A former Aberdeen commissioner charged with nine housing code violations might not stand trial for a year because two of the county's four Circuit Court judges have removed themselves from the case.
Raymond H. Warfield, who stepped down as town commissioner in May after 14 years in office, was scheduled to stand trial in Harford Circuit Court last week.
However, the proceedings were postponed after Judge Stephen M. Waldron said he couldn't sit as the trial judge because of a conflict of interest. Judge Maurice O. Baldwin had previously removed himself from the case because of a conflict of interest.
M. Teresa Garland,the assistant state's attorney handling the case, said it's "extremely rare" for two judges to withdraw from the same case. She said, however, it was proper for the judges to decide not to hear the Warfieldcase.
"It's getting increasingly difficult (to find a judge to hear the case) with Mr. Warfield's reputation," said Garland. "Everybody knows him."
Waldron said he removed himself from the case because he had worked with Warfield when he served as Aberdeen's town attorney before being appointed to the bench in 1988. "I worked extremely close with Mr. Warfield," Waldron said. "It would be awkward to be sitting there as the presiding judge in a case he is involved in."
Baldwin withdrew from the case because Warfield was a client of the Brown, Brown and Brown law firm of Bel Air, where Baldwin had worked asa partner before his appointment to the bench, Garland said.
Baldwin confirmed through his secretary that he had represented Warfield in private matters before becoming a judge.
The county's two remaining circuit judges, William O. Carr and Cypert O. Whitfill, said they had full caseloads last week and were unable to take on the Warfield trial.
With the conflicts for Baldwin and Waldron -- and the court's growing backlog of criminal and civil cases -- it's difficult topredict when Warfield will stand trial, Garland said.
"We may be another year or two," she said. "When you narrow it down to two judges, it's difficult."
William Abercrombie Jr., an Edgewood attorney representing Warfield, said he and his client "understand" how the delays occurred. "These things happen with the docket," Abercrombie said.
Last week's postponement marks the third time Warfield's trial has been delayed.
The complaint was originally filed in Harford District Court in July 1990, but the case was moved to Circuit Court after Warfield requested a jury trial.
The first Circuit Court trialwas postponed in April by an agreement between Warfield's attorney and the prosecution, court records say. The trial was rescheduled for July.
But the trial was delayed again when Warfield's attorney, Harold D. Norton, withdrew from the case and Abercrombie requested timeto prepare for trial, court records say.
If the Warfield case is postponed again, Garland said she will consider requesting that one of the county's retired judges, Albert Close or Brodnax Cameron Jr., hear the case.
Garland, who has worked as a county prosecutor for 21/2 years, said it's common for cases to be delayed three or four times before they go to trial.
"I would say it would be a miracle for a case to go (to trial) the first time," she said.
If convicted of the nine criminal counts of rental housing code violations, the 51-year-old mobile-home salesman faces a maximum sentence of up to $5,500 in fines and 32 months in prison, court records say.
A criminalcomplaint alleges that Warfield, who served as Aberdeen's mayor in 1980, ignored warnings from county inspectors that he would face charges unless he corrected violations, including a lack of heat and proper plumbing hook-ups, at a Dublin Road mobile home. At the time of theviolations, a family was renting the home from Warfield.
Warfield, the owner of Edgewood Homes, is accused of failing to secure the home on blocks to properly ensure safety and stability. The home lackedthe proper steps and landings at front and back doors, the complaintcharges.
The former town commissioner and mayor also is charged with failing to obtain county permits or to have the home inspected, as required by the county's minimum standard housing code.
Administrators of the county Department of Inspections, Licensing and Permitshave called the alleged violations among the worst ever seen at a mobile home site.