WESTMINSTER - After more than one year as a Carroll County circuit judge, Raymond E. Beck leaned back in his burgundy leather office chair and decided he missed some of the trappings of politics.
But, the former state senator is quick to add, he also loves being on the bench.
"As the judge, you are the focal point of the action in the courtroom," said Beck, who has developed a reputation of being one of the toughest judges in the county. "I enjoy working with the people and trying to make the best decisions that I can."
Beck, who was sworn in as Carroll's third Circuit Court judge on Oct.
3, 1988, is up for a retention vote in the Nov. 6 general election.
When there is a vacancy on any Circuit Court in the state, the position is advertised in the newspaper, and any interested attorneys can apply.
Their applications are reviewed by a 13-member Judicial Nominating Commission, whose top choices are forwarded to the governor.
The governor then appoints a judge to the bench. The judge must stand for retention vote in the next general election.
For Beck, 51, being on the ballot is old hat. From 1972 until his swearing in as a judge, Beck was an elected official.
In 1972, he was appointed by then-Gov. Marvin Mandel to fill the unexpired term of Delegate Jacob M. Yingling.
He became minority whip in the House of Delegates in 1974 and was elected minority leader in 1977.
He was elected to the Maryland Senate in 1982 and became minority leader there in 1987.
Beck said when he thinks about the things he misses most in politics -- the camaraderie and the campaigning -- he realizes that those were also the things he enjoyed the most.
"I always hated asking people for money for the campaigns," said Beck, a Carroll resident since 1968. "I don't miss that."
And while the judge said he felt he did a good job as a legislator for 17 years, he admits that he was "getting a little flat trying to be a state senator and run a full-time law practice."
Beck said the $89,000-a-year judgeship gives him a unique opportunity to deal with people.
"I get to see people at their worst and people at their best," he said.
"Some of the cases are very sad, and it takes a lot of thought to make the right decisions."
Many law enforcement officials and attorneys in Carroll County said they think Beck sometimes gives tougher sentences than other judges, but all seemed to feel that his decisions are fair.
Detective Sgt. Dean Brewer of the Westminster City Police said he thinks Beck's decisions are neither too harsh nor too lenient.
"He makes what appear to be solid decisions, and I think they are fair," said Brewer.
Beck said that he is not necessarily striving to be perceived as tough.
"I'm just trying to be myself. I'm not trying to be a hanging judge," said Beck. "I always considered myself a law-and-order legislator, supporting things like victims' rights and increased penalties."
He said he thinks he is as reasonable as anyone else when it comes to wanting to rehabilitate first offenders, but there is one area that taxes his patience.
"In my court -- counsel and defendants know this -- it really gets my hackles up if someone uses the term 'simple possession' (of drugs)," he said. "There is no such thing as simple possession. People don't realize or don't care that their possession drives the demand and supply for drugs."
And drug trafficking is not the only crime that troubles Beck these days.
"The nature of the crimes in Carroll County is getting worse," he said.
"Since Route 795 was built, it's like Carroll is just being discovered. I think some of these people are coming out here and committing crimes, and they think we all just fell off the turnip truck."
To give first or minor offenders a taste of the criminal justice system from the inside, Beck has used the technique of "impact sentencing."
He will sentence someone convicted of a first drunken-driving offense to a night in the Carroll County Detention Center. Those who violate probation on their first drunken-driving conviction can count on spending at least two consecutive weekends in jail.
"They don't separate those people from the rest of the inmate population," said Glenn. "Most of the time they come back into court and know they never want to go back to jail again. Hopefully, they won't have to."