'Guided with decency, integrity'

Ex-prosecutor sworn in as District Court judge

June 08, 2008|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

After being sworn in, the newest addition to the Harford County District Court bench fidgeted with the zipper of her new judge's robe.

A smiling Judge Susan Hower Hazlett tugged on the obstinate zipper, then shrugged and said, "I don't know how to do this."

In front of friends, colleagues and the local legal community in a packed County Council chambers, the former Baltimore County prosecutor was sworn in as the newest Harford County District Court judge.

After thanking her family, mentors and friends, she vowed to be "guided with decency and integrity."

In May, Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed Hazlett to a 10-year term on the county's District Court bench, filling a vacancy created when Judge Angela Eaves was elevated to Circuit Court.

Praised for her work ethic and described as a determined prosecutor who never shied away from difficult cases, including child abuse, rapes and homicides, many complimented Hazlett, 46, for her humility and persistence.

Some of the speakers in the hourlong ceremony on Monday chose to wish her luck, such as her colleague, John Cox from the Baltimore County state's attorney's office, who told her: "We love you. We're proud of you. We're jealous and extremely happy for the citizens of Harford County."

Other advice came from Judge Ben C. Clyburn, chief judge for the District Court in Maryland, who told her to "temper justice with humor and mercy."

Del. Wayne Norman, who is the incoming president of the Harford County Bar Association, offered his advice from a defense attorney's perspective.

Handing her a thin paperback book, Norman said, "These are the reasons to find a defendant guilty." Then he hoisted a hard-covered book that was several inches thick and landed it with a heavy thump in front of the new judge.

"These are reasons to find a defendant not guilty," he said, as the guests laughed and applauded.

Hazlett worked at the state's attorney's office in Baltimore County for 20 years. As senior trial attorney in the child abuse and sex offense division, she supervised and trained new prosecutors, and tried 25 to 30 felony cases, including homicides and sex offense cases, according to the governor's office.

Hazlett helped draft legislation to create the crime of first-degree child abuse and routinely conducted training sessions about child abuse and sexual abuse cases for prosecutors, police officers, social workers and nurses.

During her career, she handled more than 600 child abuse and sex offense cases and more than 25 homicides, according to a news release.

"It was the hardest day of my life when I walked out of that office," she said of the state's attorney's office. "But it's a new chapter."

After graduating from law school at the University of Baltimore, Hazlett worked for eight months at an investment firm before becoming a prosecutor.

madison.park@baltsun.com

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