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New top female judges offer first thoughts

Justice SystemExecutive BranchMartin O'Malley

We'll post more later about Maryland's newest top judge, but here are her first public comments, along with those of Judge Shirley M. Watts, who was nominated to the state's top court and would be the first African-American woman to sit on the panel.

Watt's appointment, if confirmed, would also give the seven-member Court of Appeals a female majority for the first time in the more than 200-year history of the court.

At an event Wednesday morning in the rotunda of the Maryland State House, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Judge Mary Ellen Barbera's promotion to chief judge to replace retiring Chief Judge Bell in a role that both oversees the court and is the lead voice for the entire Maryland judiciary system.

"I am at once proud and humbled," Barbera said, acknowledging the historic milestone of being the first woman to lead an female-majority court.

She said Watts will "add luster to the court" and "it's going to be great."

O'Malley described Watts as "a woman with clear insights into the law, into justice. She is an outstanding writer."

Watts' daughter, Nina, was at her side as her appointment was announced. She called it "a tremendous day."

"Today, Gov. Martin O'Malley has sent a precedent for the State of Maryland that will endure forever, and for which I am extremely grateful," Watts said. She added, "Through God, all things are possible, and by his grace we have achieved this historic moment."

O’Malley also announced four appointments to the trial courts: Joan Elizabeth Ryon to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County; Stacy A. Mayer, currently O'Malley's top lobbyist, to the District Court for Baltimore County; Lisa Angela Hall Johnson and Gregory Cronin Powell to the District Court for Prince George’s County.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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