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Primary election coverage: Judges of the circuit court

SEABROOK – Six of the 24 active judges on the Prince George’s Circuit Court are up for election this year. The candidates – Tiffany Anderson, Robin Bright, Peter Killough, William Snoddy, Sean Wallace and Judy Lynn Woodall – will not face any challengers for the June 26 primary, although there is still time for another candidate to file for the November general election. These judges are elected to 15 year terms.

Elections for judge of the circuit court are nonpartisan.

All of the candidates were first vetted by a nominating commission and then appointed to their positions by the governor following a vacancy on the court. Under Maryland state law, if an appointed judge wishes to continue in their position, they must run in the following general election.

These six sitting judges are running together as a group.

“I am proud to work with all of them and to be running with all of them,” Wallace said.

Wallace, the longest-serving circuit judge of the candidates, said he cannot remember the last time six sitting judges in Prince George’s County ran for election to the court.

“Rarely is it that big of a group of people,” he said. He attributed this large number to an increase in vacancies on the court in recent years.

He said electing sitting judges (who have previously been appointed) to the bench of the Circuit Court results in a court with high-caliber judges.

“There is a common recognition that the merit selection process brings good people to the bench,” Wallace said.

He began serving on the circuit court in April 2002. Since that time, he has seen various changes come to the court, such as specified courts for drug cases, reentry instances and veterans. He was the first judge to send a case to the Reentry Court when it was established in Prince George’s.

He began his career in law as a lawyer in a private practice, and then joined the county attorney’s office.

Bright, on the other hand, began her career as an accountant and attended law school at night. Once she began practicing law, she became a prosecutor, worked for the county as an assistant state’s attorney and then joined the County Attorney’s Office. She then served as a judge with the District Court for five years. Bright began serving on the Circuit Court in December 2016.

“I wanted to have well-rounded experiences before I joined the bench,” Bright said.

Anderson also accrued numerous well-rounded experiences before she joined the Circuit Court in 2016. She was previously a partner of a Maryland law firm where she focused on civil litigation, zoning and government relations. She became an assistant state’s attorney in the county and then served for several years as a judge on the District Court. She became the District Court’s administrative judge in 2014, making her the first African American woman in the state to hold that title.

“I make sure if someone comes to my courtroom, although only one side can win, both sides feel like they’ve been treated fairly,” Anderson said.

Snoddy joined the Circuit Court in December 2016. Before then, he represented children in abuse and neglect cases. He also worked with the county as a deputy county attorney and became an associate county attorney with both Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.

All of these experiences, combined with the time he has spent as a judge on the Circuit Court, have expanded his expertise of different types of law, Snoddy said.

Killough, a military veteran, began as a judge with the Circuit Court in January 2018. Before then, he worked as an in-house attorney for a Fortune 10 Company, litigated commercial cases and served as an assistant attorney general.

He said running for election to a judgeship feels a little strange, as being a judge is not an inherently political position.

“I swear an oath to uphold the law, to treat people equally under the law. I have an obligation not to favor one side or the other and am bound to be unbiased and to respect the positions of everyone who appears before me,” Killough said. “This puts judges in an awkward position, because we are promising to do something we are already obligated to do.”

Woodall began her judgeship in February 2018, but she is no stranger to the Circuit Court. She spent 15 years as a magistrate there, presiding over family cases. She previously worked in the county’s State’s Attorney’s office as well as in a private practice.

Although these candidates come from varying backgrounds, they share common priorities: fair and efficient rulings on the bench.

“I will continue to prioritize the rights of the litigants and (ensure) people have their fair day in court,” Killough said.

This article is a part of a series.

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