SNOW HILL — Five nominees for two pending Worcester County Circuit Court judgeships have been forwarded to the governor after the list of applicants was winnowed from 10 to five last week by the state’s Judicial Nominating Committee.
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 is also retiring, creating a rather unprecedented two vacancies in the county’s highest court.
Together, Groton and Bloxom represent several decades of fair and steady leadership on the bench in Worcester County and replacing their collective experience will be challenging. However, the short list of nominees released by the Judicial Nominating Committee last week affords Governor Larry Hogan, who will ultimately make the appointment, several options.
Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Brian Shockley this summer was named the County Administrative Judge, taking over the position formerly held by Groton. The five applicants forwarded to the governor for approval after interviews and vetting by the nominating committee includes sitting Worcester County Circuit Court Master Mary Margaret “Peggy” Kent.
Also conspicuous on the short list forwarded to the governor is Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby, whose inclusion on the list and potential appointment creates some intrigue in the coming election for his position next fall. The other nominees on the short list include in no particular order local attorney and Berlin Town Solicitor David Gaskell, Snow Hill attorney Jeffrey Cropper and Ocean City attorney Regan J.R. Smith.
Other applicants for the two Worcester County Circuit Court vacancies included Richard Brueckner, Jr., a local attorney and former Wicomico County prosecutor; local attorney and former Worcester County prosecutor Michael Farlow; former Worcester County prosecutors Steve Rakow and Julie Guyer; and local attorney Joe Schanno.
The Judicial Nominating Committee reviewed the qualifications and interviewed the applicants prior to their meeting last Tuesday before reducing the list of candidates from 10 to five. Hogan will ultimately name two new Worcester County Circuit Court judges from the short list forwarded to him last week. Presumably, if Kent is appointed to one of the two Circuit Court judgeships, her vacated Worcester County Circuit Court Master position would become vacant and the process would begin anew.