"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightning bug" Mark Twain

 

Monday, October 11th 1999, was the date for the Retirement Reception honoring Circuit Court Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt. The event was held at the Newton White Mansion in Mitchellville, Maryland.

Profile of Excellence: Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt

Arthur M. "Monty" Ahalt retired from the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on September 17, 1999, after 17 years on the bench. He was one of the youngest judges to be appointed to the Circuit Court on February 9, 1982. Judge Ahalt is known for running an efficient courtroom, and for his sometimes endless, but very effective, pre-trial conferences. But perhaps the things he's best known for are his tireless leadership on the construction of the new addition to the Courthouse and the implementation of the computer system into the Courthouse and the Prince George's County Bar Association. Yes, most recently he has become the "guru" of courtroom virtual reality. He single handedly brought us all, kicking and screaming, into the 20th century. Just in time for the 21st century.

Judge Ahalt was born April 27, 1942, and has been a life-long resident of Prince George's County. He received his B.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Maryland in 1964 and his J.D. from the Washington College of Law of the American University in 1967. He was a law clerk for Blair H. Smith, the Honorable Ralph W. Powers and the Honorable J. Dudley Digges in the Seventh Judicial Circuit. Judge Ahalt was admitted to the Bar of Maryland in 1967, and practiced law, concentrating in litigation, until his appointment.

Judge Ahalt is a member of the Prince George's County Bar Association, where he served numerous terms on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors and as President from 1979 to 1980. Judge Ahalt is also a member of the Maryland State Bar Association having served on its Board of Governors for three terms, as Chairman of the Association's Young Lawyers Section from 1973 to 1974, as well as other committees. In addition, he is a member of the American Bar Association, having served as a delegate to the House of Delegates, American Judges Association, State Delegate to the National Conference of State Trial Judges, and a Barrister with the American Inns of Court. He is a Fellow of the Maryland Bar Foundation and has served on the Foundation's Executive Committee since 1990 and was Chairman of the Fellows in 1992-1993.

In 1969, the Chairman of the Young Lawyers' Section of the Maryland State Bar Association, John F. McAuliffe, began to advocate the public need for education about the law. He appointed a young lawyer, Arthur M. Monty Ahalt, as the Chair of a newly-formed committee named The Youth and Law Committee. That committee was charged with the responsibility of establishing means and methods of public education about the law, particularly in the public and private school systems, kindergarten through twelfth grade.

For the next 25 years, lawyer Monty Ahalt, then Judge Monty Ahalt, led the Bar's efforts to promote the public understanding of the law. For five years he chaired the Young Lawyers' Committee on Youth and Law and in 1973 successfully advocated the creation of a Special Committee of the Maryland State Bar Association on Law-Related Education. This committee became the first committee of the State Bar Association to allow non-lawyer participating and voting members.

For over twenty years, Judge Ahalt has been a nationally recognized advocate, lecturer and author in the field of Law-Related Education. He has served as Chairman of the Law-Related Education Committee of the Maryland State Bar Association from 1973 to the present. Among his publications are: Understanding The Judicial Branch of the Government; Law-Related Education­A Ten Year Experience; Sexual Harassment and Judicial Decision Making; Character Controls Conduct; and A Juror's Guide to Understanding the Judicial Branch of the Government. He has been the principal lecturer at numerous teacher education and training seminars and conferences. As a result of Judge Ahalt's efforts, over 20,000 teachers have received training in the field of Law-Related Education. This teacher training effort impacts over 700,000 Maryland primary and secondary students each year. Many credit Judge Ahalt with single handedly teaching Maryland's children about the law. In 1996 Judge Ahalt was awarded the Isadore Starr Award from the American Bar Association. This award is the highest award of the ABA recognizing excellence in law related education.

Judge Ahalt's leadership has also resulted in one of the largest number of lawyer and non-lawyer participants in State Bar Associations. Every year over 6,000 hours of pro bono service by lawyers having a value of over $300,000 is contributed. Lawyers participate as mock trial coaches, judges, writers, teacher seminar lecturers, classroom resources, mentors, mediator trainers, workshop moderators, drama actors and summer institute facilitators.

