Hon. John O. Hennegan
Circuit Court Judge (Retired)
Circuit Court for Baltimore County
As a circuit court judge, the Hon. John O. Hennegan hears many kinds of cases, but it is the ones relating to children that have defined his career.
Although he retired in 2009, he still hears cases and runs the non-support docket for child support cases in Baltimore County Circuit Court. He leads the Family Employee and Support Program to help non-custodial parents overcome obstacles and obtain jobs to help them meet their child support obligations. In 2009, he was given the Judicial Excellence Award from the National Child Support Enforcement Association for his work in that area.
He also established National Adoption Day in Baltimore County, which focuses on finding adoptive parents for children in need, such as those who have been neglected, abused or face medical problems.
Hennegan’s interest in adoption started when he adopted his own son as a baby. Judges love to get adoption cases, he said, because it is a happy proceeding.
During one adoption case he presided over, he had the family back in his chambers, and a little boy got out of his chair, got on his hands and knees and kissed the ground.
On the adoption day, they hold a ceremony with families adopting children with special needs and then hold a party with toys, food, face painting and music.
“The joy and the happiness that you see, it’s just unbelievable,” Hennegan said. “… We use that day as a special format to not only do the adoption and culminate the process, but to honor them for doing a difficult thing.”
He served on the bench in Baltimore County from 1992 to 2009, and was the presiding judge of the Juvenile Drug Court Program. Prior to becoming a judge, he served as the chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission.
Hennegan taught constitutional law at Stevenson University and civil procedure at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He was a volunteer instructor at the Baltimore County police academy.