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Hogan’s call for diverse high court applicants gets answered again

Gov. Larry Hogan’s call for greater diversity among applicants for two coming Maryland high court vacancies has been answered for the second time in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, Columbia attorney Keith S. Blair, who is Black, and Maryland District Court Judge Dino E. Flores Jr., who is Hispanic, added their names to what had been a list of four white candidates for the Court of Appeals seat that will become vacant April 14 when Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty reaches the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.

Dayton attorney M. Craig Wolf, who is white, also joined the list of candidates Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, five candidates of African, Cuban or Egyptian descent applied for the Court of Appeals vacancy that arises Feb. 23 when Judge Robert N. McDonald reaches age 70. The initial list of applicants for McDonald’s seat consisted of seven white candidates.

Hogan, having reviewed the two initial all-white lists of candidates, asked the judiciary to readvertise for applicants for the coming vacancies. The renewed deadlines for applying were Nov. 18, for McDonald’s seat, and Tuesday, for Getty’s.

Hogan spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill stated last month that the readvertisements were requested due to the governor’s belief that “the judiciary should reflect the diversity of the citizens it judges and serves.”

The four initial applicants to succeed Getty were Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader; Court of Special Appeals Judges Kathryn Grill Graeff and Andrea M. Leahy; and Steven L. Tiedemann, general counsel at Powell Recovery Center Inc. in Baltimore.

The seven initial applicants for McDonald’s seat were Court of Special Appeals Judges Daniel A. Friedman and Douglas R.M. Nazarian; Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Robinson Jr.; and attorneys Robert S. Brennen, of Miles & Stockbridge in Baltimore; Irwin R. Kramer, of Kramer & Connolly in Reisterstown; Jason D. Medinger, of the U.S. attorney’s office for Maryland; and Julie M. Reamy, a Baltimore solo practitioner.

The five additional candidates for McDonald’s coming vacancy are Harford County Circuit Judges Yolanda L. Curtin, Angela M. Eaves and Paul W. Ishak; Deputy Baltimore County Attorney Glenn T. Marrow; and Senior Assistant Howard County Solicitor Morenike E. Oyenusi.

Curtin and Oyenusi are from Cuba and Nigeria, respectively; Ishak’s father was from Egypt; and Eaves and Marrow are Black.

The candidates for the two seats will be vetted by the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission. The panel will winnow the lists and submit its slate of potential high court nominees to Hogan.

The governor’s nominees will be subject to Senate confirmation.

McDonald holds the high court seat reserved for an attorney or judge who lives in Baltimore County or Harford County. Getty holds the seat reserved for an attorney or judge from the following counties: Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Howard or Washington.

A recent national survey of state supreme courts noted that the Maryland Court of Appeals has no Latino or Asian American judge.

The Brennan Center for Justice’s April 2021 report did find that the ethnic and gender diversity on Maryland’s seven-member top court exceeds  the national average regarding Black and women state supreme court judges.

The Court of Appeals consists of two Black women, Shirley M. Watts and Michele D. Hotten; a white woman, Brynja M. Booth; and four white men, Getty, McDonald, Jonathan Biran and Steven B. Gould.

Maryland, at 28%, exceeds the national average of 17% of state supreme court judges who are people of color and, at 42%, bests the national average of 39% of seats held by women. Maryland had reached 57% for women before then-Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera stepped down in September upon reaching age 70.

Hogan subsequently elevated Getty to chief judge and selected Gould for the high court.