Sarah Proctor is a candidate for Judge to the Circuit Court, Charles County, in the 2022 election. She has been a prosecutor for 19 years, collectively, in Florida and Maryland.

For Charles County, she was a prosecutor from 2014-2020. She prosecuted complex cases, including homicide, sexual abuse, child abuse, and violent crimes. Prosecuting cases has given her sound legal knowledge of the law, evidentiary rules, and applying common sense to the facts before her.

Her experience as a prosecutor has overlapped with other sections of the law, including family law, civil discovery process, and application of insurance liability at times.

She believes her experience as a prosecutor has given her an invaluable skill set; legal knowledge, decision-making, and litigation, which will apply to her duties as a Judge of the Circuit Court. Her service as a prosecutor has also blessed her with diversified relationships, which she will continue to build in our community.

The foundations of accountability, equality, fairness, and transparency are her core beliefs, which will apply to her duties as Circuit Court Judge. She will do her part to protect our community; to help ensure a healthy and safe community for all to live and work in.

She resides in La Plata with her family. her husband works for a local lawn care company that serves multiple Maryland counties. Outside work, the family spends time with their son, friends, and family.

Below is a set of questions submitted to Mrs. Proctor

What issues are involved in deciding whether or not to admit evidence of battered woman’s syndrome or battered child syndrome?

Several layers of the Rules of Evidence need to be met

  • First, the expert has to be qualified, appropriateness of testimony, and lastly, sufficient basis
  • The expert can not usurp the role of the jury as to guilt or innocence
  • The Judge will have to make a decision on whether the testimony as a whole is more probative versus prejudicial, which is an abuse of discretion standard

What do you believe to be the root causes of the high number of juvenile offenders?

What changes can the court system make to reduce these numbers? Root causes; not sure there is just one. I have not read or studied enough articles/studies to answer a single root cause. But I can speak from experience in court, lack of parental involvement, and lack of accountability within the home. The reasoning for such is not clear; we have parents working multiple jobs to keep the roof over our heads.

Changing the trend of juvenile offenders will take more than the court system; community involvement – community accountability.

Do you believe the composition of juries adequately and fairly reflects society? Why or why not? If not, what can we do to change this? What are the pros and cons of using driver’s license registration as a source of jurors?

I don’t have any research on studies of the compositions of juries. So I can only speak to my experience, that yes, they do. If either party feels the panel is insufficient, they make the appropriate objection and request remedy to the Court, but I have not had this experience in Charles County.

The con for using the MVA is that not everyone updates their addresses on file on time. So the number of summons sent out versus what can be served is a consistent problem. The Jury clerk may want 80 jurors, but in reality, you summon 300 in hopes of getting 80.

How could the costs of judicial administration be reduced? Can you give us a specific example of how you have reduced costs in your law practice/court?

Until I am elected, I can see the administrative side completely as an outsider – effective and efficient court scheduling of cases. Too often, we go to court for no reason to move to the next date.

In the area of hate crimes, what are some of the issues in balancing free speech rights against the need to control offensive activity?

The constitutional right of free speech. Constitutional rights are at the top of the food chain for law. Any law imposed must be in accordance with the Constitution.

Effective & Efficient scheduling

What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any?

Length of time it takes for the scientific evidence to be processed. The labs are backlogged, and cases have to sit.

Under what circumstances can the courts seal court files or close court proceedings?

Closing the Courtroom is for adoption, mental health hearings, and some juvenile, otherwise very rare.

Court sealing files are usually juvenile and mental health related.

What criteria would you use to decide whether to impose or affirm sentences outside standard ranges?

Maryland sentencing Commission establishes guidelines for sentences, including reasons for departure. In the end, it is judicial discretion that is subject to review. For me, the question is what is best for the
Health and safety of the community. Do we need rehabilitation or retribution?

What factors are considered in granting and setting bail amounts for defendants? What do you believe is the primary consideration?

The factors are defined in Md rule 4-216.1, but the factors give the Judge discretion to set bail or not. Again my priority is the health and safety of the community. Risks to the public, the defendant, or the victim are considerations per statute to hold someone without bail.

If you become aware of unethical conduct on the part of a trial advocate in a case in which you were presiding, how would you handle it? Do you believe judges should be required to report attorney misconduct?

Judges have to remain neutral to all parties. Therefore, it is not the role of the Judge to fix any misconduct or investigate it. Reporting it is the right call. As there is a specific agency within the Court system to investigate complaints. And if found, there is a wide range of confidential resolutions and some that are not.

If you were responsible for deciding what cases would be tried in what order, how would you split the court’s time between the criminal calendar and the civil calendar?

In my experience, this is not a square number and stats answer. A murder trial can last 5-8 business days or even longer. This goes the same for the civil trial. This is where effective and efficient scheduling conferences must happen, so the Court knows what time is needed, when, and where. A basic layout game plan is necessary, but flexibility also needs to be built for the two-week civil jury trial or murder.

To what extent have you practiced in the area of criminal law? Family law? Complex civil legislation?

Criminal law is 100% – 19 years as a prosecutor. In practicing criminal law, due to the crimes against children, I have had experience in family law. As to civil, my practice has to be in the area of compulsory discovery thru criminal cases.

