AS A RESULT of their political successes, Maryland Democrats hold nearly absolute power over the obscure but critically important task of redrawing legislative district lines. That process virtually guarantees continued domination of state legislative and congressional offices because the party in control of the governor's office picks its voters.
But even that degree of self-perpetuating control seems insufficient to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. Mr. Miller acknowledges calling Court of Appeals judges after the court appointed a special master to review his party's new district maps.
Mr. Miller has acknowledged calling the judges, but said he only wanted to talk about prior rulings. Whatever his goal, he has created a political problem for his party -- and an atmosphere in which the court's final ruling on redistricting cases will be clouded by suggestions of political interference.
The longtime Senate leader has both personal and party interests in these rulings. One lawsuit challenging the new maps alleges that Democrats gave Mr. Miller a safe seat, pushing black voters into other districts while situating him among white voters likely to support him.
Nor was Mr. Miller's the only call.
At least two other state senators -- Ida G. Ruben of Montgomery County and Ulysses Currie of Prince George's -- also made calls to appeals court judges. A Democratic member of the House of Delegates, Ruth Kirk of Baltimore, wrote a letter to Judge Robert M. Bell, the court's chief judge. The judges in this unhappy matter made the contacts public and said they did not discuss the pending cases with legislators.
Judge Bell also reported leaving a meeting with state Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount of Baltimore when he realized the subject was redistricting.
All in all, a disheartening spectacle. Democrats, whose governors appointed many of the appeals court judges, appear to be asking the court for political favors.
That lawmakers would be so ethically and politically blind leaves them defenseless against the inevitable charge of political arrogance. The idea of an independent judiciary has suffered a blow as well.
Republicans call it the spoiled fruit of one-party politics in Maryland. They demand investigations by the Attorney Grievance Commission, the State Ethics Commission and the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. And they are right to do so: A thorough examination is required by each of these panels. The judicial process must not be manipulated -- by either political party.