Three veteran prosecutors in the county State's Attorney's Office are leaving in January to start a private law practice in Ellicott City.
Ronald R. Hogg, Robert N. Keehner and Richard P. O'Connor, with 25 years of experience among them in the office, have decided to move on.
Their departure means that the office is losing about one-third of its attorneys. Hogg, Keehner and O'Connor handled most major felonies and serious drug cases.
Chief State's Attorney William R. Hymes could not be reached for comment.
"It was just time for all of us to go out on our own basically, and we're looking forward to it; it's going to be a great adventure," said Hogg, who's been with the State's Attorney's Office for more than nine years.
The new law office of O'Connor, Keehner and Hogg will focus on criminal and personal injury cases, tax law and drug cases, said O'Connor, who handled many murder cases during his nine-year tenure with the office.
He said his decision to leave stemmed from the constant pressure of trying murder cases.
"It's extremely pressure-filled every minute," O'Connor said. "If you make a mistake, somebody guilty is going to go free.
"I thought that if I was going to be doing these cases, maybe I should be doing them for myself rather than just doing them as an employee," he said.
O'Connor plans to focus on litigation of criminal, personal injury and workmen's compensation cases in private practice.
"I'm a trial lawyer, and that's what I intend to continue doing," he said.
Hogg will develop a tax and business practice, and Keehner, who litigated the major drug cases in the State's Attorney's Office, will concentrate on domestic and drug cases.
O'Connor said he and his two colleagues, who make between $40,000 and $55,000 as state prosecutors, hope to earn more in private practice.