and current central committee member Alexander A. Bush wrote an article on the party’s website recalling Pierre’s 2018 campaign. Bush wrote:

For a judicial candidate to get their name on the November General Election ballot, they must win in either the Republican or Democratic Primary election. Historically, insurgent candidates have focused on trying to win in the Republican Primary, because our primary has only about 15% as many voters as the Democratic Primary. It’s simple math: the campaigning necessary to win among 12,000 Republicans is a lot easier than the campaigning necessary to convince 75,000 Democrats.

And in 2018, that is exactly what Marylin Pierre attempted to do.

In January that year, Mrs. Pierre and her treasurer came to our candidate training event and assured those running the event that she would be a strongly conservative judge and asked for the party’s support in the 2018 Primary. Mrs. Pierre came to one of our fundraising dinners in early February to ask for our votes again, as campaign finance records will show. And later that month she came to our yearly convention, and proudly posed for a photo with the current county chairwoman for the Trump for President Campaign.

Bush ran this photo as proof.

State Board of Elections records also support Bush’s account, showing Pierre making two $70 contributions to the county Republican Party. One of those contributions (on 2/14/18) was made during the 2018 cycle. The other (on 2/5/19) was made after the 2018 election and occurred during this cycle.

Bush’s reaction to all this is scathing. He wrote:

Mrs. Pierre lost in both parties’ primaries in 2018. In fact, she did worse in the Republican Primary. Obviously, she has decided to change her strategy, and has remade herself into whatever she thinks will help her win.

If this doesn’t convince you, regardless of your political views, not to vote for Marylin Pierre, then nothing will.

After writing his article, Bush later told me directly, “At the candidate training, she asked for MCGOP’s support, claiming she would be a ‘law and order’ judge who would be tough on bail.”

This time around, Pierre is running as anything but a Republican. She has participated in Progressive Maryland’s candidate training program and has been endorsed by Progressive Neighbors, Our Revolution and Town of Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, one of the most progressive elected officials on Planet Earth. What would they have thought if they knew that she had been courting and donating to Republicans?

There is more. In a video on Facebook, Pierre criticized her opponents because a Trump supporter sat on one of their nominating commissions. Showing the person at a pro-Trump rally, Pierre said, “This woman was on the commission that recommended almost half of the Montgomery County judges to the governor. Does she share your values? Will the judges she recommended take Montgomery County in the direction you want to go?”

And so Pierre goes after her opponents because a Trump supporter sat on one of their nominating commissions after she herself gave money to the county GOP – twice.

I have asked Pierre for comment on Bush’s story and I will print it when I receive it.

Share

Top Seventh State Stories, June 2020

By Adam Pagnucco.

These were the top stories on Seventh State in June ranked by page views.

1. Repeal the Linda Lamone for Life Law
2. Baltimore City’s Election Has a Problem
3. Will Talbot County Choose Tourism or Slavery?
4. Judge Candidate on Floyd Cops: “Lock Em Up”
5. Elrich Asks MCPS for Cuts
6. Jawando Ignored Public Information Act, Had Scant Evidence Before Filing Rent Control Bill
7. First School Board Results Favor Harris
8. MCPS Survey Responses on Distance Learning
9. Elrich’s Police Union Contract
10. It’s the CIP, Stupid! (Guest blog by Gus Bauman)

Congratulations to former Planning Board Chair Gus Bauman for making our top ten!

The break-out story of the month was the one about the Talbot Boys statue, which was shared dozens of times across the Eastern Shore. Now that Mississippi has removed the confederate battle flag from its state flag, there is no longer any excuse for Talbot County leaders to continue honoring the Confederacy.

Share

Sitting Judges Chair Responds to Lock em Up Post

By Adam Pagnucco.

Sitting Judges slate chair J. Stephen McAuliffe sent us the response below to our post on challenger Marylin Pierre’s “Lock em up” tweet.

*****

As Ms. Pierre had an opportunity to respond to your article titled “Judge Candidate on Floyd Cops: ‘Lock Em Up,’” the Sitting Judges Montgomery County Slate (“Sitting Judges”) would appreciate the opportunity to respond as well.

First, the Sitting Judges appreciate the time and effort you took to construct your article, particularly relating to identifying the legal and factual inaccuracies in Ms. Pierre’s tweet of June 1, 2020. The statements made by Ms. Pierre were made the day before the Primary Election and obviously intended to benefit her campaign. You pointed out Ms. Pierre’s flawed conflation of crimes and civil causes of action, and her confusion of the appropriate burdens of proof in criminal matters. These are very basic legal concepts that Ms. Pierre either does not understand or ignores.

