The Sun

Smith questions two sitting judges' criminal caseload
Hill Staton, Leasure rebut challenger's implications

by Norris P. West SUN STAFF The Baltimore Sun

February 28, 1996 Page(s): 4B
Section: METRO
Length: 726 words
Record Number: BSUN438264


A challenger for the Howard Circuit Court bench angered two incumbent judges at a Republican women's luncheon yesterday when he implied that they are not handling their share of the court's criminal cases.

Attorney Jonathan Scott Smith said that he reviewed a month of the Circuit Court's criminal docket and that he found that Judge Donna Hill Staton is named as the judge in only 8 percent of criminal cases while Judge Diane O. Leasure is listed for 10 percent. The court has five judges.

Judges Hill Staton and Leasure were appointed to the bench in October by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and have served since November.

"I can't explain why, but most of these cases are not being handled by the incumbent judges," Mr. Smith said in his five-minute speech to 24 guests at the Howard County Republican Women's Club meeting at the Hunan Manor Restaurant in Columbia's Owen Brown village.

After the challenger's presentation, Judge Hill Staton rose to "clear up some of Mr. Smith's confusion," she said.

Judge Hill Staton said criminal cases are handled more quickly because most result in plea bargains and require the court's time only when they involve accepting agreements between prosecutors and the defense, and for sentencing.

She said she and her four colleagues have rotated as the court's lead criminal judge and are presiding over the wide variety of court proceedings.

Judge Leasure added that the one type of case that dominates the court's criminal docket -- violations of probation -- would not yet come to her and Judge Hill Staton.

Those cases arrive in court when someone sentenced for a crime does not follow the conditions of release.

Copyright 1996 The Baltimore Sun Company