Court losing 2 of its 3 masters

Two of Howard County's three Circuit Court masters have given notice that they plan to retire or resign within two weeks of each other this fall, and court officials say they are scrambling to start what will likely be a weeks-long process to find replacements.

With the departures of Masters in Chancery Bernard A. Raum and Nancy L. Haslinger, who will leave Sept. 30 and Oct. 15 respectively, Howard County will lose the only two masters who hear a host of cases, ranging from juvenile crime to children in need of assistance to custody issues.


The county's third master, Elaine Patrick, hears only state-involved child support and paternity cases.

"It's about time," said Raum of his decision to retirement. A master since 1981, he gave official notice of his retirement in late July. "Twenty-three years of hearing other people's troubles is enough."


Haslinger, who is technically resigning, said her choice of a last day was "sort of random." She gave notice Thursday.

"It's one of those things I always said, 'When it's time, I'll know,' " said Haslinger, a master since 1994. "I know."

Both masters said it was time to move on, each to different pursuits. Raum, 60, said he plans to write and is hoping to teach at the graduate level; Haslinger, 57, wants to spend more time with her husband, who retired last year, and her 1-year-old granddaughter.

Court officials said that while they will miss the experience and service the two have provided, bringing in two new masters at the same time will allow them to take a close look at the way the courts conduct business.

"It gives an opportunity to look at the system as a whole and start fresh," said Judge Diane O. Leasure, the county's administrative circuit judge.

Whether the jobs can be filled by the time Raum and Haslinger leave is not known, but court officials said they plan to move quickly and are hoping to begin advertising for the positions as early as this week. The county's five Circuit judges will select the two new masters.

"We're on the fast track," said Howard Circuit Court Administrator John Shatto.

While the masters' decisions are recommendations and not rulings - a judge must sign any orders - their jobs are crucial to moving cases through the system, Shatto said.


Even if the two jobs are not filled by Oct. 15, time-sensitive cases, particularly those involving juveniles, will still have to be heard, officials said.

Leasure said the judges on the county's circuit bench likely will help as needed.

"I imagine we'll all pitch in to do what needs to be done in order for the work of the court to be concluded," she said.