What Yolanda L. Curtin's judgeship means for Harford County [Column]

The investiture of Yolanda L. Curtin on Friday afternoon to the bench of the Harford County Circuit Court turned a tide in the county. Curtin will forever be an integral part of the history of Harford County.

Formerly an administrative law judge for the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, Curtin beat out six other candidates for the judgeship as Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. stepped down upon reaching the mandatory 70-year-old retirement age.


Curtin became the first Latino to preside as a judge for the Circuit Court of Harford County, whose scope covers a population which is a little more three percent Hispanic and steadily growing, according to a 2008 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

A native of Cuba, who emigrated to the United States as a young child with her parents and older sister, Curtin is a strong representation of what the American immigration story. She shows that America is open to people of all races, backgrounds, creeds and colors and that anyone can make a successful life for themselves in America.

Curtin is the epitome of the idea that all people, and specifically historically disadvantaged minorities, can "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and enjoy the American Dream.

Even in a county, where studies show minorities are disenfranchised — an American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland study showed blacks in Harford County are nearly twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to their white counterparts — dreams of success are still attainable and glass ceilings can still be broken.

Curtin's appointment was not just a win for the Latino population, but also for women, who still suffer great injustices in the workplace in comparison to men.

Overwhelming, women earn about 77 percent less than their male counterparts in the workplace, according to a study by the Center for American Progress. In 2010, they reported the median pay gap between men and women was about $10,784 annually.

Now, Curtin will rule alongside the first African American and woman to the Circuit Court of Harford County, Angela M. Eaves, and the second woman judge appointed, M. Elizabeth Bowen, making the bench a 3-2 woman majority.

So what does Curtin's investiture mean for the future of the legal system in Harford County?

It may take a few months or even years for Harford County residents to get a sense of how Curtin's background as a American immigrant influences her ruling style as a circuit court judge. And it will take just as much time to see how a predominantly woman bench may impact women's rights or women's issues in the county.

But either way, Curtin stands as a testament for minorities, immigrants and women as she takes the bench in the Circuit Court for Harford County and we will all be watching.