Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday appointed Matthew J. Fader to be chief judge of Maryland’s top court and the state judiciary’s chief administrator.
Fader succeeds Joseph M. Getty as head of the Court of Appeals. Getty stepped down from the bench Thursday when he reached the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.
Fader did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment on his appointment.
Hogan had nominated Fader, then chief judge of the intermediate Court of Special Appeals, in February to the Court of Appeals upon Getty’s retirement. The Senate recently confirmed Fader to the seat.
Hogan’s elevation of Fader to chief does not require an additional Senate vote.
Getty welcomed Hogan’s appointment of the 48-year-old Fader.
“The Maryland Judiciary, especially the Court of Appeals, is experiencing a generational change,” Getty said in a statement.
“It is our shared duty to embrace this change and lay a foundation for the future. It is exciting to have new leaders engaged in the many challenges we face today,” Getty added. “I look forward to continuing to work with Chief Judge Fader during this transition and I am confident he will continue to form that cohesive leadership that sets the example for the Maryland Judiciary and throughout the state.”
Hogan has appointed six of the seven judges on the Court of Appeals.
Only Judge Shirley M. Watts, a 2013 appointee of Gov. Martin O’Malley, was not named to the high court by Hogan.
Getty’s retirement and ascension of Fader to the Court of Appeals prompted the elevation of Court of Special Appeals Judge E. Gregory Wells to be chief judge of that court, an appointment Hogan announced in February. Wells is the first Black chief judge of the intermediate appellate court.
“I am proud to designate Judge Fader and Judge Wells to preside over the state’s highest courts,” Hogan said in a statement Friday. “They are both highly respected and experienced jurists who serve with distinction and an unwavering dedication to the law.”
Fader had served as chief judge of the Court of Special Appeals since November 2018 and as a judge on the intermediate court since November 2017. Fader joined the bench after serving seven years in the Maryland attorney general’s office, including as chief of litigation.
Former Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, under whom Fader served and who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, hailed the Republican governor’s appointee.
“I don’t think you can label Matt Fader ideologically at all other than to say he is one you would hope to have as chief judge of the Court of Appeals,” Gansler said Friday. “He judges cases based on the facts and applies those facts to the law, as every judge should.”
Gansler also praised Fader’s administrative skill, noting his handling of the state’s mortgage foreclosure litigation and settlement with lenders a decade ago.
“The most effective administrator is one who is respected by the troops,” Gansler said. “He handled that (litigation and settlement) seamlessly with adroit skills.”
Fader, a 1998 Yale Law School graduate, began his legal career as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of eastern Virginia. Fader also served at the law firm K&L Gates LLP for eight years before joining the attorney general’s office.
Longtime appellate attorney J. Bradford McCullough said Friday that Fader was respectful of the attorneys who appeared before the Court of Special Appeals.
For example, Fader initiated the Court of Special Appeals’ practice of informing attorneys days before argument which judges would serve on the three-member panel that will hear their cases. Previously, attorneys would not know until the day of argument, said McCullough, of Lerch, Early & Brewer Chtd. in Bethesda.
“He (Fader) is a pleasure to appear in front of, as he is always well prepared and asks good questions, and has just the right temperament, showing respect to the lawyers arguing their cases,” McCullough added. “In my experience, both of our appellate courts exhibit collegiality among the judge and also professional rapport and collegiality with the bar. Chief Judge Fader will certainly make sure that continues.”
Wells, 60, has served on the Court of Special Appeals since April 2019. He also served on the Maryland District Court in Calvert County from 2008 to 2012 and on the Calvert County Circuit Court from 2012 until his appointment to the appeals court.
The 1986 University of Virginia School of Law graduate began his career in private practice before joining the Calvert County state’s attorney’s office in 1989. He subsequently served as a master in domestic relations and juvenile causes at Calvert County Circuit Court and as an assistant Maryland attorney general in the criminal appeals division.
The vacancy created by Fader’s departure from the Court of Special Appeals will be filled by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Anne K. Albright, whom Hogan named to the appellate court in February and the Senate confirmed in recent weeks.
Albright, 60, had served on the Montgomery County Circuit Court since January 2012.
The 1987 Georgetown University Law Center graduate began her legal career as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Norman P. Ramsey in Maryland before stints in private practice and as a public defender in Montgomery County and later in Washington state. She served as a partner at the law firm Albright & Rhodes LLC from 1996 until her appointment to the circuit court.
Besides Fader and Watts, the Court of Appeals judges are Michele D. Hotten, Brynja M. Booth, Jonathan Biran, Steven B. Gould and Angela M. Eaves. Hogan appointed Eaves earlier this year to succeed Judge Robert N. McDonald, who retired upon reaching age 70 in February.