Stansfield is named Circuit Court judge

Westminster attorney has served since 1992 as domestic master

July 29, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named a Westminster attorney and the county's domestic master as the new judge of the Circuit Court for Carroll County yesterday and personally called his appointee with congratulations.

"I was honored, surprised and humbled," said Thomas F. Stansfield, a lifelong county resident. "I was on a top-class list, any one of whom is qualified. I hope to make Carroll County proud."

Stansfield, 54, succeeds Raymond E. Beck Jr., who retired from the bench this month.

Stansfield will serve until the November 2006 election and then stand for election to a 15-year term. Ehrlich is expected to formally sign Stansfield's commission within 30 days.

In a press release issued yesterday, Ehrlich said Stansfield's "experience and ability will further the best interests of the citizens of Carroll County and the judicial system during his term."

Stansfield, who grew up in Gamber and lives in Westminster, graduated from Westminster High School, earned a bachelor's degree from what is now Towson University and a law degree from South Texas College of Law.

He has practiced law in Carroll County since 1976 and for 20 years served as the city attorney for Taneytown. He opened a private practice four years ago with his wife, Martha Ann Sitterding, as his law partner.

"She will take over the practice," he said.

Since 1992, Stansfield has served as the court-appointed domestic master, hearing civil cases that include divorce and custody issues. The job entails conducting hearings, weighing facts and writing opinions, he said.

"The job is judgelike in nature," Stansfield said. "I hope it weighed in my favor."

The judicial nominating commission in Carroll sent six names to the governor.

"We gave the governor an excellent panel to start, with a lot of A-choices," said William O'Brien Finch Jr., a Westminster attorney who is serving on his second judicial nominating commission in the county.

As domestic master, Stansfield "has given everyone a preview of coming attractions," said Finch. "We have seen how he would respond."

That experience may have pushed Stansfield's nomination to the forefront, said Finch.

"Tom is experienced in many different areas of the law," said Finch. "In terms of domestic master, I am impressed with the way he has conducted himself, particularly in cases where emotions run high. He pays attention and writes an opinion that says he has listened to both sides."

Other area attorneys, who have argued before Stansfield, also lauded the nomination.

"Tom will make a great judge," said Lloyd Helt, a former Sykesville mayor and practicing attorney who is also a longtime friend.

"As a former mayor, it will really help to have someone on the bench who understands municipalities," Helt said. "The governor really has done a good thing for Carroll County."

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