Greene likely pick for appeals court post

Ehrlich expected to name judge as his choice today

January 07, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Court of Special Appeals Judge Clayton Greene Jr., who became the first African-American judge on the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court and joined Maryland's second-highest court only two years ago, is expected to be named to the state's top court today.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is scheduled to announce today his choice to fill a vacancy on the seven-member Court of Appeals created by last year's retirement of Judge John C. Eldridge.

Several sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Ehrlich has picked Greene.

The governor's office declined to comment yesterday, and the judge could not be reached.

Highly regarded in the legal community, Greene, who will turn age 53 in two weeks, has a reputation for being thoughtful, approaching cases with a fresh eye and without bias and - in a task that has grown in importance for the courts in recent years - for soliciting an array of opinions before recommending changes.

"He is absolutely perfect, I think," said lawyer Eileen Cochran, who has practiced before him frequently. "He has always been the absolute epitome of a role model. He is tough but not abusive, and he is smart and fair. He is always respectful to parties and counsel - to everyone."

Greene's nomination would go to the state Senate for review. If confirmed, he would begin a 10- year term and, in the next general election, would run unopposed for retention in the next general election.

A Glen Burnie native, Greene is the son of two school custodians. In an interview two years ago, he credited a strict and loving upbringing for his work ethic and attitudes. When he wanted a Mustang like the one Steve McQueen drove in the 1968 movie, Bullitt, he paid for it with money earned by polishing the floors of his former school, Freetown Elementary, working in the kitchen at college and taking other jobs.

In the interview, conducted after his nomination to the Court of Special Appeals, Greene said he always sought to make a difference in his community.

"I turned that into a mission," he said at the time.

He would be the third African-American to serve on the Court of Appeals, said Michael Millemann, professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Harry A. Cole was the first. Current Chief Judge Robert M. Bell is the second.

"Judge Greene has earned the appointment," said Millemann.

`Positive reviews'

He said that during Greene's relatively short tenure on the Court of Special Appeals "he played to positive reviews."

Maryland's Court of Appeals dates from the 17th century and has undergone several reorganizations. It reviews cases of major importance, basing decisions on constitutional interpretation.

Greene has a formidable reputation as a trial judge, having spent eight years on the District Court bench and then six on the Circuit Court before joining the appellate bench.

"He can be pretty tough in criminal cases," Millemann said.

Greene worked his way through the University of Maryland, College Park, then the University of Maryland Law School.

He served as a public defender for a decade before joining the District Court in 1988 and becoming its administrative judge for Anne Arundel County. He moved to the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in 1995.

In addition to serving as the administrative judge there, he was the administrative judge for the judicial circuit that includes Howard and Carroll counties circuit courts. In 2002, he was appointed to the Court of Special Appeals

Paul G. Goetzke, counsel to the mayor of Annapolis, said Greene's service at every level of the judiciary provides him with "special expertise."

"A judge appointed in that fashion has not only a special appreciation for the case law issue, but also the practical realities of hearing and reviewing cases at each court," Goetzke said.

As the administrative judge, Greene worked with Bell in efforts to streamline the system while allowing individual courts to retain their traditions and quirks.

Led changes

Greene set in motion many changes in the state's fifth-largest local court system. He is credited with including other agencies in the discussions to ensure that he neither left gaping holes in court nor created problems for the other agencies.

Lawyers credit him with being able to cut to the chase in rulings, a key skill in appellate work.

Greene lives in Severna Park with his wife, Janice. They have two adult sons.

Others who were recommended to Ehrlich by the nominating commission were Greene's colleague on the Court of Special Appeals, Judge James Albert Kenney III; Timothy Elmer Meredith, who is in private practice in Severna Park; David Alan Roling, who is in private practice in Annapolis; and Linda Miller Schuett, the county attorney for Anne Arundel County.

Sun staff writer Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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