John E. Kelly, a Fallston lawyer with 24 years' experience as a prosecutor, government attorney and civil litigator, has been named the fifth Circuit judge for Harford County.
Mr. Kelly, 50, "was clearly the universal choice of all the various legal constituencies we spoke with in Harford County," Gov. Parris N. Glendening said in announcing the appointment Friday. He was chosen from 23 applicants.
"I believe a judge should treat everyone with respect," Mr. Kelly said. "I have the right temperament to be a judge. I'm willing to listen."
Mr. Kelly, president-elect of the Harford County Bar Foundation, has helped provide free legal services to hundreds of poor people in Harford.
Lawyers associated with the foundation offered $200,000 worth of free legal advice to 450 people last year, Mr. Kelly said.
The foundation is a community outreach arm of the Harford County Bar Association. Mr. Kelly also served a one-year term as president of the association four years ago.
Mr. Kelly said his varied experiences in criminal and civil law have given him a "perspective on things."
In his private practice, he has tried a variety of cases, including those involving personal injuries, product liability and domestic disputes. "You name the kind of case and I've tried it," he said
Mr. Kelly grew up in Towson and attended Loyola High School and Loyola College. His late father, Charles B. Kelly, was also an attorney and served as legal adviser to the Maryland Insurance Commission.
After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1970, Mr. Kelly served four years as an assistant state's attorney in Harford. He also served five years as county attorney in Harford, the chief legal adviser to the county executive.
The government positions were part time, so he maintained his private law practice. Before starting his own practice in 1985, he was with the now-defunct firm of Hatem, Kelly, Baldwin and Marshall.
Mr. Kelly's wife, Marby, is a Realtor in Harford. They have two sons.
The increasing caseload in Harford courts has made a fifth Circuit judge necessary. That caseload also has made the job more demanding.
"It is a much more pressurized situation than it was 10 years ago," Mr. Kelly said.
Mr. Kelly, whose position is up for election in November 1996, will be paid $93,534 annually. He will begin serving his judgeship in about a month.
The Circuit Court and the Harford County Council, which share space in the Bel Air courthouse, have been squabbling lately about where to put a fifth judge's courtroom. The council has refused to vacate its offices, meaning the five judges will have to share four courtrooms.
Mr. Kelly is among the first appointments resulting from the governor's recently named Trial Court Judicial Nominating Commissions.
In naming new commission members last month, the governor said he wanted to reform the process of selecting judges.
In particular, Mr. Glendening said he wanted to increase the number of women and minorities participating in the selection process.