SNOW HILL — The pool of applicants for two pending Worcester County Circuit Court judgeship vacancies has been released revealing a veritable who’s who among the Lower Shore legal community.
Venerable long-time Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Thomas C. Groton officially retired in August, having met the mandatory retirement age of 70, although he continues to sit on the bench in Snow Hill pending the appointment of his replacement. Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Richard Bloxom’s retirement is also pending, creating a rather unprecedented two vacancies in the county’s highest court.
Together, Groton and Bloxom represent several decades of steady leadership on the bench in Worcester County and replacing them will present challenges, but a pool of applicants for the judicial vacancies released last week affords Gov. Larry Hogan, who will ultimately make the appointments, several options. The deadline to apply closed on Sept. 7 and the Maryland Judicial Nominating Commission listed the names of the 10 applicants shortly thereafter last week.
Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Brian Shockley this summer was named the county administrative judge this summer, taking over the position formerly held by Groton. Headlining the list of applicants for two Worcester County Circuit Court judgeship vacancies is Mary Margaret “Peggy” Kent, the sitting Worcester County Circuit Court Master.
Also conspicuous on the list of 10 applicants for the two Circuit Court vacancies is current Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby. The list of applicants also includes in no particular order Richard Brueckner, Jr., a local attorney and former Wicomico County prosecutor; Snow Hill attorney Jeff Cropper; and local attorney and former Worcester County prosecutor Michael Farlow, who ran for Worcester County State’s Attorney in 2014.
Also on the list of applicants is local attorney and town of Berlin solicitor Dave Gaskill; former Worcester County State’s Attorney prosecutor Steve Rakow; former Worcester County prosecutor Julie Guyer; local attorney Joseph Schanno; and local attorney Regan J.R. Smith.
The Judicial Nominating Committee will review the qualifications of the applicants on or before their schedule meeting on October 10 and forward a short list to the governor shortly thereafter. The nominating committee will interview each of the applicants, and after a voting session, the short list of nominees will be forwarded to the governor for consideration. The governor will then make an appointment from the short list forwarded by the committee.
The qualifications of a judge fall into distinct categories including legal, professional and personal. A qualified candidate has to have U.S. and Maryland citizenship, be registered to vote in state elections at the time of the appointment, be a resident of Maryland for at least five years and a resident for at least six months prior to the appointment in the geographic area where the vacancy exists. Other qualifications include being at least 30 years of age at the time of the appointment and current membership in the Maryland Bar.