Daughter of a lawyer, Mary C. Reese has prosecution, civil experience

Woman's journey into law leads her to District Court appointment


About five years ago, a judge approached lawyer Mary C. Reese and suggested that she apply for a vacant seat on the Howard District Court.

She was somewhat taken aback, having never thought of herself as someone who should render judgment over people.

"But then the more that I thought about it, I thought, you know, this is a job that the citizens of the state need and the citizens of the county need," said Reese, 44, who grew up in Ellicott City and still lives there.

After twice unsuccessfully applying for the position, Reese has been tapped by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to become a Howard District Court judge to take the spot of Judge Louis A. Becker III, who was appointed last year to the Howard County Circuit Court.

Reese is awaiting confirmation by the Senate Executive Nominations Committee, which is tentatively scheduled to review her nomination Monday, said Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for the governor.

If Reese is successfully confirmed for a 10-year term - a process that could take about a week - she will have 30 days to take her seat on the five-member bench of the District Court, which is the state's lowest trial court and handles misdemeanors and some felony cases.

Reese is the daughter of Charles A. Reese - a well-known civil litigator in the county who handled education cases - but she said her father never encouraged her to become a lawyer, explaining, "I think it's because how hard attorneys work and the hours that they work."

Instead, Reese said she was inspired to become an attorney after working in Washington for about three years as a legislative analyst and realizing that she needed a higher degree - beyond her undergraduate degree from Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg - to further her career.

She thought a law degree from the University of Baltimore would grant her that opportunity. After graduating from the university in 1989, she began working as a prosecutor in the Howard County state's attorney's office.

Howard County State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone, who worked with Reese when she was a prosecutor and before he was state's attorney, said Reese is trained in the image of her now-retired father, whom he described as, "the consummate gentleman, the consummate professional. If he was trying a case, people would watch."

"He's just an icon of the Howard County Bar Association, and Mary is cut from that same cloth," McCrone said. "She's just an extraordinary person - she's a legal scholar, she's extremely diligent and hard-working, and she's just a wonderful person."

After six years as a prosecutor, Reese joined her father's law firm Reese & Carney, where she has been handling commercial and construction litigation as well as criminal defense work. She also is general counsel to the Howard County Board of Elections.

Attorney Daniel Scherr, who works with Reese at the law firm, said Reese's diverse background qualifies her to sit on the District Court bench, pointing out that not all judges come to the job having done both criminal and civil work.

"She won't be surprised with what the fare is [in District Court], and it's something she's really interested in," he said.

Scherr also said Reese has "an incredible sense of humor," with a well-known laugh that resonates.

"It won't be long before she's the person in the judges' chambers that everybody's talking about or taking to, because she's just so upbeat," he said. "And I think she'll be a force to be reckoned with, just for her verve for the job."

Reese also is confident that she has the background to make her a successful judge.

"You need [a judge] who's going to look at the facts and then apply the law to those facts," she said. "I knew that I had the training and the background to do that."

Her hopes for her new job are simple - she just wants "to do a good job and be a good judge."

"I want people to feel that I'm going to listen to what they have to tell me," she said. "And I'm going to render a decision based on the law."


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