In 1977, when he was a law clerk for a Maryland Court of Appeals judge who had known him since birth, Timothy E. Meredith decided that he, too, wanted to be a judge someday.
The Severna Park lawyer got his start yesterday when he was sworn in to sit on the Court of Special Appeals, the state's second-highest court. Appointed in June by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Meredith has stacks of legal briefs to read for the court session that starts next month.
'An important job'
"It's an important job," Meredith said after yesterday's brief ceremony at the State House, which was attended by lawyers, judges, officials and Meredith's family. "It has a big impact on the development of Maryland law. I am looking forward to it."
Meredith, 52, credited retired Judge Marvin H. Smith as a mentor, first when Meredith was a Boy Scout in Federalsburg and Smith, a lawyer there, was a Scoutmaster; and a decade later when Meredith researched the law for Smith on the state's top court.
"It was that experience that really made me want that experience today," he said.
Smith, 87, recalled that he told a professor at Duke University, where Meredith earned his law degree in 1977, that "this kid had more leadership ability than anybody I have ever known."
Meredith, who is well known in legal circles, has a reputation for detailed research, for having an even temperament and for clearly presenting his arguments in court.
A past president of the Anne Arundel Bar Association, Meredith has the longest tenure of any trustee of the organization, with 16 years on the board, said Annapolis lawyer Deborah L. Potter.
"Nobody will let him go. Other attorneys always sought his counsel," said Potter, also a former AABA president.
Liked by judges
Judges say they like Meredith, who is soft-spoken in and out of court, for his low-key courtroom demeanor and for his thoughtful, methodical presentations of his positions.
Last week, Meredith ended his role as a partner in the Severna Park law firm of Warfield, Meredith & Darrah. He specialized in business litigation, contracts, civil fraud and appellate work.
He and wife, Kathleen, who is also a lawyer, have two children.
Meredith, a Republican, has contributed to candidates in nonpartisan judicial elections and to Democratic and Republican candidates, including Ehrlich.
Ehrlich said he chose Meredith from a field of top-flight potential judges and that politics is not a test for selecting high-quality judges. He reconfigured the commissions that recommend candidates for judicial appointment, putting on them more lawyers and more people reflecting his philosophy. His predecessor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, was criticized in some circles for politicizing the process.
Meredith is expected to appear on the ballot in 2006, when voters will decide whether to give him a 10-year term on the bench.