The Investiture of Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Colleen A. Cavanaugh was a family affair that shed light on the growing role of women in Maryland’s judiciary. Circuit Administrative Judge Kathleen Gallogly Cox, who now heads a bench comprising eight men and eight women, called the session to order.
The Honorable Patrick Cavanaugh officially moved for the investiture of his daughter, signaling what is believed to be the first time in Maryland history that a daughter ascended to the same bench once occupied by her father. (Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Gale Rasin’s father George Bacon Rasin Jr. sat on the Kent County Circuit Court from 1960 to 1987.)The senior Judge Cavanaugh described his daughter’s legalaptitude as evident as far back as preschool, when her attempt to run away from home ended in the front yard because she didn’t dare break the rules and cross the street alone. Judge Cavanaugh expressed pride in his daughter’s academic career as well as admiration for the thriving family law practice which she maintained while simultaneously serving as a judge of the Baltimore County Orphans Court for seven years. He noted in his remarks that her appointment indicates that Governor Martin O’Malley, “apparently thinks it is time for a kinder, gentler Judge Cavanaugh to serve on the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.”
Orphans’ Court Chief Judge William R. Evans seconded the motion for investiture and spoke about his unique relationship with Judge Cavanaugh. Judge Evans has known Judge Cavanaugh since birth, given that they are cousins once removed. However, he reflected on how he came to respect her first as an attorney and later as a colleague on the Orphans’ Court as they worked together to adjudicate complex estate cases.
The common thread of family members who also have professional experience with Judge Cavanaugh continued when her husband Michael S. Warshaw addressed the audience. He revealed that they met as law students at the University of Maryland. He explained that a bet over who would get a better grade in Environmental Law resulted in a date, which lead to two decades of marriage, two wonderful sons and their joint law practice at the former Cavanaugh & Warshaw LLC.
Circuit Court Judge Mickey J. Norman responded to the motions for investiture onbehalf of the bench. He described how he got to know Judge Cavanaugh on the campaign trail in 2007 and expressed admiration for the way she treated everyone with dignity and respect. Judge Cavanaugh later explained in her remarks that she asked Judge Norman to speak on her behalf because, initially “He was my first friend on the bench. My friend, not my dad’s friend.”
Judge Cavanaugh’s sisters Kerry Cavanaugh and Kelly Niermeier held the family bible while she took the oath of office.District Court Judge and Baltimore County Bar Association President Philip N. Tirabassi presented Judge Cavanaugh with a robe from the BCBA. Her sons Kevin and Ryan Warshaw came forward to help her don it. Judge Cavanaugh’s mother Delores Cavanaugh then escorted her to the bench, where she addressed the crowded courtroom.
Judge Cavanaugh acknowledged that everyone in attendance helped forge her pathto the bench in some capacity. She thanked the supporters who campaigned for her seat on the Orphans’ Court and the colleagues and mentors who inspired her legal career. She also expressed gratitude to her friends from Maryvale Preparatory, a Baltimore County institution that has produced three judges in the state.
Judge Cavanaugh reserved special praise for her father. She said that he encouraged her to forge her own career path and pursue the legal advocacy role she found most rewarding. Judge Cavanaugh also acknowledged how her mother’s lifelong support enabled her to build a successful career.
Judge Cavanaugh expressed gratitude for the opportunity to provide guidance to those who will appear before her in court, often at a pivotal time in their lives. In that vein, she shared how she was moved by a note from the last client she served as an attorney, who thanked her for “being there during the worst time of my life.”
The ceremony concluded with the most poignant of Judge Cavanaugh’s remarks reserved for her husband and their sons. She acknowledged that years of practice as a divorce attorney impressed upon her the gift of a strong marriage, a relationship that in her case also entailed enlisting her husband as law partner and campaign manager. Judge Cavanaugh went on to speak about her sons. She noted that she was particularly touched by their willingness to campaign when they were younger and their selfless support of her professional aspirations as they matured.
Judge Cavanaugh adjourned court and proceeded to host a reception in Towson, where family, friends and professional colleagues came together to celebrate her accomplishments and wish her well in her new tenure.