Lawyer chosen to fill bench; Governor appoints Michael Galloway after Halstad declines; 'It's a bittersweet feeling'; Attorneys practiced law together for nine years


Three days after the sudden withdrawal of a newly appointed judge nominee, the governor yesterday named Michael M. Galloway, a veteran Westminster attorney, to fill the same seat on the Carroll Circuit Court bench.

On Monday, Damian L. Halstad, Galloway's law partner in the firm of Hoffman, Comfort, Galloway & Offutt, turned down the post he had accepted Oct. 13 from Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"It's a bittersweet feeling, receiving the appointment after my partner withdrew," said Galloway. "My immediate reaction is one of feeling very humbled, overwhelmed, hoping I am up to the job."

Galloway, 53, would replace Francis M. Arnold, who stepped down in June after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

In announcing the appointment, Glendening said Galloway is widely respected in the Carroll legal community for his family law and litigation experience.

He praised Galloway for his commitment to resolving domestic disputes, a reference to Galloway's service since 1997 as a settlement conference master for domestic cases, where he meets with families and tries to resolve their conflicts before they go to trial.

Halstad, who has practiced law with Galloway for nine years, said, "Mike is a terrific guy with terrific judgment.

"I said to the governor on Monday that all four remaining finalists would make terrific judges," Halstad said. "I personally know Mike will do a great job."

Halstad, a member of the Westminster Common Council, regretted losing a law partner, but "Mike will be just around the corner. I hope he still lunches with us from time to time."

Halstad, a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican county and the youngest of five nominees presented to the governor, withdrew noting political conflicts his nomination had caused in the community.

In his written announcement, Glendening praised Halstad, saying he had "placed the quality of the law and the integrity of the bench above partisan politics."

"That was kind of the governor," said Halstad. "I am going to save those words."

Galloway, a Democrat, said he hoped he would not experience the kind of political backlash that Halstad did.

"I don't have much of a history in being politically active," he said, "but I believe I have lots of supporters from both parties."

Galloway said he hopes to wind up his law practice in about 30 days. No date for his swearing-in has been set, but he said he expects to take the bench in about the same time frame.

Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester attorney and Republican, called the appointment "super."

"I can support the governor in his appointment of Mike Galloway," said Getty. "I would not think there would be too much opposition locally to the appointment."

Galloway will face a primary election in March. The general election is in November 2000. He said he wouldn't campaign door to door, but hoped his supporters would push for his election in a contested race.

Thomas Stansfield, the only Republican to make the finalist list, said he was "content with the appointment. I have no problems at all."

"I think Mike Galloway is an excellent choice," said Stansfield, a Westminster attorney. "I have a great deal of respect for him."

Two other finalists, Westminster attorneys Charles M. Preston and Fred S. Hecker, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Before beginning private practice in 1985, Galloway served as an assistant state's attorney. Before his legal career, he taught English at Westminster High School and coached football and soccer.

He and his wife, Margaret Louise Galloway, have three adult children. She is deputy clerk for the Circuit Court of Carroll County.

Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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