The Honorable Mary Ellen Barbera '84 Delivers 2019 Commencement Keynote

“I ask you today to consider that you are embarking upon a profession that is defined by its inextricable relationship with the rule of law,” Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera of Maryland’s Court of Appeals told graduates at Maryland Carey Law’s Hooding Ceremony on May 17. “We, you and I, understand that our democracy is based on our common agreement that the laws of our land govern each of us equally. That no man or woman is above the law. That no man or woman is the law.”

Throughout her remarks to the 192 JD, 19 LLM, 49 MSL graduates from Maryland Carey Law, Judge Barbera, a 1984 graduate of the law school who also serves on the school’s Board of Visitors, emphasized the importance of their unique role in fighting for equal justice for all.

“Simple, powerful words like freedom and justice must connote a reality for each and every one of us today and going forward, not merely as a mirage in the distance or in the hoped for future.”

Judge Barbera became interested in the law during an eight-year “life-informing” experience as a teacher at Patapsco Elementary School in the Cherry Hill neighborhood of Baltimore City. It was there, she says, where she learned that laws aren’t abstractions, but rules that affect real people.

She attended law school at night while continuing to teach and care for her two young children at home. Following graduation, Barbera clerked for Judge Robert L. Karacki of the Court of Special Appeals and then went on to serve as assistant attorney general in the criminal appeals division. She then worked as a lawyer for the Maryland Attorney Generals and as legal counsel for former Governor Parris Glendening.

She was appointed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2002 and the Court of Appeals in 2008. In 2013, Governor Martin O’Malley named her chief judge, making her the first female chief judge of Maryland’s highest court.

“We are honored to have Judge Barbera give our graduation keynote,” said Dean Donald Tobin. “I hope our graduates take her message about the important role they play in supporting equal justice for all to heart.”