First woman to serve as District Court Judge in Washington County brings new perspective

August 24, 2012|By DON AINES |
  • Judge Dana Moylan Wright gets a kiss from her daughter Annie before Moylan Wright was sworn in as a Washington Co. Circuit Court Judge on Friday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

“Dana, you come to this assignment not as a stranger. It is in your DNA,” Charges E. Moylan Jr. told the newest member of the Washington County Circuit Court bench, his niece Dana Moylan Wright.

It would seem so.

Charles Moylan is a retired Maryland Court of Special Appeals judge. Also at Wright’s swearing-in ceremony Friday was her father, Daniel W. Moylan, a retired Washington County Circuit Court Judge.

Going back another generation, Wright’s grandfather, Charles E. Moylan Sr., was a judge in Baltimore.

During remarks before a packed courtroom, others alluded to the historic nature of Wright taking the oath.

“With your investiture today, history is going to be made,” Administrative Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. told her before the swearing in. “We want you to know there will be plenty of work to do, beginning Monday.”

Three years and three days earlier, Wright set another precedent, becoming the first woman to serve as a District Court judge in Washington County.

“I think there’s nothing wrong with a woman’s touch,” Wright said after the ceremony. “It’s hard for me to separate out being a female judge from my being a judge.”

However, a woman’s perspective could be of benefit on the bench, Wright said.

“Some of the understanding I have of the litigants in front of me, from a female perspective, can be very helpful” whether it be in domestic violence, family law, criminal or other matters, Wright said.

“I’m simply looking forward to working hard, doing a good job and being a part of the bench in this community,” Wright said.

Wright’s former colleague, District Court Judge Mark D. Thomas, said much has changed in terms of attitudes in the legal profession toward women and younger attorneys since he began practicing law about a quarter century ago.

Wright’s swearing in as the first female circuit court judge “might be old news” in other counties, Thomas said during his remarks, but it is important in “seeking, at all levels, balance.”

“It’s the balance of seeing others as individuals,” Thomas told the guests. Without that balance, he said, any institution risks a narrowing of its perspective.

Attorney D. Bruce Poole told the guests that clients would tell him, “I was heard. I had my shot,” after appearing before Wright. He called Wright elegant, eloquent, bright, sincere, hard working and of high moral standards.

Wright fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge W. Kennedy Boone III, whom Poole called “a warhorse and a workhorse.”

“The reason I wanted to be a judge is ... there is a real opportunity to meaningfully reflect on other people’s lives in a very positive way,” father Daniel Moylan told the guests. “I can’t think of a better job for anybody to have.”

Wright’s remarks echoed her father’s sentiments.

“Every person is a person, no matter how small,” Wright said, quoting Dr. Seuss. Many of the people who have come before her in district court are struggling, she told the active and retired judges, attorneys, courthouse staff, family and other guests.

“They are a group that didn’t have the advantages ... that many of us here in this room enjoyed,” Wright said. Being a judge presented her with the possibility “to maybe have a positive impact on the trajectory of their lives,” she said.

Husband Samuel Wright and their children, Will, 5, and Annie, 3, were there for the ceremony with the husband and daughter helping the new judge put on her robe.

“Not many guys get to see their wife twice in a lifetime in a courtroom and both be under good circumstances,” Samuel Wright said.

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