There might be some misunderstanding by your readers of why judges do not speak on pending criminal or other court matters or on political and socially charged issues, as do candidates for other offices. Your article indicates the reason is “because most are vetted by judicial nominating commissions and appointed by the governor”…and that [i]ncumbents who have gone through the vetting process claim that its thoroughness qualifies them as a judge and therefore should be respected by voters.” Your article implies that judges are intentionally silent because they want to rest entirely on vetting, but it is far more than that. While vetting is important, this assertion misses the opportunity to inform the public that judges are obligated to comply with the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct. See Maryland Rules 18-100.1 et seq. Restraint is necessary to maintain the integrity of the judicial system, which is why compliance with the Code of Conduct is mandatory.

Vetting of applicants for judicial positions is essential. Judges sit for a 15-year term, and have the ability to substantially impact the litigants that come before them. Vetting includes talking to lawyers who have been adverse to the applicant, judges in front of whom the applicants have appeared, organizations in which the applicant asserts she participated, and references provided by the applicants. Judges who are ill prepared, inflate their qualifications, are intemperate or who lack legal skills and acumen could not only ruin the lives of the people and businesses that appear before them, but could also do immeasurable damage to the confidence of the community in our justice system. The vetting process is vital because it helps weed out those who, for example, have shown throughout their career a lack of understanding of fundamental legal concepts and the inability to articulate them, and who lack the temper and demeanor to be a good judge; it weeds out bad lawyers who will make bad judges.

Ms. Pierre applied nine (9) times for fourteen (14) different judicial vacancies in Montgomery County between 2012 and 2017. She was vetted numerous times over the years by many different specialty and minority bar groups, which reported their findings and recommendations to the Montgomery County Trial Courts Nominating Commission. Her applications were vetted and reviewed by Commissions appointed by both a Democrat (O’Malley) (5 applications for 9 positions) and a Republican (Hogan) (4 applications for 5 positions). Commissions are charged with the responsibility to nominate only lawyers “most distinguished for integrity, wisdom and sound legal knowledge” as set forth in the Constitution of Maryland. Ms. Pierre has never been nominated by any Commission and no longer participates in the vetting process.

Restraint is a fundamental requirement of the duties of this office. A judicial candidate who takes seriously the responsibility and duties of this office should never opine about the guilt or innocence of anyone before that individual has set foot before a jury of his or her peers, or been convicted of any crime, or pleaded guilty. Even then, judges remain silent, to avoid the appearance of bias or partiality. Judicial candidates, including Ms. Pierre, are bound by the same canons of ethics as judges in many respects. Rule 18-104.4 provides, in pertinent part, that judicial candidates:

(a) “shall act at all times in a manner consistent with the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office”

Ms. Pierre has made statements that evidence partiality, in her tweets and elsewhere, in effort to gain favor at the polls. She has done so without consideration to the damage that a failure to understand or apply the burden of proof would have on this community, including on criminal defendants of color.

(b) “As to statements and materials made or produced during a campaign: (1) shall review, approve, and be responsible for the content of all campaign statements and materials produced by the candidate or by the candidate’s campaign committee or other authorized agents” and (2) “shall take reasonable measures to ensure that other persons do not undertake on behalf of the candidate activities that the candidate is prohibited from doing by this Rule.”

Ms. Pierre’s tweet is consistent with her poor reputation in the legal community, and so her belated claim (made 3 weeks after the tweet and after any intended damage to the Sitting Judges Campaign was done) that a “volunteer” made the tweet is suspect at best. Frankly, the tweet is similar in style to prior social media posts by the candidate, but candidates are responsible for content regardless of authorship.

(c) “shall not knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, misrepresent the candidate’s identity or qualifications, the identity or qualifications of an opponent, or any other fact, or make any false or misleading statement;”

Ms. Pierre has made blatantly false statements, including that “The sitting judges are somewhat diverse in that they are black, Asian, gay and straight, men and women. But they are not really diverse. They are an in-group. Most of them have worked at the same law firm, go to the same church, and are related by marriage.” While the statement that the sitting judges are diverse is true, her statement that “most of them have worked at the same law firm” is blatantly false. Her statement that they “go to the same church” is blatantly false. Her statement that “most of them are related by marriage” is blatantly false. These statements are not the only false statements made by Ms. Pierre during this campaign and her last campaign. The sitting judges in Montgomery County are indeed an “in-group” to the extent they have all been vetted and found qualified to sit as judges, and Ms. Pierre is certainly not in that “in-group.”

What the Sitting Judges Montgomery County Slate want to make clear is that sitting judges remain silent because they follow the Rules. Judges agreed to sacrifice their individual First Amendment freedoms for the good of the community they serve. They behave at all times (personally and professionally) in a manner consistent with the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office. Ms. Pierre flouts that obligation now, and there is no reason to believe she will behave differently in the unfortunate event that she is elected.

Thank you.

J. Stephen McAuliffe, Chair
Elect Sitting Judges Montgomery County Slate

Share

Judge Candidate on Floyd Cops: “Lock Em Up”

By Adam Pagnucco.

