CAMBRIDGE - At first glance, it was another busy Monday afternoon in historic Circuit Courtroom Number One.
But this particular Monday, Nov. 21, presided over by County Administrative Judge William H. Jones and Magistrate Mary Elliott O'Donnell, marked the stately return of a long held but recently lapsed tradition officially admitting Dorchester County attorneys to practice before bar and bench.
In his opening remarks to the local legal community, Jones acknowledged that, though procedurally low key, the by-the-book swearing in ceremony was, nevertheless, "kind of a big deal."
Successfully navigating the rigorous journey through high school, college, law school and passing the bar is a huge accomplishment, Jones remarked.
The lengthy preparation involves training for the job's long hours, heavy workloads and tireless dedication while upholding the highest professional standards expected of leaders and pillars of the community, Jones said.
For Magistrate O'Donnell, another of the job's inherent rewards comes from having a perpetual "front row seat" to the community's ongoing story.
Both judges noted the unique nature of Dorchester's small but tightly knit professional legal fraternity.
Jones offered insight into the ceremony’s importance in earlier times as providing an opportunity to welcome back those returning from military service and out-of-town law school attendance. But the event hadn't taken place at all since the September 2012 swearing in of attorney Mike Dodd.
Monday's revival of the event also served as Dodd's last official act as Dorchester Bar Association president, standing in for attorney Chris Robinson, who, though a driving force behind its return, was unable to attend after contracting Covid.
Circuit Court Clerk Amy J. Craig performed one of her many duties by administering the Maryland State Constitution oath to Amanda Leonard, Tatiana N. Rendell, Kyle Grusholt and Lisa Windsor. Attorney Philip M. Donoho, also due to take part in the ceremony, was prevented from attending due to illness.
Leonard, a 2008 graduate of Cambridge South Dorchester High School and 2015 graduate of the University of Baltimore Law School, expressed delight in taking part, despite actively practicing law here for the past six years, most recently as assistant and interim state's attorney.
After taking the oath, Craig invited each attorney to sign their name into the official ledger known as the Test Book. After winning reelection in November, Craig will be taking part in a similar ceremony along with Judge Jones, Register of Wills Terry D. Wheatley, Sheriff James W. Phillips Jr., who will swear in his department deputies, and others, including Leonard, elected in November as state's attorney.
Rendell, currently in practice with Robinson, has gotten off to a running start as the Bar Association's new president, planning the group's newly reinstituted holiday party. (During past gatherings, those unwilling to perform during the event's karaoke entertainment were required to donate $100 to charity, Jones mentioned.)
Grusholt, from Charles County, admitted to the Maryland Bar in 2018, joins the Dorchester Bar as a member of the Public Defender's Office.
Windsor has been practicing law in Cambridge from the High Street office of Glen Burnie-based ZSTS Law Group.
Donoho has practiced computer and general law in Cambridge and worked in the State's Attorney's Office.