Public Defender, Prosecutor Honored For Their Work

2 Women In Justice System Noted For Their Dedication

April 29, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Though they might stand opposite each other in the courtroom, two women have been honored by local agencies for their work in the Howard County justice system.

Assistant Public Defender Diane Chrismer Patton and Assistant State's Attorney Eileen McInerney received awards this month from local agencies for their dedication to jobs that are the two sides of the legal coin: Patton defends people accused of crimes and McInerney prosecutes them.

But both women work to ensure that people who come into the justice system -- guilty or innocent -- receive a fair trial.

Said Patton, 30: "I think we all want cases resolved in the person's best interest."

Patton -- an Ellicott City resident -- joined Howard's office as a law clerk before she took the bar exam. She became a assistant public defender 1993. Her duties are mainly in District Court, where she handles everything from bond hearings to car-theft cases.

A 1993 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law, she is paid by the government to defend people who can't afford a private attorney. In one week, she may deal with as many as 60 cases -- a sign of the demanding nature of the job.

Carol A. Hanson, district public defender for District 10 -- which includes Howard and Carroll counties -- said Patton, who was chosen from a field of 13, received the Public Defender of the Year award April 11 at an annual conference of public defenders.

Hanson described Patton as "enthusiastic."

"She's dedicated and committed to offering our clients the best defense she can," Hanson said. "I think the public is not often aware of the importance of everyone receiving a fair trial."

On the other side of the courtroom, McInerney, 34, started working at the Howard state's attorney's office in the Circuit Court division over two years ago. She previously spent 4 1/2 years as a prosecutor in Carroll County.

McInerney, a resident of Montgomery County, handles all types of felony cases but focuses on child abuse -- cases that are often difficult because they can be hard to prove. Many times, the case hinges on the testimony of a child.

Child-abuse cases "are the most challenging but the most rewarding," said McInerney, a 1989 graduate of Thomas Cooley School of Law in Lansing, Mich. "I enjoy representing the state of Maryland" and seeing that people guilty of crimes are held responsible, she said.

State's Attorney Marna McLendon said McInerney received the Distinguished Service award from the Howard County Chamber of Commerce at an awards ceremony April 24. McLendon said it was the first time a prosecutor had won the award.

"Eileen represents the compassion for victims and the tenacity for justice that all prosecutors aspire to," McLendon said.

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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