"It's the height of public service. You can have a huge effect on people's lives."
Last year was a tough one for Judge Stuart Berger '81 (economics). He heard murder case after murder case — 32 of them, all told. At the time, Berger was a circuit court judge for Baltimore City, and it was his rotation on criminal court.
In 13 years as a circuit court judge, Berger has judged all types of cases: criminal, family law, traffic accidents, business, science and technology matters, issues like handgun charges, child abuse and the class action suit brought by parents of children with autism against the manufacturers and distributors of vaccine preservatives (he dismissed that case). For Berger, the hardest part of any criminal case is the sentencing. "It is an awesome responsibility because it allows for so much discretion," he says. "I take it very seriously."
Berger was among the younger judges in the state when he was named to the circuit court at age 39. Now, he is one of the younger judges on the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, to which he was named in January. His new position, he says, is both more "cerebral and solitary" and also more "significant." Berger is one of 13 judges on the state's Court of Special Appeals, which by law must hear any and every appeal brought by appellants from lower courts. With 1,300 cases a year to be handled by the court, Berger himself will be responsible for 80 to 120 opinions annually.
Berger says he feels privileged to be a judge. "It's the height of public service. You can have a huge effect on people's lives." That fact was driven home last year when he was approached by a man at an Orioles game. "You gave me five years," the man said, "and it was the best thing for me. I was a drug addict, and it made me clean up my life. I really want to thank you."
Posted March 2013
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