Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) moved Thursday to fill vacancies on Maryland’s two highest courts, giving the state Senate eight weeks to consider the appointments during his final legislative session as governor.
Hogan said he would nominate Angela M. Eaves, a judge on the Harford County Circuit Court, and Matthew J. Fader, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, to seats on the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court.
Eaves would replace Judge Robert N. McDonald, who next week reaches the mandatory retirement age for state judges, which is 70. Fader would replace Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty, who hits the mandatory retirement age in mid-April.
Hogan did not yet say who he would appoint to replace Getty as chief judge, but Fader is considered a leading candidate.
With these nominations, Hogan has now made seven appointments to the Court of Appeals. When McDonald retires, only one of the seven judges — Shirley M. Watts — will have been appointed by Hogan’s predecessor, former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D). An appointee from last fall, Judge Steven B. Gould, is up for a confirmation vote in the state Senate in the next few days.
The Court of Appeals could be in the center of the political action in the state over the next several weeks. It is already considering a challenge to the new legislative district lines passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and could wind up hearing appeals to a challenge to the new congressional district lines that the legislature passed, which is currently being considered in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, with a retired Court of Appeals judge, Lynne M. Battaglia, presiding.
Getty, who has held the chief judge position since September, is a former Republican state legislator and was Hogan’s chief legislative officer in 2015 and 2016.
Hogan on Thursday also nominated Judge E. Gregory Wells, a member of the Court of Special Appeals, to serve as chief judge of that court, and he nominated Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Anne K. Albright to serve on the Court of Special Appeals. He also made one appointment to the Washington County Circuit Court and four appointments to the Baltimore City District Court.
Hogan emphasized that some of his appointees will make history.
Eaves, whose mother is Panamanian and whose father is African American, is the first Hispanic judge appointed to Maryland’s appellate courts. The 62-year-old jurist is also the first Harford County resident appointed to the Court of Appeals in more than 100 years.
Wells, 60, will be the first African American to serve as chief judge of the Court of Special Appeals, and the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as chief judge of either of Maryland’s appellate courts.
“I am proud to appoint each of these distinguished and highly qualified individuals,” Hogan said in a statement. “It is a top priority to ensure the composition of our courts reflect the great diversity of our state — these historic appointments deliver on that commitment.”
Eaves is currently the administrative judge for the Harford County Circuit Court, where she has served since 2007. Prior to that, she spent seven years on the county’s District Court, and is also a former assistant attorney general and Legal Aid lawyer.
Fader, 48, has served on the Court of Special Appeals since 2017 and has been its chief judge since 2018. He held several roles at the state attorney general’s office, including chief of civil litigation.
Wells has been on the Court of Special Appeals since 2019 and was a judge in Calvert County courts prior to his elevation. Albright, 60, has been a Circuit Court judge in Montgomery County since 2012.
Hogan on Thursday also appointed:
- Joseph S. Michael, the deputy state’s attorney for Washington County, to a seat on the Washington County Circuit Court.
- Tameika M. Lunn-Exinor, currently an administrative law judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings, to the Baltimore City District Court.
- Lydie Essama Glynn, the chief solicitor in the Litigation and Appeals Division of the Baltimore City Solicitor’s Office, to the Baltimore City District Court.
- Ana De la Hoz Hernandez, a public defender, to the Baltimore City District Court.
- Theresa C. Morse, an assistant attorney general and former local prosecutor, to the Baltimore City District Court.
Except for Wells’ elevation to chief judge of the Court of Special Appeals, which kicks in automatically, the Senate’s Executive Nominations Committee will vet the appointments before passing along recommendations to the full Senate. Any nominee who does not get Senate confirmation before the General Assembly session ends on April 11 could be in limbo, since this is Hogan’s last session as governor.
Hogan’s eventual pick to replace Getty as chief judge will also be elevated automatically. Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) introduced a bill this year that would have given the Senate confirmation powers over a governor’s appointment to be chief judge, but withdrew it when she realized that the bill, if passed, would go into effect after Hogan had replaced Getty as chief judge.