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Baltimore City Circuit Court judge chosen to fill slot on Court of Special Appeals

Washington County Circuit Court Judge Donald E. Beachley was one of nine nominees for the position

December 22, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley Thursday selected a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge to fill an at-large vacancy on the state Court of Special Appeals from a field of nine nominees that included Washington County Circuit Court Judge Donald E. Beachley.

O'Malley elevated Judge Stuart Ross Berger to fill the at-large vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Ellen L. Hollander to the U.S. District Court.  

Berger has served as a circuit court judge since 1998. He also has been designated to sit temporarily on the Court of Special Appeals on numerous occasions.  

"I was very pleased to be nominated by my peers on the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission," said Beachley, who was interviewed by O'Malley for the vacancy on Monday. "Judge Berger will surely be a good appellate judge."

Beachley, 54, was among 20 judges and attorneys who applied to the nominating commission earlier this year to fill the vacancy on the 13-judge Court of Special Appeals, Maryland's second-highest court. The commission interviewed applicants in October and narrowed the field to nine judges.

The vacancy was one of six at-large seats on the Court of Special Appeals. The court also has one judge from each of its seven appellate judicial districts, according to the Maryland Judiciary website.

Currently, neither the Court of Special Appeals nor the state's highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals, have a judge representing Western Maryland.

In September, Beachley said appointing someone from this part of the state would provide "geographical diversity" on the court.

Beachley also sought to fill a vacancy on the court in 2007. The nominating commission found him qualified and nominated him, but he was not selected by O'Malley.

A Frederick native and 1980 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, Beachley was a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for Maryland from 1994 to 1997. In 1997, former Gov. Parris Glendening appointed Beachley to the Washington County Circuit Court, 4th Judicial Circuit.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Berger worked in private practice, litigating a wide variety of civil and criminal cases, according to a news release from O'Malley's office. He received his law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1984, the release said.

"Judge Berger is unquestionably one of the finest trial judges in the State," O'Malley said in the release.  "He has a reputation as a smart, hardworking, thoughtful, and fair judge, and he has presided over a vast array of matters involving complex legal issues in many different areas.  I have no doubt that Judge Berger will be an excellent appellate jurist."  

O'Malley Thursday also appointed Robert McDonald to the Court of Appeals. McDonald is the chief counsel of opinions and advice for the Maryland Attorney General's Office.

He will replace Judge Joseph Murphy Jr. in representing Baltimore and Harford counties on the bench.

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— Don Aines

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