Carroll County voters have until June 2 to get their mail-in ballot post-marked and have their voices heard in a presidential primary election that includes three candidates vying for the seat on the Carroll County Circuit Court bench.
Judge Richard Titus is running against attorneys Laura Morton and George Psoras.
Titus was appointed to the bench by Gov. Larry Hogan in November to fill the seat left vacant by the retiring Judge Barry Hughes. By Maryland law, appointed Circuit Court judges must run in a non-partisan election, and serve a 15-year term if re-elected, although all judges must retire at age 70.
Titus has served on the circuit court once before, beginning in 2016, when Hogan appointed him to fill the vacancy left by the retiring J. Michael Galloway. Titus ran for re-election in 2018 but lost to Judge Maria Oesterreicher.
Morton is a Westminster attorney with 26 years of experience practicing law and 24 of those practicing in Westminster, and while she takes cases across Maryland, she said she primarily practices in the Carroll County court system.
“I have experience in all areas of the law,” Morton said. "I have done workers comp, personal injury criminal law, family law, a little bit of everything."
Psoras has been practicing law for 34 years, lives in Hampstead and practices in the Lutherville office of his firm Murtha, Psoras, Lanasa, LLC. He’s a trial attorney and litigator.
“I am brought in by a lot of other lawyers,” he said. “I’ve tried every type of case that can be imagined, the bench where I am applying to be a judge.”
In addition to family law, protective orders and auto accidents, Psoras has acted as a pro-bono defense attorney in homicide cases for the Carroll County Public Defender’s office.
Titus has practiced law more than 30 years, beginning with clerking for Montgomery and Carroll County judges before practicing primarily complex litigation and zoning and transnational law with the Westminster firm Hollman, Maguire, Titus, Korzenewski and Luzuriaga, Chtd.
All three candidates noted that it’s different running for a judgeship than an elected office because it’s not a position where one makes law or policy, and political promises such as lowering taxes are not appropriate.
They did, however, each articulate their vision for how they would, or have, practiced from the Circuit Court bench.
“I think that it’s important that judges be fair and completely impartial,” Morton said. “I think it’s important to have respect for every single person that walks into your courtroom.”
Morton said she also believes representation is important, and along with becoming just the second woman to serve as a Carroll County Circuit Court judge if elected, she believes coming from a disadvantaged background and having put herself through college and law school can provide an important perspective.
“I think it’s just important for the bench to reflect the community,” she said. “The only woman we have on the bench now won by election — even after 180-plus years and highly qualified women applying, there has never been a woman appointed to the bench.”
For Psoras, he said his experience in trying many of the most difficult types of cases that come before the circuit court, including murder trials, is an important part of what he would bring to the bench.
“The biggest thing is, experience truly matters,” he said. “You have to have tried all these cases and have represented people.”
“I am also what is known as a constitutional originalist,” Psoras added. “You don’t make the law, you interpret the law as understood by our forefathers. You don’t add to it.”
Titus said he believes his record on the bench supports that his approach is “tough, but fair.”
“I don’t strain to make strange rulings or try to invent law. I follow the law the way it was written,” he said. "If someone in a criminal case has earned tough sentence, they will get one. If they have earned a break as far as something other than incarceration, I am open to that as well."
Titus said that while it may sound trite, he also believes in ensuring the courts provide good customer service.
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“It means starting court on time; when people are supposed to be there at 9 a.m. I walk on the bench at 9 a.m. It’s important when people come in for jury service and I make it a point of speaking to every single juror we have," he said. “Customer service is applicable in every branch of government, including the judiciary.”