WESTMINSTER — The first woman to be appointed a judge in Carroll County didn't expect to be chosen for the job.
Jo Ann Ellinghaus-Jones, 34, a Hampstead attorney in Elwood E. Swam's Main Street office, was appointed Wednesday to the District Court bench to fill the vacancy created by the November elevation of Judge Francis A. Arnold to Circuit Court.
Ellinghaus-Jones said she knew the appointment probably would be announced last week because the nominees were interviewed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer on Feb. 28.
"When the governor's office called, I thought it was to say he chose someone else," said Ellinghaus-Jones, the only woman among the final six candidates picked by the state Judicial Nominating Commission.
During the Schaefer interview, her age was a frequent topic.
"We talked for a long time, but he seemed to be very concerned about my age," she said. "I was discouragedby that."
Ellinghaus-Jones is the youngest person ever appointed to a Carroll County court, according to the State Administrative Office of the Courts in Annapolis.
The attorney said that because she is the first woman and the youngest person to be appointed to the Carroll bench, she feels some extra pressure to succeed.
"I don't want to say that I think people necessarily want me to fail, but I thinkI will put pressure on myself that I have to be as good as everyone else," she said.
Welford "Mac" McLellan, a spokesman for the governor, said Schaefer does not discuss the reasons why he appoints judges, but he added that the lack of women on the Carroll bench must havebeen a factor.
"The governor has received national awards for thenumber of women he has on his staff," said McLellan. "He is always looking for opportunities to promote fairness in hiring."
Seventeenattorneys applied for the $82,300-a-year, 10-year position. Six finalists were chosen by the 13-member Judicial Nominating Commission on Jan. 9.
In addition to Ellinghaus-Jones, the names of Westminster attorneys Wesley D. Blakeslee, Frank D. Coleman, Michael M. Galloway,Charles Preston and Marc G. Rasinsky were forwarded to the governor as nominees.
Ellinghaus-Jones has worked in Swam's office since 1983. Previously, she was a clerk for Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. She also served as attorney for the city of Manchester until April 1990.
While the county's newest judge says she has no particular areaof interest or cause in the court system, she would like to give special attention to cases involving drug or alcohol abuse.
"My general perception is that a lot of the crimes that are committed are alcohol- and drug-related," she said. "The kids that come back to court over and over have those problems. The only way to stop them from coming back is to get them off drugs."
Ellinghaus-Jones says she knowsshe is going into her job with "lofty aspirations."
"I don't expect to accomplish them right away," she said.
At Swam's office, Ellinghaus-Jones held the position that Arnold held before he became a District Court judge.
She has 30 days to close out her practice before being sworn in as a judge. The date of her swearing-in has not yet been set.
The General Assembly must approve the appointment before the end of their legislative session in April. Ellinghaus-Jones may begin working on the bench before that time.