Governor O’Malley added 7 new Maryland judges yesterday. Most notably, the Governor appointed Douglas R.M. Nazarian to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
This is not a name that resonates with personal injury lawyers in Maryland. Mr. Nazarian has been the chairman of the Public Service Commission since 2008. I can’t speak to his qualifications although he went to Yale and Duke and was at Hogan & Hartson for a while (a firm that rejected me after my interview with now U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. So the smart money says he is probably bright. But, boy, he has a tough job ahead of him. I’m always amazed at how much appellate judges need to know about personal injury law and that is just one piece of the gigantic puzzle they need to understand in amazing detail. I would think it would a much easier transition to come from the trial court where you can build more slowly into becoming a jack of all trades that our appellate judges need to be.
The Governor also named to the Baltimore City Circuit Court:
- Christopher Panos (elevated from District Court)
- Philip Senan Jackson (from U.S. Attorney’s Office)
- Melissa Marie Phinn (a Baltimore personal injury and criminal lawyer)
- Julie Rebecca Rubin (commercial litigator at Astrachan Gunst Thomas Rubin)
There were also two judges appointed to the Baltimore County Circuit Court and a District Court judge in Carroll County.
- Michael Thurston Pate, a former prosecutor that has a general practice in Towson, to Baltimore County Circuit Court
- Kimberly Michelle Thomas, an estate lawyer in Baltimore City, to the Baltimore County Circuit Court
- Brian David Green, an assistant public defender in Carroll County, to the Carroll County District Court.
O’Malley’s Record Picking Judges
This post has been updated on October 30, 2014, just days before the Brown-Hogan battle to replace Governor O’Malley. This is a decent time to look back and consider the judges the Governor has selected. In the long run of history, it might be the most lasting impact that O’Malley has.
I think O’Malley ultimately did a good job of picking judges. [2018 Update: Truth is, Governor Hogan has also been quite good. A 2020 update would say he is handling the coronavirus well, too.) Would the plaintiffs’ bar had preferred it if he had selected judges with more personal injury experience, especially on the plaintiffs’ side? Absolutely. But, first, I’m not sure that there are that many qualified personal injury lawyers applying for the bench to choose from. It is a real-life change on many levels to become a judge.
I also do not think being a personal injury lawyer means your heart is pro-victim. Many people just do this for a living and have a view that contradicts what you would expect a lawyer to be. I know that plaintiffs’ lawyers always love having another plaintiffs’ lawyer as their judge, mediator, or arbitrator. I do not think the results support this belief.
The most important thing a judge can do is pick caring people with fair minds and open hearts who genuinely care about victims and people who the system has often looked past. I think he has done a good job of that. He also seems — and this is just on feel — that he picked people more on qualifications that ideology. There has not been a U.S. president who could say this in a very long time.