Governor names 3 to appellate courts black choice hailed

May 05, 1991|By Liz Bowie

Gov. William Donald Schaefer announced three appointments

to Maryland appellate courts yesterday, including a highly regarded black jurist named to fill a vacancy on the state's highest court.

Robert M. Bell, a Court of Special Appeals judge, will move up to the Court of Appeals to replace Harry A. Cole, who retired in January. Judge Cole was the first black appointed to the position, in the 1970s.

Diana J. Gibbon Motz, a former Maryland assistant attorney general, and Glenn T. Harrell Jr., an Upper Marlboro attorney and former state's attorney, were appointed to the Court of Special Appeals. Diana Motz is the wife of U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz.

Black legislators praised the governor for his appointment of Judge Bell, saying he was extraordinarily qualified for the position. "Everyone in the African-American community has been sitting on pins and needles waiting to see if Judge Bell would be appointed," said Delegate Curtis S. Anderson, D-Baltimore. "To us, it is like Thurgood Marshall being appointed to the Supreme Court. It is that important to our community."

Judge Bell, 47, has had an eventful career, beginning in 1960 when he organized fellow students at Dunbar High School and was arrested in a civil rights protest at a restaurant that did not serve blacks. The students' case was taken as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a split opinion. The Maryland Court of Appeals ultimately reversed his trespassing conviction.

As a Baltimore District Court judge, he was criticized by some city officials for his handling of prostitution cases, many of which he dismissed because he said they were being brought without proper evidence.

In 1980, Mr. Bell was appointed to the Baltimore Circuit Court and in 1984 to the Court of Special Appeals.

"I think he is a very articulate and fast-thinking person -- very bright and very quick," said Delegate John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

"They are very good appointments," said Sen. John A. Pica Jr., chairman of the Baltimore Senate delegation. "It is very important that we have a black on the Court of Appeals and a woman on the Court of Special Appeals."

Mr. Schaefer had been criticized for his failure to appoint more blacks to the bench. However, the legislative Black Caucus also has been concerned about the failure of judicial nominating committees to present the governor with names of qualified blacks.

Judge Bell's appointment must be confirmed by the Maryland Senate. He will face election in 1992.

Mrs. Motz, who will replace Judge Bell on the Court of Special Appeals, is a lawyer with the firm of Bernstein, Conaway and Goldman, which she joined in 1986. From 1972 to 1986, she was an assistant attorney general. Mrs. Motz was nominated for the special appeals court once before -- in 1984 -- when Judge Bell was chosen over her.

Mr. Harrell, 45, is a partner in the law firm of O'Malley, Miles an Harrell in Upper Marlboro. He joined the firm as an associate in 1973. He served in the Prince George's County state's attorneys office in Upper Marlboro from 1971 to 1973.

Mr. Harrell will serve as an at-large judge on the Court of Special Appeals, succeeding Judge Robert L. Karwacki, who was elevated to the Court of Appeals in December 1990.

Both Mr. Harrell and Mrs. Motz will face election in 1992. Their appointments also must be confirmed by the Senate.

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