Former prosecutor Croyder runs against judge known for "subtle sexual harassment"
Page Croyder, a retired assistant states attorney who for years has blogged about the internal workings of the justice system in Baltimore, announced today that she is running for circuit court judge. "I stand for truth, transparency, and fairness in the court system," Croyder said from the steps of the Mitchell Courthouse on Calvert Street as a real estate tax auction was being conducted 50 feet away. "What I do not stand for, what the public should not stand for, are judges who embarrass and degrade the jurors, witnesses, and attorneys who appear in court before them. For that reason I am running against Judge Alfred Nance." Croyder has long been outspoken about certain policies and practices within the judiciary. She has berated district court judges for their light workload and called out Judge Askew Gatewood for breaking environmental laws. But Nance—who is now chief judge--has been a special target of hers almost since he was appointed to the bench in 1997. Croyder ran for judge in 1998, saying not all nine of the incumbents—who were running together on a slate—were qualified. By then an 11-year veteran of the State's Attorney's office, Croyder says then-State's Attorney Pat Jessamy at first told her she could keep working as usual during her campaign, and then abruptly told she would have to take an unpaid leave of absence. "Then the sitting judges asked to talk to me," she says. "I was going to withdraw. I was thinking, ‘How can I go all summer without getting paid?' But then something just said to me, no. I told them I was running. They tried to talk me out of it." Croyder lost, but developed a reputation for speaking her mind, writing letters to the editor of The Baltimore Sun on such diverse topics as judicial salaries and evolutionary theory. (The judicial letter got her demoted, she says.) "Judge Nance's inappropriate behavior was known inside the courthouse 15 years ago, prior to his election as a judge," Croyder said in her announcement, adding that a "conspiracy of silence from the courthouse and from the bar" allowed him to continue "his subtle sexual harassment of women." Croyder is far from alone in criticizing Judge Nance. In 2006 he ordered a City Paper reporter who was called for jury duty not to write about his experience, after the reporter watched him comment on the marital status of another prospective juror. He's been reprimanded by the Maryland Judicial Disabilities Commission once and then investigated again. "Through the years Nance has continued to enhance his reputation for the disrespectful and degrading way he treats people," Croyder said. "Despite this, Governor Martin O'Malley has appointed him to a second 15-year-term, an action the governor should be called upon to explain." Croyder has been a smart and fearless critic of all aspects of the system—including her own office. In 2010 she conducted a study of the so-called "war room" initiative in Jessamy's office, which Croyder has headed up. She found it was not effective. She has also erred occasionally, as when she blasted Judge Nathan Braverman for letting a man accused of murder free on bail. That man, Demetrius Smith, was later convicted—falsely, it turned out—and then freed last year shortly before federal prosecutors charged the man who arranged the murder. Croyder has no illusions about the fight she's picking. As she wrote on her blog, "The law firms and bar associations stand ready to purchase advertising and space on the ballots of other candidates, and the sitting judges will hold hands with Nance and ask voters to vote for all of them. Citizens will re-elect Nance not because they approve of him but because they won't know about him. He bears the legal establishment's stamp of approval as "best qualified" to be judge. In our 2008 "Best of Baltimore" issue, City Paper awarded Croyder Best Insider Perspective. She's an outsider now, though.