Upper Marlboro, MD – The contentious 2012 race for St. Mary’s County Circuit Court Judge between sitting Judge David Densford and challenger Joseph M. Stanalonis was the subject of a grievance hearing Tuesday, Oct. 21 at Prince George’s County Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro.
Testimony was heard before Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Melanie Shaw Geter in the grievance filed against Stanalonis by the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland.
Allegations in a campaign flier by Stanalonis challenging Densford’s stance on the election of judges in the Seventh Circuit, stating that he [Densford] never sentenced a single criminal to prison while on the bench and was against the post-sentence registration of sexual offenders, were the focus of the day..
“This was done in regards to a political campaign,” said Stanlonis’ attorney, William C. Brennan Jr. “The law is overbroad as applied to this case,” he argued. “What he said was truth. It was not done in reckless disregard for the truth.”
Brennan noted that Densford had only been on the bench six months before the election began, having been appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to fill the position.
He argued Densford’s signage which claimed, “Vote for Judge Densford, Experience Matters,” wasn’t accurate.
“Densford was the one who put into play his experience,” Brennan said.
The brochures in question were mailed March 29, 2012. The primary election took place April 3.
Brennan went on to outline a February 2012 decision by the St. Mary’s County Bar Association with a sparse turnout voted to rule in favor of a state recommendation to do away with the election of judges. The March meeting, he said, brought out 35 to 40 lawyers. Densford, Brennan argued, wanted the vote to be made public. Stanalonis was opposed.
He went on to outline that Densford would testify in a recorded disposition that in 27 years of legal practice of sexual assault cases he would “try to get them to plea to assault so they wouldn’t have to go on the registry.
“Densford was opposed to the registration of sexual offenders,” Brennan argued. He added, “some of the material Judge Densford sent out had misstatements [about Stanalonis].”
In a recorded disposition, Densford stated that Stanalonis’ accusation of his not having put a single person in jail, he responded, “I think it’s half-true. His inference I had put no one in jail, he knew it. I had not put anyone in jail by that time. As of that date, it’s true.”
In reference to the St. Mary’s County Bar Association’s vote on the state recommendation regarding elections of judges, Densford said he wasn’t at the February meeting although he was there before the meeting took place at cocktails.
“I left and had no part in the meeting,” he testified.
Asked if he had urged the members to take a vote on the issue, he said, “As a candidate for judge and as a judge, I didn’t,” he said. “That will have to be decided by the legislature in Annapolis. I do not take a stand. It was the law and I was confined to it. I’m the last guy in the world as a candidate in objecting. It’s not my call. I wasn’t going to take a stand.”
James N. Gaither, attorney for the Grievance Commission of Maryland, questioned Stanalonis as to how he came by his claim that Densford had sentenced no criminals to jail, he testified that he “kept track of all court dockets.”
Stanalonis stated that he knew of three cases during Densford’s brief tenure on the bench in which he could have imposed jail time.
“He passed,” the assistant state’s attorney for St. Mary’s County testified. “Attorneys would tell us what was going on in his court room.”
He said that he was involved in the flier’s contents.
“His signs said ‘Experience Matters,’ ” Stanalonis stated. “The perception was he had been a judge for a long time. We wanted to show he had not been a judge for a long time.”
He added that in the bar association vote “it was my opinion that his action represented an opposition to the election of judges. It was very clear that I opposed the bar association’s adoption of that, that the people of St. Mary’s County have a right to elect their judges.”
When asked by Gaither if he approved the material published in the flier, Stanalonis said, “It’s obvious I was in charge of my campaign. Essentially, the campaign became reactionary.”
He added that when Densford began asserting that he was “not qualified to be a judge,” he began retaliating to counteract the “misstatements put out” by his opponent.
Character witnesses brought before the court on behalf of Stanalonis included Lt. David Yingling of the Maryland State Police, attorney Ted Weiner and St. Mary’s County Circuit Court Judge (retired) Marvin Kaminetz.
Geter asked Brennan for a copy of the transcript of Densford’s dissertation and said she would rule on the proposed findings of facts and conclusion of law within two weeks.
Contact Joseph Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org