ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Court of Appeals of Maryland held a special ceremony on Thursday, September 22, 2022, to unveil a portrait of retired Court of Appeals of Maryland Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. The portrait was created by internationally renowned artist Diana “Danni” Dawson, who has painted more than 300 portraits for heads of state, dignitaries, university officials, and senior members and executives of the military and medical communities.

“It is truly an honor and a privilege to celebrate Chief Judge Barbera’s illustrious legal and judicial career with the unveiling of her official portrait,” said Chief Judge Fader. “Her extraordinary accomplishments, including serving as the first woman appointed as chief judge on the Court of Appeals of Maryland, will be enshrined in her legal writings, opinions, and now, this historical painting.” 

From left to right: Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty (ret.), Chief Judge Robert M. Bell (ret.), Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera (ret.), and Chief Judge Matthew J. Fader Credit: Maryland Judiciary

Mary Ellen Barbera retired as chief judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland in September 2021. She was appointed as an associate judge on the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland by former Governor Parris N. Glendening in January 2002 and served until September 2008. In 2008, former Governor Martin O’Malley appointed her to the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s state supreme court, where she later became the first woman to be appointed to the position of the chief judge.

“I thank my esteemed colleagues on the bench of the Court of Appeals for this wonderful celebration and with whom it has been an honor to serve the people of Maryland,” said retired Chief Judge Barbera. “I also thank artist Danni Dawson for the countless hours spent capturing my likeness for the portrait, and I am humbled to be honored in this way. Danni shares my love of teaching, which made her the perfect artist to be commissioned for my portrait.”

Danni Dawson’s portraits and still-life paintings are displayed in collections throughout the United States and the world, including a 17-foot bronze sculpture, “St. Joseph, the Worker,” commissioned for the facade of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Towson, Maryland, dedicated in 2008. Dawson has received many awards, including the Allied Artist Award, the Salmagundi Painting Prize, the Audubon Award, and an award for painting from the National Academy of Art and Design. Her work has also been featured in American Artists.

A former elementary school teacher, Barbera graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in May of 1984 and served as a law clerk to Hon. Robert L. Karwacki, Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, until July 1985, when she joined the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland. She served as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Appeals Division, becoming deputy chief of that division in 1989. She joined Governor Glendening’s Office of Legal and Regulatory Affairs as deputy legal counsel in 1998 and was promoted to chief legal counsel in 1999.

Chief Judge Barbera has received numerous awards and honors, including the Maryland Senate’s First Citizen Award (2018), the Montgomery County Bar Association’s Annual Jurist Award (2019), and the Maryland State Bar Association’s Hon. Anselm Sodaro Judicial Civility Award (2021), and the Maryland Bar Foundation’s H. Vernon Eney Endowment Fund Award (2021).

She has held memberships in the Maryland State Bar Association, Bar Association of Montgomery County, National Association of Women Judges, Women’s Bar Association of Maryland, Women’s Law Center, Maryland Hispanic Bar Association, and J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association, and until her retirement, the American Law Institute.

The portrait unveiling ceremony was live streamed on the Maryland Judiciary’s website and can be viewed on the Court of Appeals Webcast Special Events Archive.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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