Biden nominates 2 Baltimore men to Maryland federal court
Includes prosecutor, another ex-federal public defender
President Joe Biden on Monday nominated two Baltimore men — a former public defender and a longtime federal prosecutor — to the federal bench in Maryland following his pledge to appoint judges with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Biden named Brendan Hurson and Matthew Maddox to the 10-member U.S. District Court for Maryland. Both men have been magistrate judges for the federal district court in Maryland since last year.
If he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Hurson would become the second Biden appointee on the Maryland federal bench to have been a federal public defender. Before becoming a Baltimore-based U.S. magistrate, Hurson worked for years in the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Baltimore, and later in the U.S. Virgin Islands, representing defendants unable to afford private counsel.
Maddox is a former assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland. He graduated from Morgan State University, a historically Black school in Baltimore, in 1999 and subsequently became a Fulbright Scholar and taught high school through the Teach for America program before getting his law degree from Yale Law School in 2011, according to his federal court biography.
In 2021, Biden’s first year as president, the White House said in a statement that the federal bench “should reflect the full diversity of the American people — both in background and in professional experience.” Its initial nominees included three Black women picked for U.S. Circuit Court vacancies.
Hurson, who received his University of Maryland Law School degree in 2005, is a former middle school teacher who once served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in California as an advocate for poor and marginalized communities, according to U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.
The two Maryland Democrats recommended Hurson and Maddox to the White House, saying in a statement Monday that the nominees possess “diverse experience in the courtroom and a lifelong commitment to public service.”
In 2015, Hurson was photographed by The Baltimore Sun and other publications standing outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards wearing an Orioles jersey and holding a sign reading: “Don’t Forget Freddie Gray.”
Gray, 25, died on April 19, 2015, after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. His death set off widespread protests, and the city erupted in riots, arson and looting. Hurson was photographed outside the ballpark gates on an afternoon during which the Orioles’ game was closed to fans because of fears for their safety.
Hurson declined an interview request Monday, according to a spokesperson in his office who referred all questions to the White House.
The federal judiciary is filled with “former U.S. attorneys, state prosecutors, assistant U.S. attorneys. They far outweigh the number of federal and state public defenders,” said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias.
Biden has sought more balance, Tobias said.
Of 85 Biden-appointed federal district judges who have been confirmed so far, 19 have done criminal defense work, according to Tobias.
The total includes Deborah Boardman, a former magistrate judge who previously spent 11 years as a member of the Office of the Federal Public Defender and was confirmed by the Senate in 2021 to serve on Maryland’s federal court.
Earlier in 2021, the Senate confirmed U.S. District Judge Lydia Griggsby, making her the first woman of color to serve as a federal judge in the state. Griggsby, a Baltimore native, had been a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
The slots for Hurson and Maddox were created by the retirements of Paul Grimm, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2012, and George Hazel, who was appointed by Obama in 2014. Obama and Biden are Democrats.
Hurson’s and Maddox’s ages were not immediately known, but both appear young relative to others on the federal bench. The Sun listed Hurson’s age as 37 in the April 2015 photograph.