ELKTON — The four sitting Cecil County Circuit Court judges appointed Deputy State’s Attorney James Dellmyer to interim state’s attorney Tuesday afternoon, three days before the resignation of the county’s chief prosecutor, Amanda Bessicks, goes into effect.
He was appointed directly after Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes and the other three circuit court judges — William W. Davis Jr., Jane Cairns Murray and Brenda A. Sexton — met for the first time to discuss filling the position. Cecil County Circuit Court Administrator Matthew Barrett also attended the meeting.
Dellmyer, 35, of Chesapeake City, has been serving as second-in-command of the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office since Bessicks named him her deputy state’s attorney after she took her oath of office in August — five months before the traditional swearing-in date.
On March 1, Bessicks, a 34-year-old Elkton resident who was technically just two months into her first four-year term, announced her resignation, citing health reasons. Her resignation is effective Friday.
“The four judges and I met today and had a lengthy discussion and, afterward, the judges signed an order appointing James Dellmyer as interim state’s attorney, effective Friday,” Barrett confirmed.
Dellmyer is scheduled to take his oath of office Friday.
Barrett declined to comment on the reasons why the four sitting judges selected Dellmyer and why they chose to make him an interim state’s attorney instead of appointing him to the full elected position.
“We decided not to discuss the details of the decision-making process publicly,” Barrett said.
When asked if Dellmyer’s interim title might be removed at some point in the future, Barrett declined to comment beyond noting, “He is eligible. He meets all of the (state) constitutional requirements, including residency. He is a Cecil County resident.”
Under the Maryland Constitution, a state’s attorney must be a member of the Maryland State Bar and must have at least two years of residency in the county in which he or she will serve. The requirements for an interim state’s attorney is Maryland State Bar membership and Maryland residency. The Constitution also dictates that the local sitting judges make the appointment.
Dellmyer, who has been a SAO prosecutor since March 2017, told the Cecil Whig that Barrett informed him of his appointment Tuesday afternoon. Dellmyer said that, in turn, he would name his deputy state’s attorney at some point soon.
He vowed to keep the SAO on the path chosen by Bessicks, whose campaign platform included a closer working relationship with law enforcement and criminal prosecution handled by full-time assistant state’s attorneys. For many years, the office largely was comprised of part-time assistant state’s attorneys, some of whom maintained private civil law practices.
Dellmyer said he and Bessicks were in agreement when setting up her office, a process that began in August.
“We had the same vision. We decided the policies together,” Dellmyer said, adding, “Her ideas and my ideas are what formed it.”
Dellmyer earned his law degree at Widener University Delaware Law School in Wilmington, Del., where he attended from 2006 through 2009, when he graduated. He passed the Maryland Bar in December 2009.
From December 2009 through 2014, Dellmyer practiced as an associate attorney in the private law firm of William F. Riddle in Elkton.
Then he practiced as a partner in the Elkton-based law office of Wilson, Dellmyer, Rollins & Brown from 2014 until August 2018, when Bessicks named him as her deputy. While a partner in that law firm, Dellmyer had been hired as a part-time assistant state’s attorney in March 2017.
In her March 1 resignation letter, Bessicks alluded that Dellmyer likely would assume a leadership role after her resignation became effective.
“I thank the community for believing in me, and regret any disappointment I may have caused by my decision. I believe that my Deputy State’s Attorney, James Dellmyer, will continue to rebuild the office and will be the leader the community needs and deserves,” Bessicks wrote in her resignation letter.
Bessicks, who not only is stepping down as state’s attorney but leaving the office altogether, explained in her letter, “This was not an easy decision, but I have arrived at this conclusion after much thought, and consultation with my family. I need to divert my attention to focusing on my recent health concerns.”
She added that she did not want to put a strain on the office by remaining at her post while also dealing with her medical issues, which she did not detail.
“The community deserves a full-time, fully committed state’s attorney. The Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office is underfunded and understaffed. The office can simply not carry the load of missing a prosecutor while I address these medical issues, nor can our budget sustain a temporary hire to fill this need,” she wrote.
In a written statement issued after Bessicks’s resignation announcement, County Executive Alan J. McCarthy indicated that he favored a “local, regional and perhaps national” search to find Bessicks’s “permanent successor.”
McCarthy acknowledged last week, however, that a national search to fill the state’s attorney position would not be likely, while maintaining that it would have yielded viable candidates for, at the outset, an interim state’s attorney position, noting that there is no length of Maryland residency requirement for that particular position.
McCarthy summarized last week that his intent was to simply present for consideration the casting of a wider net in this search, and that it wasn’t intended to minimize the professional qualifications of local lawyers that the judges may consider for the job.
Bessicks’s primary election victory in June was historic in Cecil County, because she was the first woman to be elected to the state’s attorney position and because she is believed to be the youngest elected chief prosecutor in this county’s history. Bessicks had been a lawyer for about four years, the last three of which as an assistant state’s attorney, when she won the election.
Propelled by a rare administrative order, the four Cecil County Circuit Court judges appointed Bessicks to the state’s attorney position on Aug. 9 because, with no opponents in November’s election, she was the presumed winner.
Moreover, at that time, the SAO did not have a permanent chief prosecutor, as Steve Trostle served as interim state’s attorney following the resignation of Ellis Rollins III, the last elected state’s attorney, in 2017.
The judges opted to expedite Bessick’s swearing-in ceremony because they believed it would be beneficial to have the office run by an elected state’s attorney, instead of an interim state’s attorney. They also reasoned that it would give Bessicks a head-start in transitioning into her role as state’s attorney.