Judge Newell seeks full term
— Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell is running for his first 15-year term presiding over the court.
Newell, who served as Caroline County State’s Attorney for 14 years before being appointed to the judgeship in 2016 by Gov. Larry
Hogan, must be confirmed by voters to a full term.
Newell and challenger Dennis Farina appeared on both the Democratic and Republican ballots in June’s primary election. Newell won more Republican votes, while Farina won more Democratic, sending them both to the general election.
In March, Hogan endorsed Newell’s election campaign.
“Judge Newell served the citizens of Caroline County with distinction as their state’s attorney for 14 years,” Hogan said. “I was honored to appoint him in 2016, and I am happy to endorse Judge Newell today. I urge the citizens to confirm my choice in the 2018 election.”
Before Hogan appointed him, Newell had filed to run in an election against previous Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Karen Murphy Jensen. When Jensen decided instead to resign and withdrew, the election was cancelled, and Newell applied for the appointment.
“I’ve never wavered in my interest in serving,” Newell said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to serve the county.”
Newell said the last two years serving as circuit court judge have been interesting, and he hopes voters decide to keep him on the bench.
He said he has improved efficiency by making sure court starts on time every day, and rearranging the case flow to be a better use of everyone’s time. In addition, he eliminated one staff position, saving taxpayer dollars.
Newell took over the juvenile delinquency docket, until then assigned to a magistrate, and implemented the first Veterans Court program on the Eastern Shore, a form of enhanced probation combining regular court hearings and traditional treatment with Veterans Affairs services, to keep veterans suffering from drug and alcohol problems out of jail.
“It’s been a pretty good success,” Newell said of Veterans Court and the similar Drug Court program. “We’ve had a few wash out and go to jail, but you’d be surprised by the number who, when you hold their feet to the fire, respond. Some for the first time in their life are working, paying taxes and taking care of their kids. It’s nice to see results, instead of them falling back into crime, impacting them and their family.”
In other cases, in which other people are victimized, perpetrators have to be punished appropriately, Newell said.
He said looking over the sentences he has handed down, 70 percent were within guidelines. In about 10 percent of the cases, all misdemeanors, he sentenced below guidelines, and in the remaining 20 percent, mostly sex offense and felony drug cases, he went above the guideline.
“Some people think I’m being extra tough or extra lenient, but I’m just trying to take each case individually and do what’s in the best interest of society, to either help them or put them in a position they can’t harm anyone else,” Newell said.
Newell is a native of Chestertown, and has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science from Washington College.
He spent two years as a professional river guide in West Virginia before starting law school at Washington and Lee University in Virginia.
Newell graduated from law school in 1998. His first job out of school was as a law clerk in Queen Anne’s County. He joined the Caroline County Office of the Public Defender in 1999, then served as a deputy state’s attorney in Kent County.
In 2002, he ran for and won election to his first term as Caroline County’s state’s attorney. In his time in office, Newell handled all the county’s murder and felony drug cases, and most sex offense cases.
In his 14 years as the county’s state’s attorney, Newell focused on felony drug, sex offense and child abuse cases, plus a dozen murder cases. He also oversaw the execution of the first wiretap investigation in Caroline County, which dismantled the county’s main heroin distribution ring.
“As a prosecutor, there were some times I really felt that was as far as I could go to see justice done; I could only deliver it to court,” Newell said. “The first time someone got a fully suspended sentence after being convicted by a jury of rape, that was the first time I thought about getting into another arena.”