Harford County Circuit Court Judge William O. Carr gave a brief talk on the 14th amendment and said farewell after 33 years on the bench, as the Harford County Bar Assocaition held its first ever public observance of Law Day on Monday in front of the courthouse in Bel Air.
"I think it went well," Harford Bar Association President Anthony DiPaula said following the program, which came in a under and hour, as planned, he noted.
The weather also cooperated. Although it had been overcast all morning, the sun showed up just as the program was getting started.
"We definitely want to do it again next year," said DiPaula, who co-chaired the event with association outreach chair Diane Tobin.
Joining Carr on the dais were the other judges from the county's Circuit and District courts, elected officials including County Executive Barry Glassman and Town of Bel Air Mayor Susan Burdette.
Among those watching the ceremony were members of the Harford legal community and staff from the courthouse, as well as Sheriff's Office deputies.
A number of court services agencies had set up tables with literature about their services. DiPaula said he hoped people walking by on Main Street were stopping to find out what the organizations have to offer.
Among the exhibitors were Legal Aid, SARC, the Register of Wills Office, Family Court Services and the Harford County Bar Foundation. The Bel Air High School Jazz Band kept toes tapping as folks enjoyed some lunch along Office Street which was closed for the event.
Law Day is observed nationally on May 1 to emphasize the role of law in the American society, according to the American Bar Association. DiPaula said the Harford Bar Association had not done a public program previously, but in the past has had luncheons at places such as Aberdeen Proving Ground, "mainly for the lawyers."
"The 14th Amendment: Transforming American Democracy" was the theme for Monday's national observance.
"Through its Citizenship, Due Process and Equal Protection clauses, this transformative amendment advanced the rights of all Americans. It also played a pivotal role in extending the reach of the Bill of Rights to the states," the ABA noted on its website. "Ratified during Reconstruction a century and a half ago, the Fourteenth Amendment serves as the cornerstone of landmark civil rights legislation, the foundation for numerous federal court decisions protecting fundamental rights, and a source of inspiration for all those who advocate for equal justice under law."
"Obviously it's something that as a lawyer and a judge it's something I know about, I know it has one of the most important parts of the Constitution," Carr, whose retirement from the bench took effect Monday, said in his remarks. "It has transformed in many ways American law and culture, but I have to admit it's not something I sit around and think about. I don't always think about the Constitution and Constitutional Amendments."
"It has in many ways assured that America would become and remain the greatest bastion of freedom in the world," he said. "During the time of its existence it has come to embrace the values of fairness and justice that we Americans feel should be part of society."
The Bar Association also presented Bel Air lawyer Kimberly B. Fleming with its first Law Day Award for her dedication to the Harford County Bar Association Foundation and for being community service minded in her endeavors.
Burdette presented a proclamation to the Bar Association on behalf of the town, but rather than read it, she took a few moments to speak about the importance of the association in the community, recognizing the many services its members provide for citizens.
"In commemoration of Law Day, and we're planning to do this again next year, please try to reflect on the important role the 14th Amendment has played in protecting and advancing the rights of all of us," DiPaula added in closing his remarks.
Judge Carr, 68, was appointed to the bench by then-gov. Harry Hughes on April 13, 1984. He is believed to be the longest serving judge in county history; by Carr's own research, Judge James Watters served 32 years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Though he officially retired on Monday, Carr will continue to hear cases until his successor is chosen and then on a part-time basis as a fill in for judges who are on vacation or out for other reasons.
Several people congratulated him on his retirement, which he has said will also afford him the opportunity to finish a history of the Harford County Bar Association which he has been compiling for a number of years and hopes to put into book form.
Aegis staff member Allan Vought contributed to this report.