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Deputy state's attorneys make office more efficient

November 19, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - With the court caseload growing, Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong has named a second deputy state's attorney to help more efficiently run the office.

Former Assistant State's Attorney Steven Kessell, 43, was promoted to deputy state's attorney Oct. 25. He will administer caseloads for the State's Attorney's Office in Washington County District Court.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael, 39, who was promoted from an assistant state's attorney position in July, handles the administration of cases for the office in the Washington County Circuit Court.

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Strong said that having two deputy state's attorneys will help "increase our effectiveness and productivity without having to add another body. We need to explore within ourselves how to make ourselves better."

Strong said the State's Attorney's Office was given the option of appointing a second deputy during the last Maryland General Assembly legislative session. He said the appointment was to be made from within the office.

Strong said Washington County's court caseload is the sixth highest among Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City.

There are 14 attorneys who work at the Washington County office, Strong said.

Michael said county prosecutors handled 57 jury trials last year. He said that Frederick County had eight trials, Anne Arundel County had 56 and Montgomery County had 83.

"It's very difficult to try a lot of cases, for the state to stand its ground and to still find the time to get these matters closed," Michael said. "That is the balancing act I have to do."

While Michael balances the cases in Circuit Court, Kessell manages the case flow in District Court.

Kessell said 412 criminal cases were filed in District Court in September.

Strong said he appointed Kessell, a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, because of his trial experience and also because he had managed a private practice before becoming a prosecutor.

"He works well with staff in involving them with the changes," he said.

Strong said he appointed Michael, a graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law, because of his trial experience and recent work in major homicide cases.

Michael was promoted when Strong became the county state's attorney. Strong's appointment followed the appointment of former State's Attorney Kenneth Long to a District Court judge seat.

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