New circuit judge fills final vacancy Caroom is known best for family case skills

September 10, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

For a second time this year, a 10th judge has joined Anne Arundel County's Circuit Court bench, bringing one of Maryland's busiest courts up to full strength.

Juvenile and Domestic Master Philip T. Caroom was sworn in yesterday afternoon as the newest circuit judge as his wife, Ilene, and his son, Eliot, looked on. He said the event, which packed the large ceremonial courtroom, was like a wedding -- and more.

"I do want to keep my name: Phil," he said, adding that he hoped people would not view him differently outside the courtroom because he took a new post.

Caroom, 45, is well-known around the courthouse for his tiny, scrawled handwriting and houseplant advice.

Local judges say he also is respected for his domestic and juvenile rulings -- and his ability to bring warring families to negotiated settlements.

"As we march through the years of marital discord, there is no one else I would rather have at my side," said Judge James C. Cawood, who handles mostly divorce and other domestic issues and has relied on Caroom's interviews, findings and settlement recommendations.

Caroom, a 1978 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, is a former assistant prosecutor in the county and also had a private law practice.

His swearing-in gives the county 10 circuit judges, the fifth-largest bench in the state.

Briefly this spring, the county had 10 circuit judges after Joseph P. Manck moved from the district to the circuit bench. But then Judge Martin A. Wolff retired in May.

Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr., administrative judge for the court, said in an interview this week that the expanded bench is sorely needed. He hoped a 10th judge would help the court move cases more quickly.

As a master, Caroom has heard juvenile and domestic cases since 1991.

"He has become an expert in child-support enforcement and juvenile matters and family law generally. I intend to utilize his services in those areas," Greene said.

Anne Arundel has one of the busiest circuit courts in the state, and its caseload has increased with the county's growing population.

Among Maryland localities, the county ranked fourth in new cases filed and fourth in dispositions per judge during the fiscal year that began in July 1996, according to a report done for the state courts.

Still, 6,717 domestic cases were filed that year, cases that judges say take more time to adjudicate because family issues are so sensitive and many hearings may be required.

According to that report, the county ranked second only to Baltimore in the number of pending cases per judge and the time needed to complete a civil case -- 238 days.

A statistical analysis of the number of judges, cases and lawyers in the county ranked it first in needing another judge.

Last month, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening named Caroom to the circuit court vacancy, he also appointed David S. Bruce, 50, a master for domestic and juvenile cases in Calvert County Circuit Court since 1995, to the district court.

Bruce is to be sworn in today.

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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