As a result of Judge Ahalt's leadership, the committee has raised in excess of $5 million from public and private foundations. These funds have allowed for the publication of over 20 teacher guides for use in state classrooms as well as numerous classroom teaching aides. They have also produced a broadcast quality videotape entitled Good Times, Bad Times: Drugs, Youth & the Judiciary. These funds additionally produced the first remedial interactive computer software package covering the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, CITED.

Judge Ahalt has often stated that "the law is the skin which holds all human endeavors together. It is the sum total of man's morality." It is his stated goal to enhance the public understanding of the law by utilizing the legal profession's vast resources of knowledge, energy, persuasion and leadership.

During his career, Judge Ahalt maintained an active trial calendar, having tried over 750 jury trials. He has served as chairman of the Circuit Court Building Committee and was responsible for the planning and construction in 1991 of the Court's 400,000 square foot, $70 million new facility. He was Chairman of the Court's Technology and Settlement Conference Committees. In addition, he was appointed supervising judge of the Court's Civil Differentiated Case Management System in 1994, an assignment he enthusiastically performed until 1997.

Judge Ahalt has evaluated the jury value of over 20,000 injuries as a neutral case evaluator for litigants in the court's settlement practice. He lectures before numerous groups of judges, lawyers, insurance adjusters and court employees on evaluating risk. He has compiled a group of 20 recurring accidents and injuries and a method of evaluating the jury's potential entitled Evaluating Risk, a tool that has proven to be very valuable to members of the legal community.

As Chairman of the court's Technology Committee, Judge Ahalt has been responsible for organizing the court's national electronic filing pilot entitled JusticeLINK. This pilot represents the first comprehensive effort nationally to file pleadings electronically and to organizethe Court's information electronically so that it is available to the public through electronic communications. In 1994 Judge Ahalt also served as a committee member of Advisory Committee on Computer-Aided Transcription and Court Application, a national committee appointed through the National Center for State Courts and the State Justice Institute.

Judge Ahalt is a nationally recognized advocate, lecturer, and presenter of technology programs which aid the courts of the country in conducting the business of dispute resolution. He has made presentations to the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, the American Bar Association's tech show, the Maryland Bar Association's mid-winter and annual meetings and the Prince George's County Bar Association membership meetings. He is on the faculty of the Institute for Court Management-National Center for State Courts where he has conducted seminars on electronic filing, electronic public access to the courts and public policy considerations of electronic public access. He has published articles on The Promise of Electronic Filing, A Public-Private Partnership and Electronic Filing - The Need, The Change, The Promise and The Value. He presents a three-day seminar on Electronic Public Access Issues & Technologies along with other Institute faculty.

Judge Ahalt also publishes a monthly technology article entitled Virtualcourthouse.com in the Prince George's County Bar NewsJournal. This article is available on the Internet at: www.pgcba.com .

Judge Ahalt has received the Distinguished Service Award and the Outstanding Service Award of the Maryland State Bar Association. He has been named Employer of the Year by the Maryland Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs and is also listed in Who's Who in American Law.

Judge Ahalt is active in his community having served on youth boards, as an elder of Hope Presbyterian Church, as trustee for Riverdale Presbyterian Church, as a Boys and Girls Club coach in soccer, basketball and baseball, and a District Chairman for the Maryland Educational Foundation of the University of Maryland. He presently attends the Evangel Church in Mitchellville-Upper Marlboro, where he teaches a course at the Central Bible School entitled God in Government.

Behind all of these outstanding accomplishments is a man who is religious, compassionate, caring, and humorous. He has always been available to help colleagues with problems, whether it is personal or professional. He is a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife of 37 years, Sandy, have three fantastic children, Kevin, Kimberly and Brent (an Associate with Knight, Manzi, Nussbaum and LaPlaca), who have blessed them with two grandchildren, Justin and Caroline, with a third on the way.

We will miss Judge Ahalt's tireless energy around the Courthouse; many of us will miss his guidance and counsel. He has promised to continue his monthly technology article for the Bar Association's monthly newsletter, so those of us who have come to rely on his words of wisdom will not be lost in "cyber" space.

We know that Judge Ahalt is too young to retire from work all together. So he's hanging up his robe and is pursuing his newest passion full time. He has taken a position with JusticeLINK, where he will spend about 80% of his time bringing other courthouses throughout the country into the computer world. We wish Judge Ahalt well with his new position, and hope that he won't become a stranger to the Courthouse.

Toni E. Clarke
Judge, Circuit Court
Prince Georges County, Maryland