- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — When Maryland circuit judges run for a new term in contested elections, Chief Judge Robert Bell of the Court of Appeals would like to see the campaigns conducted in a civil, dignified manner.

A Maryland Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, suggested by Chief Judge Bell in an address to the General Assembly last year, yesterday announced a voluntary code of conduct for candidates for judicial offices for the 2006 elections.

The committee will ask judicial candidates to agree in writing to abide by the code of conduct and will publicly identify those who sign the code. And the committee will look into charges, if any are filed this year, concerning presumed violations of the standards.

All Maryland judges are first appointed by the governor, but only circuit court judges face potential contested elections.

Judges of the district and appellate courts who are up for election run “on their records.” No one can run against them, and voters only can choose to retain them in office or remove them. No appellate judges have lost an election bid in Maryland.

But circuit judges have to run for office in the next general election after they are appointed by the governor, and any lawyer who is qualified can run against them. Incumbents have been defeated in recent elections.

The voluntary code of conduct asks candidates to refrain from comments during campaigns that would impinge on a judge’s impartiality or objectivity on any case that might come before the court.

It calls for dignified and truthful campaigns, in which candidates make no false or misleading comments about anyone’s credentials.

The code also asks candidates:

• To refrain from using titles to an office they formerly held that would imply they currently hold the office.

• Refrain from appealing to bias or prejudice on issues such as race, sex, religion and sexual orientation when they solicit campaign contributions.

• Do everything possible to make sure fundraising activities do not undercut the dignity or impartiality of the courts.

“Judicial elections are different. That’s our credo, and we will attempt to inform the public about how and why these elections are different from other contested elections,” said George Beall, former U.S. attorney for Maryland and a co-chairman of the committee.

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