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Baltimore City District Court Hosts Visit from Chief Judges

(BALTIMORE – June 23, 2014) Baltimore City District Court hosted Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera on Friday, June 20, when she toured five District Court facilities and met more than 250 employees who support one of the Judiciary’s busiest operations.

“This was the first time the Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals has simply come to tour our facilities and meet with Judiciary employees. It was a historic opportunity for our Judiciary leadership to recognize the enormous contributions of our court staff, as well as the challenges they face working in less than ideal building conditions,” Baltimore City District Court Administrative Judge Barbara Baer Waxman said.

Chief Judge Barbera was joined by newly appointed District Court Chief Judge John P. Morrissey, Judge Waxman, State Court Administrator Pamela Harris, District Court Chief Clerk Roberta Warnken, Assistant Chief Clerk for Engineering and Central Services Lisa Ritter, and Administrative Clerk Mary Abrams. The group visited five District Court locations: Borgerding District Court Building, Central Booking Intake Facility, the Civil Division, Eastside District Court Building, and the John R. Hargrove, Sr. Building.

“They visited everyone. They went to every clerk who was sitting at his or her desk, shook their hand, and asked them their opinions, their feelings, and any suggestions they had,” Judge Waxman said. The group also met with judges, bailiffs, administrative support personnel, and other employees at the facilities.

“This visit was an enormous boost for our morale and an acknowledgement from court management that they are truly concerned about the needs of our folks working in the trenches,” Judge Waxman added.

One of the issues the group explored was the implementation of the District Court’s Appointed Attorneys Program, which, starting July 1, will help provide attorney representation to indigent criminal defendants during initial appearances. Chief Judge Barbera and District Court Chief Judge Morrissey learned, firsthand, the logistical difficulties involved in implementing the program, including space limitations and security concerns.

“It takes a great deal of effort for the staff to provide service to the citizens every day,” said Administrative Clerk Mary Abrams. “It is a busy district, so it was important for our employees to hear both chief judges talk openly about how important everyone’s work and roles are in the day-to-day operations of the court.”

Baltimore City District Court has the second highest number of domestic violence filings and the highest number of landlord-tenant filings in the State. It also boasts a mental health court and a drug treatment court. Moreover, aging infrastructure in older building facilities, limited storage space and crowded work spaces have led to creative problem-solving among court employees.

“We know that there is much work to be done to make sure that District Court employees have a comfortable, safe, and healthy work environment,” said Chief Judge Morrissey. “It is critical to the work of the Judiciary that all of our employees have the tools and resources they need to serve our citizens and ensure the efficient and expeditious processing of cases.”

“This was a most informative day for me,” said Chief Judge Barbera. “In spite of an increasing workload and challenging work facilities, these talented and dedicated public servants do a tremendous job serving the people of Maryland every day. I was pleased to meet them and want them to know that I share their concerns.”

Visiting the State’s Circuit and District Courts has been a priority for Chief Judge Barbera since she was appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley last July to head the Maryland Judiciary.

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