picture of the Appellate Court building

Governor’s Appointments Make History

This summer, when Gov. Martin O’Malley named Judge Shirley A. Watts to the Court of Appeals and Judge Mary Ellen Barbera as the next chief judge, he noted the historical significance of the appointments. “Together, these decisions give the Maryland Court of Appeals its first ever female majority, first female chief judge, and first African-American female judge,” the governor’s news release stated.

Court of Appeal group photo
Standing, left to right:
Judge Robert N. McDonald; Judge Clayton Greene Jr.,
Judge Sally D. Adkins; Judge Shirley M. Watts.
Seated, left to right:
Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr., Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera,
Judge Lynne A. Battaglia

“Judge Barbera and Judge Watts represent the best of the Maryland bar and will do an outstanding job serving on the highest court in Maryland. Throughout their judicial careers, they have exhibited integrity, intelligence, and compassion,” O’Malley said. “I am honored that we are not only making history today with these appointments, but that the hard work, talents and skills of these women will help us build on the progress we’re making together for the people of Maryland.”

Judge Barbera offered her perspective on the significance of the appointments: “Milestones remind us that the Maryland Judiciary has come a long way, and I know that together we can and will go further. Our goal is to achieve equal, fair, and timely access to justice here in Maryland. We are all part of that mission and we’re all working together to move forward and fulfill  that mission.”

Historical side note

While the governor’s appointments create the first female-majority Court of Appeals bench, the first time a majority of women judges heard a case was actually five years earlier. On Sept. 8, 2008, when the court heard case No. 1, Judge Lynne A. Battaglia noted, “for the first time in Maryland’s history, we have the majority of women seated here today on this court.” Judge Battaglia, retired Judge Irma S. Raker, Judge Sally D. Adkins, and Judge Barbera joined Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr., Judge Clayton Greene Jr., and retired Judge John C. Eldridge for the case.

Webcast of case No. 1, September 2008 term