A new Harford County Circuit Court judge donned a former judge's robe Friday after she was sworn in as the second woman ever to serve on the local court.
Judge M. Elizabeth Bowen's father, retired Calvert County Judge Perry Bowen, watched as his daughter put on his robe and took her seat among the county's other circuit judges at her swearing in ceremony at the Harford County Courthouse Friday afternoon. Among them was Judge Angela Eaves, who in late 2007 became Harford's first woman circuit judge.
The ceremonial courtroom where the ceremony was held was overflowing with friends, family members and colleagues of Bowen, a longtime assistant state's attorney who was appointed to the bench last month by Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Circuit Court Administrative Judge William O. Carr opened the ceremony, introducing Paul W. Ishak, of the Harford County Bar Association. Ishak congratulated Bowen, wishing her a long and rewarding career as a judge of the Circuit Court.
"As friends and colleagues, we want to share your joy," he said.
Harford State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly, Bowen's now former boss, spoke next, mentioning the amount of people sitting and standing in the packed room and how it reflected upon who Bowen is and her commitment to justice and the law.
Cassilly said Bowen was one of the first prosecutors to handle sobriety checks in the state of Maryland, as well as to work with DNA evidence.
Bowen's background as a teacher, mentor and guide, as well as her dedication to working for the people, is why Cassilly said he thinks she will make a "really, really good judge."
Maryland Administrative Law Judge Yolanda Curtin also praised Bowen, saying she possesses the qualities of civility, grace, professionalism and ethics. Curtin said Bowen, a former mentor to her, has made significant contributions to the legal profession by "simply being who she is."
With a speech that left attendees laughing nearly the whole time, Bel Air criminal attorney Carl Schlaich joked about how the other members of the criminal bar association said they were "screwed" the day Bowen was appointed to the bench.
Retired Harford Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill presented Bowen with two stuffed bears that he kept with him in his chambers; one was dressed as a judge. The bears were gifts, he said, to help him relate to the children he worked with in custody disputes and other situations during his judicial career.
Whitfill also praised Bowen's ability to use her discretion, saying he has faith she will use that ability in a "fair and just way."
Clerk of the Circuit Court James Reilly led Bowen's oath of office and upon its completion, the crowded room gave her a standing ovation.
When she took her seat among the other judges, Bowen thanked the many family members and colleagues in the room, as well as those figurative "empty seats" left by her older sister and grandparents on both of her parents' sides.
She was named for her grandmother on her father's side, Melba Elizabeth Bowen.
"It is my great honor to bear her name now," she said, adding that although people can't return to the generations that helped them get to where they are now, they still can carry on their legacies.
Bowen also thanked her husband and praised their five children, calling them the "center of her life."
Although it can be surprising to see who an attorney turns out to be upon becoming a judge, Bowen offered clues to how she will fulfill her role. She talked at length about her respect for what trial lawyers do and her desire to honor the trial process.
But even with that, Bowen said, there is "no predicting." As to the question of who she will be as a judge, she said, "Who knows?"