Cecil County Makes History: Jane C. Murray, First Woman, Named to Circuit Court
Gov. Martin Oâ€™Malley has named Jane Cairns Murray to a vacant seat on the Cecil County Circuit Courtâ€”the first woman ever to hold a seat on the countyâ€™s highest court.
Murray, 51, is a long-time local attorney and public defender office supervisor who is currently serving as a domestic relations Court Master. In that capacity, she presides over more than 2,300 cases a year, including divorce, child custody cases, family law and child support cases. As a Court Master, she makes recommendations to the Circuit Court judges for their review and approval.
Murray is the daughter-in-law of Ethel Murray, a former state Delegate from Cecil County and a pioneer woman in local politics in her own right. Jane Murray recalled, in an interview with Cecil Times, that she served as a senior campaign manager for her mother-in-law shortly after she graduated from the College of Wooster. Ethel Murray was subsequently defeated for re-election in the 1994 Democratic primary by current Del. David Rudolph (D-34B).
It was a surprising moment on Tuesday when Jane Murray got a call from an aide to the governor, saying that Gov. Oâ€™Malley wanted to talk to her. Briefly, she heard a voice that sounded like the governor, before the signal faded out and the governor exclaimed that he was traveling through a tunnel and the cell phone signal was fading.
â€śIt seemed like an eternity,â€ť Murray said, recalling the wait for the governorâ€™s voice to return to the phone. But when he returned to the call and informed her he wanted her to be a Cecil County Circuit Court judge, â€śit was pretty exciting,â€ť Murray said.
In his formal announcement of her appointment, the governor stated, â€śSince 2006, Master Murray has been a domestic relations master for Cecil County, where she handles over 2,300 cases per year. Master Murray previously spent two years as a law firm associate, 16 years with the Cecil County Public Defenderâ€™s Office, and two years as a sole practitioner. Upon graduation from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1987, Master Murray worked as an associate for a small law firm in Elkton.â€ť
Murray is a graduate of Cecil County public schools, including Elkton High, and received her undergraduate degree in English from the College of Wooster and her law degree from the University of Baltimore.
She was the first attorney for the countyâ€™s domestic violence center, a position she held for several years, before becoming a part-time public defender and subsequently becoming a full-time public defender in 1990 and the assistant District Director, supervising public defender operations in Cecil, Kent, Queen Anneâ€™s, Caroline and Talbot counties. She was appointed a Court Master in 2006.
During her tenure as a court master, Murray said she had seen the value of approaching contentious family and community disputes with a mediation approach. She recalled one case she presided over and sought to find common ground among antagonists, and at the end of the proceedings, the previously warring neighbors were â€śhugging and talking about who would babysitâ€ť for the other family. â€śI think mediation has its place,â€ť she said.
Murray and her husband, John, have two children: a daughter, Aileen, who lives with her husband in Kansas City, and a son, Branch, a student at the University of Delaware. The family also includes two pets.
Murray said she â€śabsolutelyâ€ť will run in the 2012 election to retain her appointed seat. Under state law, a court appointee must defend the seat in the next election after appointment. Once elected, a Circuit Court Judge holds a 15 year term.
On the 2012 ballot, another Circuit Court seat will be at stake: the seat currently held by Judge Keith Baynes, who was appointed last December by the governor. Baynes has already filed his candidacy and held a fundraiser this summer.
Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) has declared he will be a candidate for Circuit Court judge in the 2012 election. But his campaign launch was marred by an embarrassing legal flub when he sought campaign contributions under the unauthorized, misappropriated seal of the state Administrative Office of the Courts. [See previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/09/smigiel-launches-cecil-county-judge-campaign-with-major-legal-flub-cribbing-official-seal-of-state-courts/ ]
Smigiel has been criticized by womenâ€™s groups and domestic violence victim advocates for his actions and positions as a member of the House Judiciary Committee. The contrast between his record on such issues and the resume of Murray as an advocate for domestic violence victims could be one of the more interesting aspects of the election season.
Cecil County Stateâ€™s Attorney E.D.E. â€śEllisâ€ť Rollins, who was a candidate for the new judgeship but was passed over by the governor, is considered to be a potential election candidate for one of the two judgeships on the 2012 ballot.
UPDATE: See Judge Murray’s official profile and bio on the Maryland Manual website here: