Garrett County Judicial Vacancy

Although our lawyers cover personal injury and medical malpractice cases throughout Maryland, I have to admit we have not handled many Garrett County personal injury cases. Garrett County is the westernmost county in Maryland, and I think the many malpractice and accident victims in Garrett County unfortunately turn to Pittsburgh lawyers in serious injury and malpractice cases.  For lots of reasons, I think that is a huge mistake, particularly in serious injury and wrongful death cases.   But it is what it is. You can learn more about cases in this jurisdiction here.

Garrett County

There are not a lot of serious personal injury cases in Garrett County

Apparently, for District Court claims in Garrett County, to not have many Garrett County claims is a good thing because the Oakland court is without a judge, according to a Maryland Daily Record article today. Over fourteen months have passed since the tragic death of Garrett County’s District Court Judge Ralph M. Burnett from colon cancer complications. Judge Burnett, who apparently was a tireless advocate in the fight against prostate cancer for over 10 years, was Garrett County’s only district court judge. Today his seat remains unfilled. Apparently, the nominating commission for Allegany and Garrett counties recommended two of the four candidates that applied. The nominating commission forwarded the names of Raymond G. Strubin, a Garrett County public defender and, and Daryl T. Walters, a Garrett County Master, to Governor O’Malley. But the Governor requested three names and asked for the reconsideration of Stephan M. Moylan (who I believe is also a public defender in Garrett County) and Lisa Thayer Welch, who is a State’s Attorney in Garrett County. The commission bitterly did just that, but still refused to recommend Ms. Welch or Mr. Moylan. Interestingly, according to the Cumberland Times-News in April, a petition gained 747 signatures requesting Governor O’Malley investigate the “official conduct of the State’s Attorney for Garrett County, Maryland, Lisa Thayer Welch, and the Sheriff of Garrett County, Maryland, Gary Berkebile” in regard to their handling of a shooting involving Sheriff’s Berkebile’s brother-in-law. I get the impression that the Sheriff Berkebile was more the target of outrage because of the way the investigation was handled when his brother-in-law shot a friend at the friend’s house while drinking at 2:00 a.m. in the morning.

The Crazy Facts

Apparently, the victim was discussing with his ex-girlfriend getting back together. But the ex-girlfriend was the shooter’s current girlfriend while all three were in the shooter’s house. Talk about a recipe for disaster. Then, throw in a little – probably a lot – of alcohol. Shockingly, an argument ensued and during the argument, the victim grabbed a knife from the shooter’s kitchen, and cut the shooter’s thumb. (I’m not sure why the victim was so mad.) In what could not be described as a proportionate response, the shooter went into his bedroom and retrieved a gun. After a brief exchange of words, the shooter shot the victim three times. (The take home message particularly for those of you under 30 out there: nothing good happens at 1:00 a.m. No by 1:00 a.m., if you have not accomplished what you are trying to accomplish, it is time to call it quits. Nothing. Ever. Trust me. Now back to our story….) The brother-in-law claimed self-defense, the investigation moved slowly and evidence was missed, according to the story in the Cumberland Times-News (think O.J. to the 3rd power). But the attack on Ms. Welch was that she waited 10 months to file charges and then agreed to an “imperfect self defense” plea just last week that has a maximum sentence of only 10 years, in spite of the fact that an eye witness clearly rebuts any notion that the shooting was in self-defense. The whole point is that Ms. Welch obviously has made – rightly or wrongly – a few enemies along the way. (I kept babbling on because they story is interesting, as is the underlying politics.) Meanwhile, the Daily Record reports that Garrett County Circuit Court Judge James L. Sherbin (who announced his retirement in 2014) along with Allegany County’s two District Court judges, Judge Edward A. Malloy, Jr. and Judge H. Jack Price, have been coming in from Cumberland to help with the workload created by the vacancy. But you have to think these guys are getting tired!

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