J. Barry Hughes trades in a law practice for a robe and a gavel today when he is sworn in as a judge for the Carroll County Circuit Court.
Hughes, 55, is expected to begin hearing cases Tuesday. "I'm ready to go to work," he said this week.
Hughes fills the vacancy left by Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who retired in January. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed Hughes to the court last month after a judicial nominating commission submitted a list of six applicants at the end of March.
Hughes has divided his cases among his partners at the law firm of Hollman, Hughes, Maguire, Timchula and Titus in Westminster. Some cases will go to other firms. Hughes is resigning as firm president and will be replaced by John Maguire.
Hughes attended the trial judge orientation program at the Maryland Judicial Institute in Annapolis, which coordinates a week of classes for newcomers to the bench.
When Hughes takes the bench, he will be overseeing a criminal docket. Circuit Court judges in Carroll work on a rotation that includes two months of criminal cases and one month of civil cases.
During his tenure as a trial lawyer, Hughes argued criminal and civil matters before Carroll County judges - including murder and custody cases.
He recently won the acquittal of a McDaniel College student who was accused of assaulting two sophomores after a racially charged verbal exchange. Hughes also represented one of three men who caused the death of a Mount Airy Middle School teacher while drag-racing on Route 140 in 1999. All were convicted of manslaughter and assault.
Hughes has practiced law in Carroll County since 1977 and became a member of the Bar Association of Carroll County in 1979.
During the selection process to fill Burns' seat, Hughes received the most "highly qualified" votes - 47 - in a secret ballot taken by the bar association in March. The vote is typically used to gauge the legal community's preference on judicial appointments.
Before earning a degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976, Hughes taught social studies for two years at his alma mater, Cardinal Gibbons High School in Baltimore. He was also in the Army Reserves for two years.