When David E. Carey announced in October he would not be seeking another term as commissioner of the Town of Bel Air, many wondered what was next on the agenda for the longtime lawyer and former town mayor.
Just weeks later, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Carey beat out six other hopefuls for a seat on the bench of the District Court of Harford County.
During his swearing in ceremony Friday evening, local politicians, community leaders, friends and family piled into the Harford County Council chambers to witness Carey don the signature black judge's robe for the first time.
Carey, 49, replaced senior member former Judge John L. Dunnigan, who formally retired in March, a few months shy of the mandatory 70 retirement age for Maryland judges.
A longtime lawyer for Brown, Brown and Young, Carey became the fifth lawyer in the last 31 years from the Bel Air-based firm to be appointed judge.
Harford District Court Administrative Judge Susan Hazlett called the ceremony to order as August F. Brown, of Brown, Brown and Young, opened with the invocation. Brown prayed Carey be given "the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the trust of Abraham" as he moves forward as a judge.
Brown said Carey is a man who listens carefully and makes thoughtful judgments, traits he believes will serve him well on the bench.
Albert J.A. Young, of Brown, Brown and Young, asked the audience to excuse his scruffy appearance as he was participating in No Shave November, a month-long event of no facial shaving to promote awareness about prostate cancer. He said he decided not to shave to pay homage to Carey's father, who was a public defender and lost his battle with prostate cancer in 1998.
"Your father would have been very proud to see you now," Young said.
Young said Carey has been very active in Bel Air and Harford County working as a Bel Air town commissioner for 16 years, serving as town mayor, participating in mock trials in Havre de Grace and presiding over the Maryland Municipal League.
"David becomes devoted to any path he takes in law, politics or community service," Young said. "He has a deep and abiding sense of judgment and he is being given the highest honor in our profession."
Harford Circuit Court Judge Stephen M. Waldron said Carey is tasked with filling the shoes of "the smartest, hardest working and most diligent judge in Harford."
"David practiced before me in civil and criminal dockets," Waldron said. "He understands the stresses of being a lawyer."
Waldron said advised Carey to remember the experience being on the other side of the bench as he presides over the court. He said he is confident in Carey's ability to preserve the law and serve on the bench of the district court.
"It's not just a job but it's a sacred trust," Waldron said. "People crave justice and our system is the best in the world which makes our country so special."
Ashley Valis, assistant chief of staff for O'Malley, presented Carey with a commission, which he will receive in the mail. Valis congratulated Carey and said, "If the governor were here you know he would say 'once a mayor always a mayor.'"
After James Reilly, clerk of the Circuit Court of Harford County, administered the oath to officially swear in Carey as a judge, Carey was robed by his wife, Rachael E. Rice, and his mother, Lucy K. Carey.
Harford County District Court Judge Victor K. Butanis welcomed Carey to the bench.
"If this were 17 years ago when I came to the bench I could have said welcome to the brotherhood," Butanis joked. "Now, we say welcome to the judiciary."
Butanis said Carey is walking into an ample amount of work from domestic violence cases to rent disputes and traffic violations since Dunnigan's retirement, but "embarking on a journey that can change your life."
Butanis explained that the district court, which is the first layer of the judicial system, is the "face of the judiciary."
Carey, who took his seat among his colleagues at the front of the room, said he was overwhelmed speaking as a center of attention. He said it was an honor practicing law for the last 23 years in Harford.
"I can't imagine a better community to practice in or be a judge than this community," Carey said.
Carey said his childhood and experience growing up were a lot different than his parents.
His mother sought refuge in the United States from Poland during World War II. She came to Baltimore working as a social worker, then met his father, who worked for the legal aid bureau and was a public defender.
If his father were alive today, Carey said, he would be 89. Carey said his father taught him "to treat everyone with respect from your boss to the person cleaning the floor." He said he plans to take that lesson with him to the bench.
Carey attended the College of Wooster in Ohio and received his law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law.
After graduating law school, Carey clerked in the Court of Special Appeals in Baltimore City. He said he never considered moving to Harford County and he received an opportunity to interview with the Brown law firm. He said they became some of the best mentors.
As of July 1, district court judges in Maryland make $131, 808.
Judges in the District Court of Maryland serve 10-year terms once the governor appoints them. They are eligible for reappointment until they reach the mandatory retirement age.