Galloway to become senior judge on court

Circuit judge retirements to alter makeup of bench

Carroll County

May 25, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

After serving on the Carroll County Circuit Court for 4 1/2 years, Judge Michael M. Galloway is about to become the senior jurist among the court's three judges.

With the retirement in January of Luke K. Burns Jr. and the imminent departure of Raymond E. Beck Sr., Galloway gives up his position as the junior member of the bench.

The move makes him a little apprehensive, he said. But he looks forward to working with the new judges and soliciting ideas on how to improve the court system.

"Sometimes, when you're on the bench for a while, you tend to become isolated from the people who practice the law," Galloway said. "We'll look at tweaking the system a little bit. I don't envision making wholesale changes, but it gives us an opportunity with a relatively new bench to decide on things we can improve upon."

Appointed to the bench in December 1999, Galloway took over the responsibilities of the court's administrative judge last year from Beck, who will retire June 4. Galloway said the overlap made for a smooth transition.

During his tenure, Galloway has had his share of high-profile cases, including the recent trial of a Westminster man convicted of fatally stabbing his former mother-in-law. Leon A. Costley Jr. was sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing Helga Nicholls, also known as "Helga from Westminster," a well-known talk-radio caller.

To help juggle the Circuit Court caseload, retired judges have been brought in to hear cases. Although Burns retired this year, he is still a familiar sight at the courthouse.

But Galloway said the loss of two judges with more than 40 years of experience between them will be felt.

"I think anytime you lose someone like a Judge Burns and a Judge Beck, you lose people you can bounce things off on, people who have been on the bench long enough that there's nothing they haven't confronted."

Galloway will soon share the judge's chambers with J. Barry Hughes, an attorney with nearly three decades of experience in Carroll County. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. recently appointed Hughes to fill the vacancy left by Burns' retirement.

Hughes will be sworn in Friday and is expected to begin his judiciary tenure June 1.

Among the applicants to replace Beck are: Carroll District Judge JoAnn Ellinghaus-Jones, Fred S. Hecker, J. Brooks Leahy, C. Michael Preston and Thomas F. Stansfield. In addition to Hughes, they were on a short list compiled by the Judicial Nominating Commission in Carroll. The names were submitted to the governor during the search to replace Burns.

Other applicants to fill Beck's position include: Tracey A. Gilmore, assistant state's attorney for Carroll County; public defender Judson Larrimore and Carroll County Bar Association President J. Michael Earp.

Choosing applicants for bench appointments is a process that screens for experience, said Somerset County Circuit Judge Daniel M. Long, who is the chairman of the conference of state circuit judges.

He said new judges typically go through an orientation program that places them in court observing other judges. They also attend classes at the Judicial Institute, a program Galloway referred to as the "baby judge's school."

Despite the playful nickname, Long said, "It is an intensive and comprehensive program."

The Judicial Institute in Annapolis also supplies judges with other resources, such as online access to legal research, an extensive library and a bench book of ethics guidelines.

"There's always going to be a transition but it should be much easier for judges in Carroll County because of the fact Judge Galloway is there," Long said. "The judiciary has a vested interest in a seamless transition. For the most part the transition will be a good one."

Galloway has one piece of advice for the incoming judges.

"I think everybody who puts on the robe should keep in mind that before anything else you're a public servant," he said.

"It's easy for judges - because of the fact people are always deferential, opening doors for you and the like - to be impressed with yourself. But really you are a public servant and that's probably the thing that every judge needs to remember."

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