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McDonald named to high court; Berger elevated to CSA

Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday named Robert N. “Bob” McDonald to Maryland’s highest court, succeeding Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., who stepped down from the Court of Appeals in September.

O’Malley also elevated Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Stuart Ross Berger to the Court of Special Appeals, succeeding Ellen L. Hollander, who left in January for a seat on the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell extended the court’s “most sincere welcome” to McDonald.

“We are very happy to have him and we wish him a long and distinguished career,” Bell said in a statement.

Robert N. McDonald

McDonald, 59, has served for the past 13 years as chief counsel of opinions and advice for the Maryland attorney general’s office.

He became chief counsel after holding other posts in the attorney general’s office going back to 1989, including state securities commissioner, antitrust division chief and general of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

McDonald declined to name his favorite opinion from his years in the attorney general’s office.

“I don’t think I can choose from among my children,” he said.

While his new post will also entail writing opinions, he said, “it’s a little different. It’s working with six other judges on the court. So I will obviously be learning new things.”

A 1977 Harvard Law School graduate, McDonald also served nine years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland, where he prosecuted fraud, white collar crime, narcotics and espionage cases.

Berger, 52, said the governor gave him the news by telephone late Wednesday night.

“I was honored and thrilled to receive the call and the appointment,” said Berger, who spent Thursday on the bench. He said his next order of business will be clearing his docket, as he prepares to step up to the appellate court.

“I have a number of things to do to finish the work” on the circuit court, he said.

Berger, a 1984 University of Baltimore School of Law graduate, has served on the Baltimore trial court since 1998. Before joining the bench, he worked in private practice, litigating civil and criminal cases.

O’Malley announced the appointments on Thursday afternoon. He selected McDonald from a list of four candidates submitted to him by the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission. The three candidates O’Malley passed over were Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Gallogly Cox, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm and Court of Special Appeals Judge Alexander Wright Jr.

Circuit court appointments

O’Malley on Thursday also appointed attorney Gary E. Bair to the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Bair said he was “very honored” and feels “very humbled” by the appointment.

He added that his wife, Court of Appeals Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, has “not yet” given him any advice on being a judge.

“So far, so good on that,” he said.

Bair also said he has no concerns about his wife overturning his decisions, at least from the bench.

“She won’t have that opportunity,” Bair said. “She’ll be recused from any appeals that involve my rulings.”

O’Malley also named attorney Anne Korbel Albright to the Montgomery County Circuit Court. She is the daughter of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

O’Malley on Thursday made several other judicial appointments, naming:

-Nancy Purpura and Justin James King to the Baltimore County Circuit Court.

-William Rogers Nicklas Jr. to the Frederick County Circuit Court.

-Melba Elizabeth “Beth” Bowen to the Harford County Circuit Court.

-William Vincent Tucker to the Howard County Circuit Court.

-David Wylie Densford to the St. Mary’s County Circuit Court.