With the retirement of then-Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Court of Appeals of Maryland, just weeks away, MSBA President Michael J. Baxter invited Bell’s unnamed successor to carry on the longtime positive relationship between the Bar and Maryland Judiciary during his June 15 installation speech at the MSBA Annual Meeting in Ocean City.
Crediting that synchronicity in large part to Bell’s efforts, Baxter, a trial attorney, provided supporting testimony in the form of a video featuring four MSBA Past Presidents, including: the Honorable Roger W. Titus, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (1988-1989); the Honorable Barbara Kerr Howe (ret.), Circuit Court for Baltimore County (1996-1997); Harry S. Johnson (2003-2004); and Paul D. Bekman (1997-1998).
In the video – now available online – Titus says that a viable judicial system depends upon “a good relationship with the lawyers.”
“The court, as a whole, cannot function without all the players in it working well together, and I think there’s been a long tradition of that in Maryland,” he explains.
As former Administrative Judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Howe says she found such strong ties “especially valuable for the judiciary.” In addition to relying upon other judges, Howe notes, “I also had the ability to go to, for example, the Maryland State Bar Association with concerns I had about issues with forms, practice, preparation and, in particular, civility.”
Concurring with Baxter, Bekman says that Bell has been largely responsible for building the “bridge that connects the Judiciary with the Bar at [both] the state level and at the local level.”
“He is somebody who has encouraged members of the Bench to not only become members of the State Bar and local bars, but to participate in and be an integral part of every one of those bar associations,” he continues. Moreover, Bekman commends Bell’s personal familiarity with so many individual members of the Bar.
“He knows them on a first-name basis, and he knows something about them,” says Bekman. “He is extremely unique in that regard.”
“Our arms are open,” declares Johnson. “We have seen in this state that Maryland is a leader both on the national and state levels with many initiatives, and the reason is because the Bench and the Bar work together for the improvement of the legal profession to the benefit of the community.”