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Hogan names next chief judge of Maryland’s top court

Governor also nominates Gould to Court of Appeals

Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday appointed Joseph M. Getty to be chief judge of Maryland’s top court and the state judiciary’s chief administrator.

Getty, already a judge on the Court of Appeals, will succeed Mary Ellen Barbera in the top post on Sept. 11. Barbera is set to retire Sept. 10, when she will reach the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.

“I’m honored by the faith and confidence Gov. Hogan has placed in me,” Getty said Friday afternoon.

He praised Barbera for guiding the Maryland Judiciary through the challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, which included suspending jury trials from March 2020 to April 2021.

“My goal is to continue that level of leadership and to help develop the post-COVID Judiciary,” he added. “We’ll be looking to implement more technology as part of our lessons learned from the COVID pandemic.”

Barbera said in a statement Friday that she looks “forward to working with Chief Judge-designate Getty to ensure a smooth transition of leadership of the Maryland Judiciary.”

“I trust that he will find this the opportunity of a lifetime to serve the people of Maryland in this capacity, helping to ensure equal justice under law for all,” Barbera added.

Hogan also nominated Steven B. Gould to the seven-member Court of Appeals. Gould will fill the seat left vacant by Barbera’s departure. Gould is a judge on Maryland’s second-highest court, the Court of Special Appeals.

“Judge Gould is a distinguished jurist committed to justice and fairness and it is my privilege to elevate him to the state’s highest court,” Hogan said in a statement. “I am also pleased to name Judge Getty as the state’s chief judge, and I know he will continue to provide exemplary service on the bench. Lastly, on behalf of all Marylanders, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to Chief Judge Barbera and wish her well in her retirement.”

Getty will serve as chief judge only until April 14, when he reaches age 70. Hogan, whose term runs until January 2023, will also have the opportunity to name Getty’s successor as chief.

Getty, a former Maryland state senator and delegate,  is the only member of the high court with experience as a legislator.

The next scheduled vacancy on the Court of Appeals will occur Feb. 23, when Judge Robert N. McDonald reaches age 70.

Hogan appointed Getty,  then his chief legislative aide, to the high court in June 2016.

Gould, 55, was a private attorney when Hogan appointed him to the Court of Special Appeals in 2019. His nomination to the Court of Appeals is subject to Senate confirmation.

Gould did not immediately return a telephone message Friday seeking comment on his nomination.

During the past Court of Appeals term, Getty displayed an independent streak.

He was the sole dissenter from a high court decision upholding Baltimore’s tax on billboards against a free-speech challenge from a billboard operator. He was alone in dissenting from the court’s decision that the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act protects debtors not only from abusive harassment tactics but from collectors who seek more money than they are entitled to.

Getty said the tax restricted speech and that the MCDCA covers only the methods collectors employ and not the financial recovery they seek.

Getty wrote the high court’s majority opinion upholding the admissibility of a defendant’s rap lyrics at his murder trial because the words closely resembled the details of the slaying.

Getty also wrote for the court as it overturned an assault sentence because the judge violated the convict’s due process rights by denying his request to submit a mitigation report before sentencing and to have his mother testify on his behalf.