Challenger Marylin Pierre, who is running against a slate of four sitting circuit court judges, will be appearing on the ballot in MoCo’s general election. If elected, she will preside over civil, family, juvenile and criminal cases for 15 years.

Circuit court judicial candidates usually don’t talk much about issues when they run like candidates for other offices do. That’s because most are vetted by judicial nominating commissions and appointed by the governor, after which they serve on the bench temporarily and must run in the next election to serve a full term. Incumbents who have gone through the vetting process claim that its thoroughness qualifies them as judges and therefore should be respected by voters. This language by MoCo’s incumbent slate is typical of how judicial incumbents make their case.

The four judges on the “Elect Sitting Judges Montgomery County Slate” – the incumbents in the upcoming election – have gone through the Judicial Nominating Commission process. The process started with a lengthy and comprehensive application covering all aspects of their education, breadth and depth of law practice, and personal background. Each judge’s application was submitted to no fewer than twelve diverse bar associations, each of which conducted its own investigation and interviews. In addition, the Bar Association of Montgomery County conducted a referendum wherein each applicant’s qualifications were subjected to a vote by every member of the bar association. The results of both the referendum and the specialty bar association interviews were provided to the Judicial Nominating Commission. The Commission then conducted its own independent investigation of all applicants and thoroughly vetted and interviewed each. A list of the most highly qualified candidates was sent by the Commission to the Governor, who interviewed and appointed the best of the best.

The Sitting Judge Principle ensures that Montgomery County has only the most qualified judges on the bench. The diverse organizations that participate in the vetting process have ensured the appointment of a bench that reflects our community. The Sitting Judges are experienced, vetted and approved.

The sitting judge slates in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County use similar language on their websites. That’s the playbook for incumbents.

Deprived of such accreditation, challengers who fail to get through the vetting process must state their case persuasively enough to overcome that in the eyes of voters. That brings us to Pierre. In the wake of the death of Minnesota man George Floyd at the hands of police, Pierre tweeted this on June 1.

When challenged on this, Pierre had the following exchange with another person holding a different view. (I redacted the person’s identity.)

The notion that a criminal defendant bears the burden of proof at trial is inconsistent with the due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has clarified exactly what due process means on at least two occasions. In Speiser v. Randall, 357 U. S. 513, 525-526 (1958), Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote for the court, “Due process commands that no man shall lose his liberty unless the Government has borne the burden of producing the evidence and convincing the factfinder of his guilt.” And in In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970), Brennan wrote for the court, “Lest there remain any doubt about the constitutional stature of the reasonable-doubt standard, we explicitly hold that the Due Process Clause protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.”

Pierre’s reference to “contributory negligence” is also strange. Contributory negligence is a doctrine primarily found in tort law, not criminal law, that prevents plaintiffs from recovering damages if they are at least partially at fault for their injuries even if the defendant is more at fault. Maryland is one of a handful of states that uses this doctrine but Minnesota abandoned it in 1969. What does this have to do with George Floyd’s death?

Pierre should know all about due process standards for criminal defendants. She is a graduate of Howard University Law School and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has practiced law for 28 years and has a long list of professional and other qualifications. She even tweeted on May 30, “We are all presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

On June 18, 17 days after Pierre posted the “Lock em up” tweet, I emailed her asking for comment. I used an email address (MarylinForMaryland@gmail.com) to which she had replied three days before and appears on her website. I wrote:

Hello Ms. Pierre – Recently, I came across this tweet from you on the police officers who were charged with murdering George Floyd.

https://twitter.com/Pierreforjudge/status/1267538735958315008

I am thinking about writing about this but first I’d like to hear your point of view. Specifically, can you comment on how this tweet conforms with the due process rights of criminal defendants?

Adam Pagnucco

As of this writing (June 22), she has not replied. But she did delete the “Lock em up” tweet at some point after I contacted her.

And now the question falls to you. If you are a MoCo voter, do you believe Marylin Pierre should be a circuit court judge?

Update: Pierre sent me the following email three hours after this post went up. I am reprinting the email below but I am deleting the phone number she provided to protect her privacy.

Mr. Pagnucco,

The Marylin Pierre For Judge campaign has read the article you wrote about the tweet from the @PierreForJudge account. Running a campaign is so time-consuming that some of the duties have to be delegated. The Marylin Pierre For Judge campaign established some guidelines and the person running the twitter account has been diligent in following those guidelines until the tweet that you wrote about. We think that this had to do with the traumatic incident and the volunteer’s reaction to it. We have discussed the tweet with the volunteer and we went over the guidelines again.

Sometimes we are able to answer questions very quickly and sometimes we are not. We regret that we did not get a chance to respond to your inquiry before you posted the article.

If you would like to contact us, things move so quickly that you may need to call and a text at [phone number deleted by Pagnucco] instead of just sending an e-mail. Thank you for your time and attention.

Marylin

Share