A Carroll County District Court judge who applied for a vacant Circuit Court bench seat was among the top three vote-getters in a secret ballot filled out by members of the Carroll County Bar Association this week.
The results of the confidential ballot obtained by The Sun showed how bar association members voted on each of the 19 applicants for the judgeship. Members rated each applicant in one of four categories: Highly Qualified, Qualified, Not Qualified and Insufficient In- formation/No Opinion.
Used to gauge local reaction to judicial nominees, the survey taken Monday showed that the largest block of Highly Qualified votes - 47 - went to Westminster attorney J. Barry Hughes.
Hughes is a defense attorney with nearly three decades of experience. He has been in the news several times during his career, notably in 1998 and 1999 when he represented one of two men who caused the death of a Mount Airy Middle School teacher while drag-racing on Route 140. They were convicted of manslaughter and assault by a Carroll County jury.
Thomas F. Stansfield and District Court Judge JoAnn Ellinghaus-Jones each received 42 Highly Qualified votes, the second-highest number in the survey.
Stansfield was a city attorney for Taneytown for 20 years before resigning to go into private practice in 2000. As Carroll's court-appointed domestic master for about a decade, he hears the bulk of the civil cases that include divorces and custody hearings. He was the only Republican to make it on a 1999 list of finalists for the last Circuit Court vacancy created when Judge Francis M. Arnold reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Ellinghaus-Jones has sat on the District Court bench for 13 years and was a former clerk with Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who retired at the end of January and created an opening in the Circuit Court.
James F. Brewer, president of the local bar association, declined to comment on the results of the ballot. Also an applicant to the judgeship, Brewer received 10 Highly Qualified votes and 37 Qualified votes.
Rounding out the top 10 vote-getters were Fred S. Hecker, master Peter M. Tabatsko, John B. Leahy, Charles M. Preston, Assistant State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore, public defender Judson K. Larrimore and Frank D. Coleman.
Patrick S. Daly withdrew his application for the judgeship.
The results of the survey are forwarded to a judicial nominating commission that will submit a shortlist of candidates to the governor after the commission meets March 22.
The governor makes the final decision.