Chief counsel McDonald appointed to Md. high court

Governor fills 9 other judicial vacancies

  • Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted from the courthouse at Fort Meade after closing arguments in his Article 32 hearing.
Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted from the courthouse at Fort… (YURI GRIPAS, Reuters )
December 22, 2011|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

Gov. Martin O'Malley filled 10 of the open judicial seats in Maryland Thursday, selecting Robert N. McDonald, the chief counsel for opinions and advice in the attorney general's office, for the state's highest court.

McDonald, a former federal prosecutor who for about 15 years has written or approved all formal opinions coming out of the attorney general's office and is considered to have broad knowledge of Maryland law, will succeed Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. on the seven-judge Court of Appeals. Murphy retired in October.

"He has had the job that is the closest thing to being an appellate judge without being an appellate judge — writing opinions," said Andrew Levy, a Baltimore attorney who said McDonald is well-regarded in legal circles.

McDonald, who initially held the advisory position under O'Malley's father-in-law, then-Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., had sought the judicial position four years ago, when O'Malley selected Murphy.

Two of the appointments will give O'Malley the opportunity to fill more posts, because he named sitting judges to higher courts.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Stuart Ross Berger was appointed to the Court of Special Appeals, the state's second-highest court.

Baltimore County District Judge Nancy Purpura, a former public defender, was appointed to the county's Circuit Court, along with Justin James King, deputy chief of litigation in the Baltimore City Law Department.

William Rogers Nicklas Jr., a former prosecutor now in private practice in Frederick County, will join the Frederick County Circuit Court.

In Harford County, Melba Elizabeth Bowen, a veteran prosecutor, was appointed to the Circuit Court.

Howard County Court Master William Vincent Tucker was named to the Circuit Court bench in Howard County.

O'Malley filled two vacancies on the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Anne Korbel Albright, managing partner of a law firm in Rockville and daughter of former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, and Gary E. Bair, former chief of criminal appeals in the state attorney general's office and whose wife, Mary Ellen Barbera, sits on the Court of Appeals, were appointed.

David Wylie Densford, a longtime lawyer in private practice, was named to the St. Mary's County Circuit Court.

Openings on the state's district court benches were not filled. There are two vacancies in Baltimore, one in Queen Anne's County and three in Prince George's County.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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