Woman to join District Court

Lawyer with history of public service to become Harford judge

March 27, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Angela Eaves began her legal career in Maryland by defending the underdog.

As a lawyer for the Legal Aid Bureau in Harford County, Eaves represented tenants facing eviction, women fighting for child support and indigent families denied public assistance.

When she is sworn in today as a Harford County District Court judge, Eaves -- known for her sensitivity to people battered by life -- will become the county's first African-American judge.

"I think she'll listen to people, and I'm excited about her taking the bench," said Dorsey Berndt, chief attorney for the Northeast Office of the Legal Aid Bureau, which represents indigent clients in Harford and Cecil counties.

Eaves, 40, of Bel Air is scheduled to be sworn in at 5 p.m. in the Harford County Council chambers in Bel Air. As a District Court judge, she will not have to stand for election, as Circuit Court judges do.

A former assistant attorney general, she will fill a vacancy created in November when Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. was elevated to the Harford County Circuit Court.

"She's going to be a welcome and needed addition," said Judge Victor K. Butanis, chief of Harford County District Court.

Butanis noted that Judge Mimi Cooper became Harford County's first female judge when she was appointed to the District Court in October. All five of the county's Circuit Court judges are white males.

Eaves' appointment has been called a positive step toward diversifying the bench in a county in which minorities constitute 15 percent of the 214,000 residents.

Eaves, who will be one of four judges in the county's District Court, was selected from 23 candidates who applied for the $103,000 position last fall.

"She's a very impressive person, with very impressive credentials," said Albert J. A. Young, a member of the Harford County Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission recommended Eaves and four other applicants to Gov. Parris N. Glendening in January after conducting interviews.

Eaves said that she is thrilled about the appointment.

"I consider it a tremendous honor," she said.

Eaves was born in Panama. Her father was a noncommissioned Army officer and, as a youth, she lived in many places, among them Germany, California, New York, New Jersey and Texas.

She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Texas in 1981 and her law degree from the university's law school five years later. She worked for two years as an assistant city attorney in Dallas before moving to Harford County in 1989.

Eaves worked for the Legal Aid bureau in Bel Air from 1990 to July 1993, when she joined the state attorney general's office.

As an assistant attorney general, she defended correctional officers and state officials in civil suits, and handled appeals of child-support cases for the state Department of Human Resources.

She also has served on the Harford County Human Relations Commission, the county's Charter Review Commission and on the boards of a number of civic organizations, including the YMCA.

"She's really an amazing success story," said Alan C. Cason, a partner in a Baltimore law firm.

Cason said that Eaves sought his advice about entering Harford County's legal community 10 years ago, when she arrived in Bel Air and he was deputy county attorney in Harford.

"We went to lunch, she started asking me questions and we've been friends ever since," Cason said. "She's got one of the sharpest minds that you can imagine."

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