Attorney works to resolve support, abuse, neglect cases

July 06, 1997


Staff Writer

Daniel H. Brown stood before the judge after spending three nights in jail for not paying child support.

His excuse?

"It slipped my mind," he said.

Brown, 33, said his $34 weekly payment usually came straight out of his paycheck, but he switched jobs and the payments didn't transfer.

"I went in Monday to pay for June and learned there was a bench warrant for my arrest," he said.

He was locked up three nights until that Friday's child support enforcement hearings where he agreed to sign a promissory contract to continue paying child support.


"All right then, you're free to go," Circuit Judge Darrow Glaser told Brown, who hadn't showered, shaved or changed clothes since his arrest.

Brown's was one of 18 cases on the Friday docket, all of which were brought before the judge by Timothy S. Gordon.

Gordon is an attorney assigned to the Washington County Department of Social Services by the Maryland Attorney General's office. Part of his job is to handle all of the county's 6,500 child support cases.

"That's for 7,300 children," he said.

"We use the judge as the boogeyman," he said in Courtroom 1 at the Washington County Circuit Court.

"Somewhere, there is a child with a mother breaking her tail to make ends meet, while the guys here are giving us excuses."

Raymond Cooper, 47, missed a court date because of a heart attack.

"You're not that old. What are you doing having a heart attack?" asked Glaser.

A younger dad, Michael Steven Moroz, was shot three times during a robbery, which caused him to fall behind in child support payments.

Jeffrey Washington told the judge, "You see your honor, I got stabbed."

Such extenuating circumstances, all verified by attending deputies, made it difficult for Gordon do his job - to get them to pay. But these three were aberrations.

In three hours, Gordon collected $4,434. A decent return on the $28 an hour the state pays him for his time.

"This system is designed to extract money," he said with a nod and pursed upper lip.

In addition to child support, Gordon oversees another 1,200 child abuse and neglect cases. This year, under a separate contract with the Department of Social Services, he'll earn $45,000 for protecting kids against abusive parents.

"I have a six-month-old girl with gonorrhea, and it's not congenital. I don't do this for the money. ... The work is rewarding to the extent you can protect these children," he said.

Gordon said he relies on arbitration and out-of-court settlements to keep up with the close to 8,000 cases he handles.

Now, with new federal and state incentives to cut costs in social services, Gordon has the go-ahead to streamline his work even further.

For example, of the 59 child support cases on their way to the June 27 hearings, only a third came before Judge Glaser. The rest were worked out ahead of time through a new arbitration process run by the agency.

The department has an exemplary track record compared to other counties. In the last year, it collected $5 million of $7 million owed in child support, making it one of the most effective in the state, said Clifford Layman, executive director of the Maryland Child-Support Enforcement Administration.

Washington County collected 73 percent of court-ordered payments in April, he said. Allegheny collected 65 percent. Frederick collected 67 percent. And Baltimore city - among the lowest - collected only 33 percent.

Gordon credits the county's success to an activist social service agency and tough judges, "We're blessed with a real good judiciary."

Gordon also has a private practice where he handles mostly divorce cases and personal injuries.

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