After 16 years on the bench, presiding over challenging cases and starting a new court for drug treatment, Michael Galloway saw his final case for the Circuit Court of Carroll County in the first week of January. Looking back, the now-retired judge says it was the best job of his life.
"I always thought I would like being a judge," Galloway said. "I always thought I'd be a good judge, but it was one of those situations where it was better than I thought."
Galloway was appointed to the bench in 1999 at the age of 54, and he knew his time on the bench would be limited to 16 years because of the Maryland retirement rule for judges. The 16 years flew by, he said, even until the end.
Now that he's retired, the former English teacher plans on trying his hand at writing judicial fiction, making beer and learning a new instrument, possibly the harmonica. He has also been given permission to sit on the different circuits in Maryland as a visiting judge.
Galloway had a long history in Carroll County before taking the bench. Galloway started as an English teacher in the county before turning to law. He served in Carroll as a prosecutor for the state and then went into private law before his judgeship.
"When you grow up somewhere, and you've lived there all your life — I went to school in Carroll County, I was a prosecutor in Carroll County and I was a judge in Carroll County — you think about how things have changed," he said.
As a lawyer and a judge, Galloway said he liked criminal law more than civil law, even though he has presided over both. Criminal cases were more interesting for Galloway, though they came with more difficult sentencing decisions.
Galloway said he remembers two cases in which he had to give life without the option of a parole, a sentence he disliked but felt was necessary. He liked to give people the opportunity to turn their lives around, but in those two cases the crimes were so heinous he did not see any possibility that they could change, he said.
Carroll County State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo said Galloway gave out fair sentencing when on the bench, even if DeLeonardo didn't always agree with the sentence.
DeLeonardo could also trust Galloway to listen to both sides of the case and to be just when deciding the verdict or sentence, he said.
"You have people in court who have done some terrible things, and sometimes you had people who were disrespectful to the court because that's who they are, and Judge Galloway never lost his cool," DeLeonardo said.
George Hardinger, warden of the Carroll County Detention Center, approached Galloway when he was a Circuit Court judge about starting a new court for drug treatment. Galloway presided over the court, which started in 2007, for eight years before his retirement.
"It was a decision I look back on now, and for me, it was life-changing because I learned so much about treatment," he said.
Under his judgeship, Galloway saw people who graduated from Drug Treatment Court and turned their life around. In one case, someone who was once in the program went on to earn a law degree, he said.
Sitting on the bench also allowed him to witness how addiction can lead people to commit horrible crimes, he said. One of his cases was that of a young man who committed a first-degree assault after getting out of jail after a drug-related conviction. Before his trouble with drugs, he had never committed any crimes, Galloway said.
"And he committed a very, very violent assault, which impressed upon me that the pull is so strong that when you're an addict; when you're addicted, you will do anything to get the next hit," he said.
While Galloway saw people who succeeded and people who relapse during their fight with drug addiction, he said he does not have any regrets in terms of overseeing drug court.
"You look back on specific people, and not everyone is successful," he said. "And you ask yourself if you could have done anything different, but I think we went the extra mile."
Judge Fred Hecker took over the drug court after Galloway's retirement. Galloway said Hecker is a good fit for the job.
"I have every confidence he'll do a great job with it," Galloway said. "He has the right disposition for it. He has the right temperament for it and he believes in it. And that's the most important thing."
Galloway also served as administrative judge for the Circuit Court, helping to open a new courtroom under his tenure. He started as a county administrative judge in 2003.
The county administrative judge is in charge of overseeing and implement the circuit court's policies and procedures, Judge Barry Hughes, who took over the position in January, said in an email.
"He or she also serves as the spokesperson for the Circuit Court for Carroll County at public and official functions and presides over plenary sessions of the court," Hughes said in an email. "Finally, the County Administrative Judge hires, assigns and supervises court personnel."
As the new administrative judge, Hughes said he wants to oversee the continued growth of the court, including through the planned expansion into the current State's Attorney's Office facility and through the renovation of courtroom facilities. He also has ideas for shortening the amount of time it takes a case to be heard and closed.
"We're excited in the Circuit Court in 2016," Hughes said.
Although Galloway is now retired, he won't stay away from the courthouse. He will have the opportunity to sit on the different circuits in Maryland as a visiting judge. Hughes said Galloway is welcome to return to the Carroll County court.
"I was very honored throughout to be given the opportunity to serve and it really turned out better than I thought," Galloway said. "Being a judge — a Circuit Court judge — is the best job in the Maryland judiciary."
Nominees for vacant judicial position:
A committee has narrowed down the list of candidates for the open position on the Circuit Court bench. The four candidates were selected from nine applicants.
The four candidates are:
Carroll County Breaking News
•J. Michael Earp
•Samantha Zanger Smith
•Richard Roger Titus