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Dwyer named new circuit judge

March 12, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The call Wednesday evening from Gov. Martin O'Malley, telling Daniel Patrick Dwyer he will become a circuit court judge, was sweet news.

"I was just thrilled," Dwyer said Thursday. "My wife and I were dancing around the kitchen."

O'Malley's office announced Thursday that Dwyer will fill the seat vacated in September by Frederick C. Wright III when he turned 70, the mandatory retirement age for judges in Maryland.

Dwyer, 53, expects to be sworn in next month. He wants to be sure his two adult children will be there.

Dwyer -- who has held the position of domestic relations master in Washington County since 1996 -- was one of eight people to apply for the vacant seat and one of four finalists recommended by a local nominating commission.

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The other finalists were Mary Anne Day, Edward Lester Kuczynski and Dana Moylan Wright.

O'Malley interviewed the finalists Jan. 15.

Circuit court judges serve 15-year terms. If a seat is vacant, the governor names a replacement.

The current salary is $140,352.

This is the fourth time Dwyer was considered for a judgeship in Washington County -- twice for district court and once before for circuit court.

As a domestic relations master, Dwyer hears cases about divorce, custody, visitation, child support and alimony. Hearings are held like a trial, with evidence.

The master recommends a decision for a judge, who might or might not agree.

Dwyer prosecuted cases for the Washington County State's Attorney's Office from 1987 to 1994. He was in charge of the child-support division and handled criminal cases.

He worked in private practice from 1985 to '87 and from 1994 to '97.

Dwyer said his father, William J. Dwyer, would have been proud of this week's news. William Dwyer was a Washington County Commissioner who died in 1978 at age 59.

Daniel Dwyer grew up in Hagerstown, and attended St. Mary School and Saint Maria Goretti High School. He went to Frostburg State College and graduated from University of Baltimore Law School in 1984.

According to the governor's office, Dwyer received the Washington County Department of Social Services Community Partnership Award in 2007 for his dedication to child-support enforcement and foster care.

In 2001, Dwyer received a governor's citation for "support in promoting the opportunities for fathers to become positively involved in the lives of their children," according to a news release from O'Malley's office.

Dwyer said what started as the Fatherhood Initiative is now the Dads Connection, which has a parenting curriculum.

Washington County has an opening for a district court judge. Monday is the deadline for applications.

When appointed, the new judge will replace Ralph H. France II, who is retiring April 30 after nearly 14 years on the bench.

Dwyer said the county's circuit court judges, particularly John H. McDowell, the administrative judge, will pick a new domestic relations master.

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