I also have personal experience in family law, divorce, and child custody. So I do know the importance of family law.

What do you believe causes the high rates of minority incarceration?

I would need to review the studies to answer.

Violent crime, particularly youth violence, is perceived to be at a crisis level by many experts today. What, if any, do you believe is the appropriate role of the judiciary in addressing this perceived crisis?

The Judges have to remain neutral at all times. We can not fix the cause and be the decider of fate. Otherwise, Judges would have to recuse themselves inside the Courtroom. Based on my experience, being part of a community discussion on what is being seen in court is acceptable within the rules of ethics.

Do you believe there is such a thing as a “victimless crime?” If so, what offenses would you place in this category?

I do not believe in victimless because the community as a whole is a victim.

What do you think about the growing prison population? What response should society have to prison overcrowding?

I would need to review the studies to answer.

Do you feel the War on Drugs has been effective or ineffective?

No feelings one way or the other

Do you believe there is an underrepresentation of women or people of color in the court system? If so, how would you work to correct the problem?

I do not feel women or people of color are underrepresented in professional employment. As it stands now, there are three women, all of color, one male of color, and one male, white, on the bench. The State Attorney and Deputy State Attorney are of color, 1 being a female. So in Charles County, I do not see this as an issue in the Court system.

Do you believe all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not, what can be done to provide wider and better access?

The access is there; there is legal help offered at the Courthouse. It is getting education and knowledge out to the public and, of course, transportation or wifi for those that need it to access the help.

Character

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a case, wishing you had handled something differently? If so, please describe one situation.

Awe, the never-ending to-do list is always causing sleep struggles. As to differences in a case, no, because I follow the rules. I accepted this job 19 years ago, which means you accept the rules. I do wish, at times, I could have done more, or I could have helped someone. There have been plenty of times that I have had to decline charges either because of legal or evidentiary issues. Those cases have sometimes caused me a lack of sleep on a personal level, but professionally would not change.

Please describe one instance in which you faced an ethical dilemma and how you resolved it.

I was the complainant who filed the misconduct complaint against Judge Hennessy. I was aware that doing so would cost me, and it did. There were several reverse attacks on me, but I just communicated with the judicial Disabilities commission during the process and moved forward. I resolved this by continuing to follow my ethical duties and push forward.

What kind of jobs, interests, or volunteer activities did you pursue during school and law school?

I did lots of volunteering at my school and church. Mentor for kids
Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity

Center for Independent Living of N. Florida for work during college

Do you believe that voluntary professional and community service is necessary for persons holding public office? What forms of voluntary professional and community service have you been involved with? Currently?

Yes, I do. You have to be balanced and within the rules of ethics, but it can be done. I have been hosting a health and safety block party for the past six years. I founded it the first year; after year one, I teamed up with Benjamin Stoddert. It is a day of bringing healthy and safe community resources to the school and for the families and kids to have fun and socialize with the school’s administration. The event is free annually; car seats, flu shots, covid/boosters, mental health, financial, DSS, MSP, CCSO, game trucks, carnival-style games, jazzercize, music, food, and fun.

I volunteer in youth sports and at my child’s school regularly.

As a prospective judge, what do you consider your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?

  • Greatest – is common sense and problem-solving to get the job done CORRECTLY with my extensive knowledge and experience.
  • Weakest – I have been told this many times, I take too much work on – I forget about taking care of myself.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your legal career? In your personal life?

Legal – the Thanks from the community Personal – my family

If elected or re-elected to the position you seek, what is the minimum number of years you intend to serve before seeking a judicial post at a higher level? What is your commitment to serving out the full term?

I do not have any other plans but serving a full term

What are the major influences in your life? Why?

My parents, my father’s work ethic, my mother’s stay-at-home juggling five kids and schedules, sports, work, etc.

What injustices have you witnessed in or outside the courtroom, and what was your response to those events?

Injustices have been witnessed, but even as a prosecutor living inside the jurisdiction, ethics tie my hands on what I can personally do. Most of the time I rely on my faith and personal prayer to God.

Are there any specific cases in which you now know you need to disqualify yourself?

As I sit here, the only disqualification that comes to mind is any case I handled as a prosecutor. Since I have been in St Mary’s for almost three years, that should be minimal to Violation of Probations. I am sure if elected, other instances may appear for disqualification, and I will deal with them according to the rule.

Describe your most difficult case.

State v. Deangelo Hemsley – Murder

The Defendant filed a plea of not criminally responsible. He had a history of mental health, but the law on criminally responsible is so finite to the time of the crime it requires knowledge and details – a lot to overcome. It was a long case – close to two years. Motions were complex and extensive on both sides. Consulting with experts in mental health is one to educate me, so I understand to educate the jury. Still, two then determine if there is enough evidence to overcome such a plea.

I had to be very sharp on the rules of evidence for trial. This process of trial is more complex because it is bifurcated. First, the jury finds the Defendant committed the acts charged; then, we return to trial for determination of criminally responsible. In this case, the State hospital, in my opinion, rubber-stamped its opinion. The work was shoddy. I was able, on cross-examination, to show that, coupled with presenting our expert. The jury returned a verdict of guilty and criminally responsible. This was very detailed and complex, legally and evidentiary.


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...

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