Wright to be Washington Co.'s first female judge

July 08, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County's next District Court judge comes from a judicial family.

Dana Moylan Wright's father, uncle and grandfather have served as judges.

"It's something that I saw as a very natural part of the legal profession," she said. "It's been a goal of mine for a long time."

Now, she's breaking ground as Washington County's first female judge.

Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Wednesday that Wright, 43, will replace Ralph H. France II, who retired April 30 after nearly 14 years on the bench.

Wright, a partner in a Hagerstown law firm, will serve a 10-year term, subject to state Senate confirmation during the 2010 legislative session.


She expects to be sworn in within the next six weeks.

A District Court judge's salary is $127,252.

Wright's father, Daniel W. Moylan, served in Washington County as a District Court judge, then as a Circuit Court judge. He is retired, but he continues to sit.

Her uncle, Charles E. Moylan Jr., is a retired Court of Special Appeals judge who also continues to sit.

Her grandfather, Charles E. Moylan Sr., served on what is now known as Circuit Court in Baltimore.

Unlike her father and uncle, Wright wasn't a prosecutor first.

Wright said she studied criminal law in school but didn't find a job in that field when she graduated.

Instead, in 1994, she joined the law firm now known as Miller, Oliver, Moylan & Stone. She became a partner in 1998.

She has specialized in insurance defense work and family law, but also has expertise in personal injury cases, administrative appeals, business litigation and mediation, according to biographical information from O'Malley's office.

She has performed pro bono work for several local nonprofit organizations, including the Humane Society of Washington County, Community Free Clinic and The Maryland Theatre.

Wright is chairwoman of the Washington County Ethics Commission and has served on the boards of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Hospice of Washington County.

To avoid conflicts of interest as a judge, Wright will leave her law firm and will resign from the ethics commission and other positions, as she figures out her new limits.

Wright said her work with community groups, her roots and her rapport should serve her well in District Court, where cases might not involve large amounts of money or technical legal issues but affect people quite personally.

"I'm thrilled to death," she said of her new role, about which she learned when O'Malley called her Tuesday.

Asked about becoming Washington County's first female judge, she said, "I think it shows the community at large that we are progressive."

She added that she hasn't felt gender bias as a lawyer in the county.

Wright grew up north of Hagerstown.

She attended Saint Maria Goretti High School but didn't graduate. She described herself as an "agitator" in high school but not a troublemaker -- an "independent thinker" who challenged the school's structure.

She finished 11th grade at Goretti, then went to Western Maryland College, now known as McDaniel College. Two years later, she transferred to The Johns Hopkins University, where she received a bachelor's degree in psychology.

She graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1992.

Wright was one of four District Court finalists that a local nominating commission forwarded to O'Malley on April 30.

The other finalists were Mary Anne Day, Roland David Pembroke and Scott Lee Schubel.

Twelve people applied for the position.

Washington County's other District Court judge is Mark D. Thomas.

Wright is the second judge O'Malley appointed in Washington County in four months. Daniel Patrick Dwyer was chosen as Circuit Court judge in March, replacing Frederick C. Wright III after he turned 70, the mandatory retirement age.

Dana Moylan Wright, a finalist for that seat, said she isn't related to Frederick C. Wright III.

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