Unopposed official to run Republican's campaign


For the second consecutive general election, Republican Joseph I. Cassilly will run unopposed this year for re-election as Harford County state's attorney.

Mr. Cassilly, 44, formally opened his fourth campaign Wednesday by announcing that, because he is running unopposed, he will manage the Harford campaign of fellow Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Baltimore County delegate from Timonium, is in a three-person race in the Republican primary for the seat being vacated by Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who is seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Mr. Cassilly touted Mr. Ehrlich's legislative efforts over the past eight years, especially in the areas of child sexual abuse and spousal abuse.

Challenging Mr. Ehrlich are John Michael Fleig of Rosedale and William J. Frank of Rodgers Forge.

Mr. Cassilly, a Bel Air resident, is a graduate of John Carroll School, the University of Arizona and the University of Baltimore law school.

In an interview, Mr. Cassilly spoke about what he believes he has accomplished in three terms as state's attorney and what he hopes to accomplish in the next four years.

Q: What are your major accomplishments since winning election in 1982?

A: We now have a full-time attorney working on the Joint Narcotics Task Force, two working full time on drug cases and others who can fill in prosecuting drug offenses.

We're still developing the Child Advocacy Center, with a full-time attorney assigned there to investigate and prosecute child abuse cases.

Q: Is that sufficient or do you want more specialized assistants?

A: If you want to specialize, form more special investigative units, you've got to hire more investigators. It just makes sense that if an attorney does a lot of the investigative work, there is less chance for error in prosecution. When pitfalls are avoided, common sense tells you it's more efficient.

Q: Any other positive accomplishments?

A: We've made some improvement in handling domestic violence cases. We sponsored a two-day seminar last year on domestic violence and are placing more emphasis on the real victims, the children caught in the middle between feuding parents.

Regardless of whether a wife wants to testify against her husband or not, our responsibility is to make sure that the children don't have to live in some intolerable environment.

Q: What needs to be fixed in the next four years?

A: Battling the computer system is an ongoing, long-term fight. We need three or four -- one internal and three external -- computer systems. We need a system linked with the state criminal system, one connected to the Bureau of Support Enforcement and one linked to the juvenile court system.

The system we have doesn't work. Many counties have more effective systems, but the state has been hooked on IBM-compatible systems for eight years. IBM compatibles are not doing what we need them to do.

Q: The legislature has approved a fifth judge for Harford Circuit Court. What impact will that eventual appointment have on your staff?

A: We expect a fifth Circuit Court judge probably will be named in January, after a new state legislature confirms a new governor's appointment. We'll definitely need more assistant state's attorneys.

People must realize that the extra judge [appointed last year] for District Court was supposed to be half-time. In reality, Judge [Emory] Plitt is in Harford County more often than not, and we have to staff his court.

In District Court, it takes two or three staff members each day to handle today's cases and two or three more preparing for tomorrow's cases.

Q: Are new hires planned?

A: I could hire a new attorney today, but I've got no space for him or her to work. No desk is available. We're sharing space to the max right now and we recently lost one [Otto Major] to retirement and another [Scott Lewis] to the attorney general's office.

Q: County voters will decide Nov. 8 by referendum whether they want an elected sheriff or an appointed police chief. What impact, if any, will that decision have on your office?

A: An elected sheriff is more in touch with people and other department heads. He has to deal with municipalities, state, courts, our office and others, so an elected sheriff must structure his department to meet the needs of all this interaction.

I see a certain arrogance in appointed officials. . . . Elected leaders are forced to deal with people, know their concerns, and not just adopt an agenda that is politically in line with the agenda of whoever appointed him.

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