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The Christopher Panos Controversy

Last week, I wrote about the new Baltimore judges selected by Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. Parenthetically, I noted that this is a big story in Baltimore because Judge Christopher Panos is openly gay. I added that I look forward to the day when this is not a story.  (Update: See below!!!)   I actually hesitated to write those words not because I do not believe them but because I want this personal injury lawyer blog to be apolitical. But I do feel pretty strongly about discrimination against anyone for any reason other than the content of their character. So I added my thoughts.

Since my comments, the uproar has continued. I was interviewed earlier in the week by a reporter from the Washington Blade.  (Update: The article has since been removed on-line.) The reporter asked a lot of detailed questions and wrote a good article. My only two mild criticisms:

1. The article identifies me as “straight” which I am. But the whole point of what I was trying to articulate is that labels – even labels that put you in the majority – divide rather than unite. It is trite but it really is true.

2. Judge Panos is apparently raising a child with his long time partner. She’s 16 months-old. I criticized the Baltimore Sun for printing her name because I do not see what the point is of identifying her name or his partner’s name either for that matter. Neither are public figures. Yet in this article, he repeats both of the names.

My next post will be back to specific topics of interest to tort lawyers in Maryland and throughout the country.

2014 Update: I stumbled on this post today and thought I would write an update.  It is amazing how much the world has changed in the last 6 years.  Today, few people would bat and eye at the idea of an openly gay judge.  Judge Panos received rave reviews for his work in District Court and was elevated to the Circuit Court bench last year by Governor O’Malley last year.  Looking back, I think a part of the reason why people took notice of this is because Ehrlich was the one who selected him.   Why Ehrlich drives me completely crazy with his Baltimore Sun editorials where he parrots the party line on every topic and never offers a single opinion I could not easily find in the GOP Platform, he is probably a fundamentally good man who made the best pick even though there was little political upside for him to do so.

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  • Aaron deOliveira

    I read the article and I didn’t like the way they characterized Panos.

    “According to court and foundation newsletters, Panos has contributed to the Women’s Law Center, helped review state custody and domestic violence laws and led the family court division’s softball team.”

    For a man that’s about to be a judge in the Baltimore District Court, the author didn’t talk about his qualifications at all.

  • Ron Miller

    Aaron, I hear what you are saying. The problem I think is that it is hard to list in biographical fashion what qualifies you to be a judge. I think the job qualifications should be: (1) well educated in the law, (2) good lawyer, and (3) have a good judicial temperament which means a nice person who has a good heart but still commands respect and could control a courtroom. A lot of people with great resumes do not have those qualifications. Similarly, a lot of lawyers who do not have impressive resumes do have these qualifications.

  • Aaron deOliveira

    I was hoping that a write up for a newly appointed judge would be a little more like articles I read on John Roberts when he was appointed. Different courts and different importance I know, but good journalists detailed his (Roberts) qualifications for being appointed.

  • W. Tyler Mays

    Ron, I personally agree with you that the onl true way to judge or label a person is through their character. With that being said, and having tried a case in front of Judge Panos, I must insist that he is perhaps the most thorough and thoughtful judge that I have stood before in my short career. Regardless of any “labels”, he is a very professional Judge and well-suited to sit on the Bench.

  • Ron Miller

    Thanks for your post, Tyler. It is good to see my former students practicing law and out trying cases. In fact, I know you had a trial against one of our attorneys last week in Hartford County.

    You are the first person I know who has been in front of Judge Panos. It is good to hear such a glowing review.

    Continued good luck to you!

    – Ron

  • christina

    I just have to say that I absolutely love Judge Panos. I dealt with him in court while fighting the slumlord of my previous house. He is so fair, and really helped my roommates and I in our situation. He is so understanding and listens SO thoroughly that I have to say it was a pleasure to have him as my judge. I praise his ability to be openly gay and I hope he is a role model for many people.