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O’Malley appoints seven circuit court judges

Judge Jeannie J. Hong will become the first Asian-American to serve on a Maryland circuit court following her appointment Wednesday to the bench in Baltimore.

“This appointment shows and conveys to the Asian community that everything’s possible, that we need to move forward, that it sets the bar higher, that anything’s possible,” said Hong, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the United States at age 2 with her parents and sister.

Hong also was the state’s first Asian-American judge when she was sworn in on the Maryland District Court nine years ago. She said she accepts “as a great honor” being the first Asian-American circuit court judge, even though many people view the title of “first” as overused with regard to the election or appointment of minorities.

“Most people think we should not be having this conversation in 2011, [which] shows how far we’ve come but also how far we have to go,” she said.

Hong, 45, was one of seven judges and attorneys Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed to circuit courts in Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Cecil counties on Wednesday.

As The Daily Record reported on Sept. 12, nearly 23 percent of Maryland state judges on July 1 were minority members. In addition to Hong, the new appointees include two black women, two black men (one of whom is Muslim), a white woman and a white man.

“The appointment of judges is one of the most important responsibilities of any chief executive,” O’Malley said in a statement. “I am pleased to announce today the appointment of seven highly qualified, talented and diverse candidates from across the state to serve on Maryland’s bench.”

Joining Hong on the Baltimore City Circuit Court will be Michael Wilson Reed, a litigator with the Law Office of Peter T. Nicholl.

Reed, who has served in the Maryland attorney general’s office, will take the seat left vacant when Judge Shirley M. Watts was elevated to the Court of Special Appeals on Jan. 27.

The governor named four people to the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, including John Paul Davey, who has been in private practice in the county for more than 20 years. Maryland District Court Judges Krystal Quinn Alves, Daneeka Varner Cotton and Hassan Ali El-Amin were elevated to the circuit court.

Alves, a district court judge since 2005, will take the seat that was held by Judge William D. Missouri, who retired Sept. 10 and for whom she clerked from 1991 to 1992.

Cotton, who served on the district court since 2005, chairs the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council for Prince George’s County. She previously served in the state’s attorney’s office for Prince George’s.

Cotton succeeds Judge Michele D. Hotten, who was elevated to the Court of Special Appeals on Aug. 17, 2010.

El-Amin, a district court judge since 2000, is active in the Muslim community. In 2006, he conducted a Maryland Judicial Conference workshop called “What Judges Need to Know About Islam.”

El-Amin will succeed Judge Thomas P. Smith, who retired on April 15.

Davey, managing director at O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore PA in Calverton, will take the seat left vacant by the retirement of Judge A. Michael Chapdelaine on Sept. 23. The law firm is unrelated to the governor.

O’Malley also appointed Master Jane Cairns Murray to the Cecil County Circuit Court. Murray, who has served as a domestic relations master since 2006, will succeed Judge O. Robert Lidums, who retired Oct. 1.

Hong plans to move to the Baltimore City Circuit Court within 30 days and will succeed Judge John N. Prevas, who died Oct. 25.  She currently serves at the North Avenue district court, where she has been judge-in-charge since May.

The newly appointed judges must stand for election to a 15-year term in 2012.

Montgomery County nominees

Separately, a 13-member trial court nominating commission on Tuesday submitted to O’Malley a list of six judges and lawyers from which the governor is expected to appoint the next Montgomery County Circuit Court judge.

The names include attorneys Anne K. Albright, daughter of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Gary E. Bair, husband of Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Mary Ellen Barbera.

Albright, whose mother served in the Clinton administration, is a name partner at Albright & Rhodes LLC in Rockville. Bair, a former Maryland solicitor general, is a name partner at Bennett & Bair LLC in Greenbelt.

The other circuit-court nominees are Maryland District Court Judges J. Michael Conroy Jr., Gary G. Everngam and William G. Simmons, and Joan E. Ryon, a master in the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s Family Division.

The appointee will take the seat left vacant when Judge Durke G. Thompson retired on June 30.